NEW ORLEANS — A homeless Louisiana man who was sentenced to life in prison for selling a $20 bag of marijuana to an undercover cop has been freed after 12 years behind bars.
Fate Winslow had been sentenced under the state’s repeat offender law, even though he had only committed nonviolent crimes. Has case attracted attention due to the harshness of his sentence for a minor crime. He spent more than a decade incarcerated at the notorious Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola.
“I was so happy to get out,” Winslow told WWL-TV after his release. “A life sentence for two bags of weed? I never thought something like that could happen.”
In 2008, Winslow was approached in Shreveport by undercover officers who asked him where they could get some marijuana. Winslow borrowed a bike, went and found some marijuana and came back to give it to the officers who then gave him $5 so he could buy some food, according to his attorneys at the Innocence Project New Orleans.
He had no history of selling drugs and his supporters said he was simply hungry and trying to get some food.
But Winslow had already been convicted of three previous non-violent crimes stretching from when he was a 17-year-old to when he was 36, making him susceptible to the state’s repeat offender law.
The Innocence Project New Orleans took up his case, appealing his life sentence on the grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel. He was eventually re-sentenced to time served.
The director of the Innocence Project New Orleans, Jee Park, said Winslow received an “obscenely excessive sentence given his life circumstances and crime, and today, we are correcting that unconstitutional, inhumane sentence.”