A 35-year-old man was sentenced to life in prison last week for his fourth marijuana conviction under Louisiana's repeat-offender law.
Cornell Hood II had gotten probation after his first three marijuana offenses in New Orleans, but when he moved near Slidell, in the St. Tammany Parish, his fourth such conviction sent him away for the rest of his life, reports Ramon Antonio Vargas of the New Orleans Times-Picayune. State Judge Raymond S. Childress sentenced Hood in his courtroom on Covington, Louisiana, on Thursday. A jury on February 15 had found the defendant guilty of attempting to possess and distribute marijuana at his Slidell home, according to court records. Hood had moved from eastern New Orleans to the Slidell area after his third marijuana conviction, for distribution and possession with intent to distribute, on December 18, 2009, in Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. He received a suspended five-year prison sentence and five years' of probation for each count, which was exactly the same penalty he'd gotten in that court after pleading guilty to possessing and intending to distribute marijuana about five years earlier, on February 22, 2005.
When Hood moved to Slidell, he also requested a new probation officer in St. Tammany Parish. The new officer, Dustin Munlin, drove to Hood's place for a routine visit on September 27, 2010. Munlin found almost two pounds of cannabis throughout the house Hood apparently shared with his mother and young son, according to court documents. The probation officer alerted sheriff's deputies, who arrested Hood. Prosecutors later charged him with one count of possession with intent to distribute marijuana. At Hood's one-day trial, the evidence presented by the prosecution included a digital scale and about a dozen bags that had allegedly contained marijuana before being seized from the house, according to testimony. Deputies claimed they also found $1,600 in cash and a student-loan application with Hood's name on it inside a night stand. Jurors took less than two hours of deliberation to convict Hood of a reduced charge -- one which normally would carry no more than 15 years in prison. Assistant District Attorney Nick Noriea Jr., apparently ambitious enough to lock a man in a cage forever for marijuana, then used Hood's past convictions to argue that he was a "career criminal" worthy of severe punishment. Drug offenders in Louisiana are subject to life in prison after being convicted three or more times of a crime that carries a sentence of more than 10 years.