Unfair Sentences

Freya Atwood

Hello!

Criminal justice in the USA is an endless conversation. You can try tackling everything down, but you’ll surely fail. It’s obvious why; the USA has gone through an enormous change in just a short time, it’s almost hard to believe!

Unfortunately, no country is perfect. And the same stands true for America. But if there’s one thing that needs to be changed, that’s our justice system. 

From Jim Crow laws to no-tolerance policing, to the three strike law – these are people who have wrongfully been convicted and are still struggling today. 

The good thing? You can help too!

​Julius Jones

Julius Jones was just 19 years old when he was convicted. 

In 2002, he was sentenced to death by the state of Oklahoma and he has been on death row ever since. He was accused of killing a white businessman after stealing his SUV and driving off. 

It’s important to note that Julius had no past history of violent crimes in any way and he was attending a reputable University on a scholarship. People have tried to bring his reputation down in numerous ways, but I don’t think he has given them the right. 

During the time of the crime, he was on his summer break and had returned home to his family to see them once again. 

The only mistake Julius made was hanging around with the wrong people. 

A friend of his, Christopher Jordan, was the initial suspect. But when he was questioned by the police, he was promised a lesser sentence if he gave more information about who was with him. Christopher confessed to being at the crime scene but accused Julius of also being with him. 

He claimed that Jones was with him and that he was the one who fired the gun against the white man. 

Julius, ever since that day, has maintained his innocence and denies any involvement in the crime. But here’s where things took a turn for the worse. 

His lawyers were what we’d call useless. They’ve had no past experience with death sentences and left out evidence that could have proven his innocence. 

There were witnesses giving a physical description of the murderer which didn’t match Julius’, but no one listened (This was a white majority neighborhood as well).

The district attorney who looked at his case had a… not so pleasant past. Prior to Julius, he had sentenced more than 50 people on death row, some of them women (which is a rarer sentence for women statistically). That was more than any other prosecutor at the time!

And the last important thing that’s worth noting are his jurors. All-white juries stopped being a thing decades ago. But that doesn’t mean there can’t be racism in a juror’s heart. 

One of them, after recent testimonies, had reportedly said that they should “Take the n***** and shoot him” as this trial is a waste of time. 

Millions of people have been trying to help him and it seems like he’s getting closer to having the life he was deprived of. 

If you want to help him, you can sign this petition here:

https://www.change.org/p/julius-jones-is-innocent-don-t-let-him-be-executed-by-the-state-of-oklahoma

William Simmons

Alabama Man Serving Life Sentence For Stealing $9

One thing I strongly believe in is giving people chances. No matter what someone’s past is, they can change their life for the best. 

Of course, there are always exceptions to everything, but my main point is about petty crimes or ones that haven’t harmed someone directly. 

But this isn’t the case for William.

In 1982, William was sentenced to life in prison with no parole for stealing $9. He had 2 convictions prior to that and he was a victim of an unfair system called “Three strikes law”

In case you’re not familiar with what that is, I’ll elaborate:

This is still used today and a quick google search will show you how many people have been convicted to over 25 years in prison for petty theft!

Three strikes law essentially says that if you have been convicted of a crime before, your sentences will go up every time. And by the third time, you can get life in prison with no parole. And that’s exactly what happened to William. 

He was just 25 years old when he was sentenced. 

In his 2 past convictions, he was taking hard drugs as he claims, as the state has been unapologetically been convicting drug users instead of giving them the help they so much need. One of his convictions was grand larceny and the second one was receiving stolen property. He did time in prison for both. 

In his third crime, he wrestled a man to the ground and stole $9 from his wallet. As he claims, he was simply trying to get his “quick fix”. If you’re familiar with addiction, you’ll know that you’ll do anything to get it. And with no help coming his way, his desperation clearly grew. 

His attorney called no witnesses or anything, and the trial lasted for less than 25 minutes. Despite his past convictions being of non-violent nature, he was still sentenced to life. 

Today, William is an admirable man and has turned into a better person, away from his under-privileged life. But he hasn’t had any visitors since 2005 when his sister died. 

He has filed for an appeal, but all of them were denied. And in 2014, they removed the last avenue for appeal, trapping him for the rest of his life in a cell over $9. 

If you want to help, you can sign this petition here:

https://action.aclu.org/petition/al-repealhfoa

Although these men are still alive, there are others who unfortunately died in prison. And there are others and their voices stay unheard to this day. 

The USA might be a beautiful country, but we sweep a lot of things under the rug to maintain that image. 

In reality, the justice system needs a change and it needs it as soon as possible. 

What do you think? 🙂

Do you agree?

-Written by Freya Atwood

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