President of Concerned Citizens For Racial Equality
Grant Clemency To Keyon Mitchell
The Obama administration announced last week that they plan to increase the number of clemency applications it receives. President Obama is doing this in an effort to address the thousands of nonviolent inmates who were arrested and convicted for drug charges and are serving extremely long sentences because of federal sentencing guidelines. Most of those affected are African American. Keyon Mitchell is a prime candidate for clemency. In February of 2004, 32 people were indicted on drug charges. According to federal agents, the 32 had been the subject of a four year drug trafficking investigation. Evidence included video, selling to undercover officers, weapons, drugs found on defendants, confidential informants and money found on defendants. According to the trial transcript, Mitchell was never the subject of any drug investigation. He had no prior arrests. He was never found with any drugs on his person or in his home. He was never found with any weapons. He was never found with large amounts of money. There was no audio or video evidence. There were no wired informants. There were never any drug sales to undercover agents. So how was Mitchell arrested for drugs? Hearsay. Keyon Mitchell is a thirty-two-year-old man from Paris Texas. In 2005, Mitchell was a 24-year-old student majoring in Criminal Justice at Texas A&M University in Commerce Texas. He was the father of a five-year-old daughter to whom he was a devoted. Mitchell graduated from Paris Junior College with an associate degree and he was one month away from receiving his Bachelors degree in Criminal Justice at Texas A&M when Paris Police arrested him and charged him with conspiracy drug trafficking. Along with the testimony from convicted felons who testified in exchange for 10 months to 25 years as opposed to life without the possibility of parole, other evidence included testimony from Paris officers Jeff Springer and Leigh Foreman. Springer was head of the Drug task Force. Springer testified as an expert witness on the traits of a drug dealer. Springer testified that Keyon Mitchell’s gold tooth was an indication of his being a drug dealer. He also testified that the sneakers he wore, the car that he drove, the jerseys he wore, and the gold chain that he wore was an indication that he was a drug dealer. There was also testimony before the jury that the college fraternity Keyon Mitchell belonged to was in reality a gang. That fraternity is Omega Psi Phi. Omega Psi Phi is a fraternity that was started by Howard University students in 1911. Past members have included Vernon Jordan, Roy Wilkins, Rev Jesse Jackson, Representative Jams Clyburn, Bill Cosby, Tom Joyner, Gerneral William Ward, Michael Jordan, Shaquille O’Neal, Vince Neal, Steve Harvey, Lieutenant Colonel Maury Williams, Rickey Smiley, Carter Woodson, and many more notable people. In an interview with The Paris Texas Chronicle, Keyon Mitchell spoke from the prison unit he is housed in, “I was given life in prison based on stereotypes and hearsay. I know one that one day I will get out and try to put the pieces of my life back together.” The question isn’t whether Keyon Mitchell ever sold drugs in his life. The question is how can someone who is about to graduate from a university and has no criminal history be given life without the possibility of parole based on hearsay and stereotypes. The question is what can be done to make sure federal sentencing guidelines are fair. This is important because people should not receive life in prison for first time drug convictions. They certainly shouldn't receive life based on a drug conviction where the only evidence is the word of convicted felons.