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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Changes in Michigan Drug Sentencing Laws Could Lead to New Sentence for Detroit’s Infamous ‘White Boy Rick’

Is there recourse for people wrongfully convicted of drug offenses, or unfairly sentenced because of convictions at a young age?

Over the past year, the U.S. Supreme Court, along with several state courts, renewed the constitutional debate over sentencing thresholds as pertaining to juveniles sentenced to life behind bars. On the federal level, the Supreme Court held in 2012 that judges could not sentence anyone under age 18 with an absolute sentence of life without the possibility of parole – even if convicted of first degree murder. Since then, however, it has been unclear whether the decision was to apply retroactively, and states like Michigan began making landmark strides to settle the issue.

In one historic case, a teenaged Detroit drug trafficker was sentenced to life without parole after being found with hundreds of pounds of cocaine nearly 27 years ago. Since then, the Supreme Court’s ruling has shed new light on the equality of such a sentence – especially when the defendant’s only crimes were drug-related and did not involve charges of homicide.

The former trafficker, known as ‘White Boy Rick’, was just 14 years old when he began pedaling major quantities of drugs throughout the Detroit area. Despite cooperating with federal authorities while in prison, he was denied parole in 2003, 2007, and 2012. Now, in 2015, the offender now known as Richard Wershe, Jr. has been granted an opportunity for a new sentence after a judge determined that recent changes to juvenile sentencing guidelines imposed the necessity of a new opportunity for Mr. Wershe.

According to data, there are approximately 50,000 Americans serving a sentence of life without parole – 2,500 of whom were sentenced as minors.

The defendant in this case has already served 27 years behind bars, and is now in his early forties. A statement by the nonprofit Sentencing Project , which works to reduce the imposition of life sentences without parole, reads as follows: “We do know there are many people who have changed substantially after a couple decades of incarceration and don’t present nearly the public safety risk they did at the time of their crime.”

If you are facing a recent drug charge  or feel you have been unfairly convicted or sentenced, and would like to help protect or regain your freedom, please contact Martin T. Lievois, Attorney at Law. Proudly serving clients in Troy, Flint, and surrounding areas of Michigan, he can be reached at : 248-419-1566 or 810-250-4550.


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