The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear an appeal in a case of a 76-year-old Cottonwood, Ala. man who was sentenced to life in prison without parole for possessing less than three pounds of marijuana.
In October 2014, Lee Carroll Brooker was sentenced to life in prison in without parole under the Yellowhammer state’s habitual offender law.
Brooker, a disabled veteran suffering from chronic pain, claimed the marijuana plants grown behind his son’s house were for medicinal use. There is no medical use exemption for growing marijuana under Alabama state law.
Lawyers for Brooker argued the sentence violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on cruel and unusual punishment. Nevertheless the justices from the high court let the original sentence stand.
Thursday, The New York Times editorial board agreed with Brooker’s lawyers and urged the Supreme Court to hear the case.
“The justices should take the case and overturn the sentence… Life without parole, second only to the death penalty in severity, should never be a mandatory sentence for any crime, much less for simple possession of marijuana, which is not even a crime in many parts of the country,” the editorial read. “Mr. Brooker’s punishment for marijuana possession is the definition of cruel and unusual.”
Last September, the Alabama Supreme Court also declined to hear the case. But that didn’t stop Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore from writing a separate concurrence to the court’s decision questioning the “grave flaws” in Alabama’s sentencing system.
“I write separately because I believe Brooker’s sentence is excessive and unjustified,” Moore wrote in his concurrence. “Under circumstances like those of Brooker’s arrest and conviction, a trial court should have the discretion to impose a less severe sentence than life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.”
Moore continued: “In my view, Brooker’s sentence of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for a non-violent, drug-related crime reveals grave flaws in our statutory sentencing scheme. I urge the legislature to revisit that statutory sentencing scheme to determine whether it serves an appropriate purpose.”