After 30 Free Years, Man Faces Life for 2 Grams! 

  After 30 Free Years, Man Faces Life for 2 Grams! 

Posted by FoM on March 20, 1999 at 06:01:56 PT

DALLASAt 56, Charles Edward Garrett is a senior citizen among drug inmates in the Texas prison system. In a warehouse of young offenders who have never known hope, he is different, and not merely for his balding pate and gray goatee.
When he was arrested last Oct. 12 at his workplace, the maintenance shop of a Dallas medical school, he was forced to leave a $33,000-a-year mechanic's job he had held since 1984. He was a popular employee, a seemingly ordinary fellow who paid his taxes, drove an aging Ford pickup and had a girlfriend he enjoyed staying home with at night.But he also had a secret:In 1968, a time when possessing even a minuscule amount of almost any illegal drug in Texas could bring a life prison term, Garrett, then a heroin addict, was caught with about 2 grams of the powder, enough to sate his habit for maybe 36 hours. His offense--the only crime he has been prosecuted for in his life--might easily have resulted in probation under Texas law today. But back then, as a strung-out black junkie, he got the maximum sentence from an all-white Dallas jury: life.He jumped bail, however, and later kicked heroin and began life anew. Using an assumed name, he traveled the country for years, from job to job, before returning to Dallas. For three decades, as the public's attitude toward drug addiction and punishment changed, he lived quietly, a nearly forgotten fugitive, until one day last fall when an informant turned him in.Now, despite his lawyers' efforts to gain leniency, Garrett is in prison doing his time, a life sentence imposed under the law and social climate of a bygone era. With credit for good behavior he may get a parole hearing in a decade."I led a productive life all these years," Garrett said recently at the Dallas County Jail, before his transfer to a state penitentiary. "They say the criminal justice system is supposed to rehabilitate a person. Well, it seems to me I did that on my own."As the Dallas County District Attorney's Office sees it, making a deal with Garrett's lawyers for a reduced sentence would have sent "an inappropriate message to the public.""We don't want to encourage somebody else to flee our jurisdiction in an effort to benefit themselves," said Michael Carnes, the office's No. 2 prosecutor.Garrett's lawyers had planned to file a court motion last month that might have resulted in a term of community service, but said such a motion would not have succeeded without the district attorney's concurrence. Prosecutors declined to go along.Carnes said Garrett is "stuck with the law, the verdict and the sentence as it was handed down. Being absent for 30 years doesn't change anything," even though current law does not allow such a sentence."In the 25 years I've been practicing law, this is a unique situation," said one of Garrett's lawyers, Richard Anderson. He said Garrett eventually could be freed by an appellate ruling or a grant of clemency, but neither is highly likely. "This is law, it's politics, it's race relations; it's just everything balled up in one case."Born in 1942, Garrett said he grew up poor and graduated from a segregated Dallas high school. He went to work as a janitor, hoping someday to become an electrician. But heroin got hold of him in the early 1960s. He said a friend of his was a jazz drummer, "and I used to go to his sets over at this club." The musicians used heroin, he said. "So I tried it. And it escalated from there."By 1968, when he was 26, he said, he was a hard-core junkie. Police records show he was taken into custody in the 1960s in burglary, theft and forgery investigations, but was not prosecuted. Garrett said he did not steal to support his habit."I knew people all around who'd take care of me, people I could fix with," he said.Across the country, there were thousands of inner-city junkies like Garrett, but America generally took little notice. The '60s counterculture had only recently begun to give drug use a white, middle-class face, which in time would lead to less Draconian drug statutes nationwide. But until then, the laws in Texas and other states had gone largely unchanged for decades. "As long as it was confined to blacks and Hispanics, no one cared," said Gerry Goldstein, a San Antonio defense lawyer since 1969.On Nov. 27, 1968, Garrett said, he woke up craving a fix as usual, and went to visit a friend, Henry Adolphus Sneed, also 26. Sneed, an addict and dealer, almost always had a stash of heroin in his Dallas apartment.According to a Dallas police report written that day, an investigator spoke with an informant who had been in the apartment and had "observed Henry Sneed, alias Bubba, and other persons . . . inject heroin into their arms." At noon, two police detectives and a pair of federal drug agents walked in with a search warrant and confronted two "colored males," Sneed and Garrett, in separate bedrooms.In Sneed's bedroom they seized 375 capsules of heroin. Recalling the type of capsules commonly used back then, authorities said recently that each likely held 75 to 100 milligrams of the drug. The narcs also found an ounce of heroin in a prophylactic. All told, Sneed probably was holding 55 to 65 grams.In the room with Garrett they found 23 capsules, or about 2 grams. Garrett said it was enough to keep him fixed for a day, maybe a day and a half.Sneed, caught with 30 times more heroin than Garrett, was not prosecuted. When his trial date came, he was ill in a prison hospital, serving time for an unrelated offense. Dallas prosecutors asked a judge to dismiss his case. On Dec. 28, 1977, out of prison by then, he was shot to death by police in a drug raid.Garrett, who was freed pending his date in court, went on trial Feb. 9, 1970. Three days later, an all-white jury briefly deliberated and found him guilty of heroin possession.In Texas, possessing any one of a long list of drugs, from marijuana to heroin, regardless of amount, was punishable by a minimum of two years in prison and up to life. Because the judge in Garrett's case was new to the bench and had been a hard-nosed prosecutor for seven years, Garrett and his lawyer, now deceased, opted for jury sentencing.Watching the jurors file out to deliberate, Garrett said, "I had an eerie feeling things weren't going to turn out all right." He was free on $1,500 bail. On the spur of the moment, he said, he decided to flee. He was miles away when the jury, unaware he had left, came back with its decision: life.How times change.As the counterculture flowered, with marijuana use more prevalent and open, antiquated drug laws across the country came under attack in the late 1960s. Texas legislators began planning an overhaul of drug statutes and--nine months after Garrett's trial--drug law reform was a major issue in state elections.A new set of Texas drug laws, effective in 1973, included graduated penalties for possession based on weight and type of drug. Other states enacted similar changes. Congress passed graduated penalties for federal courts and gave judges new sentencing discretion. And the Nixon administration, attacking drug use as a health problem, poured money into treatment programs, which were scarcely available at the time.Even after drug laws were stiffened in the 1980s amid the crack cocaine scourge, even after federal judges lost much of their punishment discretion and attention shifted from rehabilitation back to enforcement, graduated sentences and treatment options largely remained in state courts. The penalty in Texas today for a nonviolent drug user with 2 grams of heroin and no prior convictions: potentially up to 10 years in prison, lawyers said, but most likely a suspended sentence, probation and mandatory treatment.Garrett said he took care of his own rehabilitation.A week after leaving the courthouse, he said, he arrived in California, the first of several states where he would live and work over the years. With help from a woman he met in a Los Angeles bus station, he said, he kicked heroin, got a Social Security card under the name Kowl Emil Williams and found a job in construction. Authorities said there is no evidence he committed any crimes as a fugitive."It took me, I imagine, about six weeks," he said of his withdrawal. "I was throwing up, had the chills, the shakes. Can't sleep, can't eat. . . . "But I got better," he said. "And at that time there is when I promised God I wouldn't ever use again."© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company

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Comment #16 posted by anj on March 12, 2001 at 21:33:03 PT

the story of 30 years later and life
I am a 26 year old going to college for the first time. I'm taking english comp 1 and in my first semester in college. I see a lot of kids out there that think that drinking is cool and do it alot. It is very strange sitting in class and listening to the very same thoughts that i used to think when I was their age. You hear about drunk driving accidents all the time. YOU've got MADD and everything else. Well what about MAHD mothers atainst high driving?Well, you don't here about it because it is not a problem.When is the last time you heard about someone who was high on marijauna killing someone in a high driving accident?Well i am someone who has lost someone to a drunk driving accident. My boyfriend at the time about 8 years ago. I still smoke pot and probably always will. It just doesnt have the affect that acohol has yet alcohol is legal. It just doesn't make sense to me. Maybe we could ask our former president exactly how it made him feel sinse he is not president anymore and can finally tell us the truth.I bet he would say pretty damn good!! Well anyway i'm rambling on and belive it or not i'm not high. Anyway I feel that and allways will feel that marijunna should and always be legal. I will tell my children about it and not incourage it but will not discourage it. Simply because I don't feel there is anything wrong with it. I would much rather know my son was out there smoking a dubie than snorting a line.Thanks for listening,anj
30 years
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Comment #14 posted by MR Buda on December 08, 2000 at 02:34:33 PT:

Man created beer ,God created the plant u choose?

im 17 years old i smoke weed ive taken pills and i go out on the piss and out of all of them i would still smoke weed as pills fuck your head up beer gives u a hangover and weed well it calms u down takes all agression away and makes you very happy but with it breaking the law to smoke a joint i think is stupid people smoke fags not much differnce except the fact that fags are dirty and taste sick. You may think im just a child but im not i no shit about drugs and i know whats good and whats not and weed is good so people dont let the law stop what you believe because one day it will be safe to smoke it and i bet the feds smoke it anyway well some of them hope some of you agree. CHEERS 
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Comment #13 posted by Dupree Leis on April 07, 2000 at 00:25:33 PT


hay I think what you say is tru
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Comment #12 posted by jacob merwin on December 09, 1999 at 14:05:12 PT

bud legal

you never here a family was killed by someone that was high!but you do here a family was killed by a drunk driver!!!  (SO MAKE WEED LEGAL)   by jake Merwin
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Comment #11 posted by chris daniels on November 29, 1999 at 07:11:54 PT


I think that if a simple fight at a school in ILL should be a headlinner on the news then this story needs to be told if Jesse Jackson whould quit looking for meaningless self centererd political crusades and really like to make a difference then this would be an ideal sittuatiaion for him to show pepole that hes not looking for just a vote.Never the less this man should have some one stand up for him its an obvious sighn of how screwed up america is home of the free huh only if your white ritch or a famous football player if the crime ant legite they must aquitte 
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Comment #10 posted by Bud smoker for life on November 03, 1999 at 11:29:53 PT:

make weed legal !!!!!!!

 All's I have to say is if a twenty one year old can go buy beer and get all pist up and may have a chance to KILL someone by driving or totally out of control Why can't weed be legal, Why!!!!! 
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Comment #9 posted by Bud smoker for life on November 03, 1999 at 11:29:24 PT:

make weed legal !!!!!!!

 All's I have to say is if a twenty one year old can go buy beer and get all pist up and may have a chance to KILL someone by driving or totally out of control Why can't weed be legal, Why!!!!! 
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Comment #8 posted by Grant Gorski on November 03, 1999 at 11:26:45 PT:

make weed legal !!!!!!!

 All's I have to say is if a twenty one year old can go buy beer and get all pist up and may have a chance to KILL someone by drivind or totally out of control Why can't weed be legal, Why!!!!! 
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Comment #7 posted by stick goo damn foo on May 19, 1999 at 01:15:08 PT

damn near close to hearing Are government is

this is alot of folks i cant belive a cop is even in post hahahahah! i smoke and well im 29 and never broke a law in my life but if i was caught with a joint i would probably be a victom of cops later why do you all do this to us it is a power trip then i feel is there real justice hell no!judges do it to most likely and then set back and throw are asses in jail and lol about it after eating a smoking a joint isnt this funny we all know there is a few government officials out there doing it we dont care about that we just want al denile to stop and then make it like beer or what else it can be! damn thats all this world is calling for
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Comment #6 posted by if i was a frog on May 19, 1999 at 01:01:29 PT

met by t.a.b.e oh no

hello im high and well im goin to go catch some people doing it or willing to be in possesion hahah im a cop ....,,..realality bites dont itand well most of us higher people do do it you just get cought by us on duty or in day of civilized mattersc.f law instructor i am not of frame or am i a bad cop in fact i would sting a few reps by surprise if they found out i am a good cop and i do live up to getting the bad offenders that is no matter what...... i cant hold up for you people that swear on truth i have to justify some how this is a matter i feel to say is changed and is a hard thing most but not all police think that it is all that bad unless you are packing a lot of the green substance but i will say that i meet a few hear and there and well you will be surprised lol it is a lot of people and rlo you are right in some sence of population control for it message 4 bottom page
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Comment #5 posted by mander ing fre it! on May 19, 1999 at 00:42:38 PT

this world that is underdone by its own government

please people make weed free!the heck with it if it is illeagel try to gain the world government you cant stop the world i see it all the time and i dont think i meet to many people that dont 
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Comment #4 posted by rlo on May 19, 1999 at 00:33:10 PT:

maryjane got framed

i know that 75 to 84% of the world smokes weed the internet is in front of us as i see we are set as people that are angry and are substence abusers when we complain about this situation well if that is the case many people wont come out cause of being scared but in a fact of speaking that makes over half the world that smokes this green substance and is considerd dangerous hahah! so this world must be wrong the government is rightthe government is going to start thease wars and all it is going to do is make over half of the world mad at them i see stats i see many things im not an activist i am a man that has is own buisness i dont feel harmed and i dont feel high for no week like they state on charts i dont feel streesed or abused i feel good after i get off work i am always doing graphs and paper work and it dont slow me down infact with myself i noticed it makes me more conserned with a project or just anything that is to learn or seethey say that it is harmful when you do this well so is just about anything what have we not heard that is bad for us come on the laws are getting uncomfortable we loose are rights all the time we are not gaining freedom now it is a constructed life we will soon have ciggerates outlawed when and if most people of this younger generation stop or never do it cause of what they say is bad and makes you look like a fish head_+_+_+_ with tv and other brain washing information we see do you think it is going to be a drug to! in 10 to 15 years yes and it will soon be a possesionof tobacco products you will see in police reports i see it coming this is an opinion though so i hope that isnt the case but i can see it there waiting to over throw all enjoyment in life they seem to want a life of serious people that learn what does that do when we die we only live once and i hate this world now and it will only get worse more not less its like a baby you tell him not to do it he'll doit anywayits not decepline it is nature people learn and we like to earn we all do but we all want something of are own power the hell with drugs but the canabus needs to be resolved i have seen maybe 5 or 6 people that dont smoke weedcome on i talk to cops sometimes they smoke it or did smoke it and they swear if it was legel they would same goes for all we are trying to be perfect when we cant be it is a law against what is wanted most that isnt denile people dont need to go to jail for weed they waste tax money on it the government would say well dont do it then but people wont infact noone will because we have very little rights you can j walk and go to jail you can break a stupid law and go to jail you can be with the wrong person at wrong time not know what they have done or did in the past or present go to jail so what the hell do most people care///// a cop can arrest people all day i dont blame cops i blame the government cause the cops will have a lifetime to get all and well they might as well make the whole world but 16% a prison for us all cause life is a bunch of politics and i never said i wanted to live itthis is not free infact im sick of a system there is no system it is all money the more money you have the more freedom you have you dont abide by the law the law abides by you depending on what you are and how much money you can give the government feels that they get more money with it being illegel a person that goes to jail just for a weed possesion charge is marked 129$ a day in a jail or county more or less but it is over 100$ a day i think they would profit more if it was like alcohol and only sold in liquor stores they would be surprised this is real life not a perfect place that they hopefully dictate it to be but hell they;ll keep saying that we are corrupt and garbage if that is so why do i have over 200,000 dollars in the bank and i dont sell anything that is so called a drug and never have
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Comment #3 posted by FoM on March 20, 1999 at 11:33:35 PT

No Justice!

When does the statue of limitations stop? I thought it was something like 7 years but I'm only thinking I heard that somewhere and am not really sure. That's the problem with arresting people who are strung out on drugs. He recovered his life only to be haunted, in his supposed to be golden years, by a drug problem that he kicked on his own! We need compassion and we must get rid of mandatory minimums. How many people have gotten arrested and have taken their own lives because they couldn't face prison? I bet many! Peace, FoM!
FoM's Freedom Page
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Comment #2 posted by Dr. Ganj on March 20, 1999 at 10:13:40 PT

This is justice??!! 30 YEARS later!

What a sad story. 2 g's of H, 30 years later, and he gets LIFE?! What about the statute of limitations? Come on, 30 years later! THIRTY YEARS! Our judicial system is simply horrible. I'm embarrassed to be an American. Oh, and sure, if he were white, he would have been given probation. No wonder black Americans are so angry. 50 grams of powder cocaine, and you get a year or two in prison. But 50 grams of freebase (crack) cocaine, and you get 5 years prison time. So what if only white people liked crack? Would we see sentences meted out this lengthy for them? Of course not.I'll tell you this, if EVERYONE took their unjust drug arrest to TRIAL, no matter what, the drug war will collapse & die like the evil beast that it is. It keeps going because it feeds off of everyone's fear of a longer sentence. But if everyone took their case to jury trial, the system would overload, and fail. Power in numbers I say, and sacrifice for the next poor man with a little powder, a little grass, a few pills of ecstasy.Trust me, it's worth the look on the prosecutors face when you do not plea-bargain, and you make them spend thousands on a whole trial just for drugs. That's for drugs we have the right to have! If we want to smoke marijuana in our homes, then that's our business, and not the government's, not the police's, and not your neighbor's. It's that simple.Poor Mr. Garrett in rotten Texas, but at least he had the courage to take his case to trial. I hope the rest of you will.Dr. Ganj
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Comment #1 posted by UaN on March 20, 1999 at 06:59:23 PT

Check under 911 story

Check under 911 story to get comment on this by me......don't know what happened, why it or how it got under there........OH, well, the system sucks no matter what story you read!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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