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Eric Holder And Jerry Duval: The Compassionate Release Issue 14 Aug, 2013

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Eric Holder And Jerry Duval: The Compassionate Release Issue


14 Aug, 2013




Eric Holder, Attorney General of the United States of America, delivered a speech before the American Bar Association in California where he announced a new policy in the war on drugs: steering away from mandatory minimum sentences for non-violent drug criminals not involved with organized crime. Contained within that speech was a new direction given to the compassionate release of prisoners that may help efforts to free federal prisoner Jerry Duval of Michigan’s Monroe County.



Federal convict Jerry Duval and wife being interviewed by MLive after the Detroit press conference for Michigan ASA


53-year old Jerry and his son Jeremy were convicted on federal charges of manufacturing marijuana, although both maintain they were operating under the authority of, and within the legal limitations contained within, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). Jerry appeared at a protest outside the Levin Federal Courthouse in Detroit and made several videos documenting his struggles before surrendering himself to serve his sentence at a federal prison in Devens, Mass. Jeremy is housed at a federal facility in West Virginia.


Duval is a kidney-pancreas transplant patient with coronary artery disease. He is also reported to have neuropathy and glaucoma. He has a very strict schedule of medications he has to take to keep his body from rejecting the transplanted organs, and to maintain his other illnesses. He has no history of violent behavior.


The Holder speech contained this segment:


… the Department has now updated its framework for considering compassionate release for inmates facing extraordinary or compelling circumstances – and who pose no threat to the public. In late April, the Bureau of Prisons expanded the criteria which will be considered for inmates seeking compassionate release for medical reasons. Today, I can announce additional expansions to our policy – including revised criteria for elderly inmates who did not commit violent crimes and who have served significant portions of their sentences. Of course, as our primary responsibility, we must ensure that the American public is protected from anyone who may pose a danger to the community. But considering the applications of nonviolent offenders – through a careful review process that ultimately allows judges to consider whether release is warranted – is the fair thing to do. And it is the smart thing to do as well, because it will enable us to use our limited resources to house those who pose the greatest threat.


It could cost up to $1.2 million to house Jerry Duval for his ten-year sentence. “Both Duvals are serving mandatory minimum sentences,” said Thomas Lavigne, an attorney with Detroit’s Cannabis Counsel, who represented the Duval family in the case.


Duval’s quest for compassionate release has a powerful support system. Americans for Safe Access (ASA) has adopted the Duval case into their Peace for Prisoners program. “There needs to be changes in laws, not changes in policy,” said Peace for Patients activist Kari Boiter. “Holder did not mention a word about people that are ill, and he didn’t mention a thing about marijuana.”


Boiter points out that Duval doesn’t fit well into the groups Holder specifically mentioned in his speech as receiving the benefit of compassionate consideration- the elderly, those prisoners that do not represent a threat to the community and those who have served a majority of their sentence. Although not considered threats, the Duvals are just starting their sentences and are not elderly.


Attorney Lavigne said the Holder directives could make a difference in prosecution and sentencing “if these judges take the time to listen to the patients’ plight with a proportionate lens.


“I trust Judge Lawson would make the right decision and let both Duvals out, Jerry to live his final years, and his primary caregiver, Jeremy, in order to care for his father; if the system had any compassion, it would demand both be released,” Lavigne told The Compassion Chronicles.


More than 4,000 people have signed an online petition to secure Duval’s release on compassionate grounds. The petition was started by Boiter and utilizes the change.org website. Chairman of ASA’s Michigan chapter, Jamie Lowell, said, “The Duvals, the Lansing Seven, all of Michigan’s federal marijuana prisoners deserve to have their sentences reviewed in light of the Holder announcement.”



ASA Executive Director Steph Sherer, on Jerry Duval’s imprisonment


If indeed compassionate release is to be decided by federal judges, as Holder mentioned, the compassionate part of the program has a greater opportunity to be realized in a way that isn’t just semantics. That has already been happening in isolated cases around the country, including one decided in the very courthouse where Duval and his son were given their harsh sentences. US District Judge Friedman issued a sentence of 2 years probation and one day in jail for Edward Schmeiding, a throat cancer survivor who was convicted of growing 8,000 marijuana plants on his farm in Lenawee County. Judge Friedman said of the case: “This is one that most screams out: This man deserves a break.”


Leniency is a tool available to judges to do the right thing. In 2010 and 2011 the Oakland County, Michigan Sheriff’s Department raided a number of medical marijuana facilities. One of the first was Clinical Relief, a dispensary who had been inspected by the city police department and had been visited by the mayor himself. All charges stemming from that raid have been dismissed by Judge O’Brien, who stated the operators obviously tried to follow the law and therefore were not criminally responsible. Southfield attorney Michael Komorn said, “The dismissal was based upon not anything to do with the Act, it was more based on the law of lenity.” That case has been appealed and arguments were heard by the appellate court in July 2013.


Although Holder may have started the ball rolling, keeping up the momentum is going to be difficult as established police and prosecutorial behaviors are notoriously hard to change. “It’s great Holder is leading the way, but there is a limit to what he can accomplish by executive action alone. Congress needs to step up,” said the ACLU in a published statement.


Others were not impressed by Holder’s remarks- or, more importantly, what he did not say. “How dare the attorney general come to San Francisco and talk about drug policy and completely fail to address medical cannabis,” said Steven DeAngelo of Harborside Health Center in an Huffington Post interview. “The attorney general missed an opportunity to address the single most pressing drug reform issue in the country,” continued DeAngelo, “and that’s reforming our cannabis laws.”


Marijuana was legalized by popular vote in Washington and Colorado in 2012. In March 2013 Holder said a response to the question of how to reconcile the federal and state laws that seemingly stand in conflict would be “coming soon”. Since then federal agents have raided two Michigan dispensaries on July 30 and August 1, and more than a dozen in the greater Seattle, Washington area.

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Don't we know it!


"Although Holder may have started the ball rolling, keeping up the momentum is going to be difficult as established police and prosecutorial behaviors are notoriously hard to change."



The only way to make the changes needed is to cut the funding these 'enforcement' agencies get to use outdated laws to keep their paychecks rolling in... primarily the anti-cannabis laws.

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I have spoken to  Mr.Jerry Duval and have talked to him a few times as i have also the other 6 before they went to prison one of them told me that if the Government wanted to feed him 3 times a day it would be like a vacation to him.


i said to him that if you think it's going to be a Vacation you are not thinking clearly and you need to get your head clear before you get their because if your mind is not right you wont make it.


i hope they all get out soon and all the rest that our there for Marijuana

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