The clemency fight for Missouri’s lifelong pot inmate

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) - The son of a felony convict went straight to Missouri’s Governor to ask for his Dad`s release.  Chris Mizanskey was backed by more than 100 Missouri lawmakers and hundreds of thousands of citizens.

FOX 2`s Chris Hayes told you last week about the unusual case of Jeff Mizanskey, who’s serving life without parole for pot.

He was busted in 1993 in Sedalia, MO during an undercover marijuana sting.  Jeff Mizanskey said he didn`t learn he was not eligible for parole until he applied for release.  Today, even the former prosecutor believes he should be released.  Now citizens and lawmakers are putting pressure on Missouri`s Governor.

Lawmakers walked with the family of Jeff Mizanskey to Governor Jay Nixon`s office.  They carried boxes with pages of signatures from people asking for the release of 62-year-old Jeff Mizanskey.  FOX 2 interviewed him in his Jefferson City prison where he said, “I`ve seen some guys who`ve committed murder go and then come back and then go again.”

Mizanskey says he mentors those locked up with him.  He said, “Most of them come in there, never worked before, never had an idea how to work.  So I teach them how to stain and spray and what it means to have a job and things that are expected of them.”

Lawmakers spoke out during a news conference in the Missouri State Capital.

Corrections Committee Chairman Paul Fitzwater says he found Mizanskey had two violations in prison.  Representative Fitzwater, “One for a messy floor and one for putting a piece of mail in the wrong slot at the mail room. You know I think we can all agree those are not serious infractions worthy of further punishment.  Mr. Mizanskey has paid for the non-violent crimes he committed with 21 years of his life.”

Representative Kevin Engler said, “Do taxpayers really need to be putting out 10 to 20 thousand dollars a year to incarcerate people that smoked pot 20 years ago?”

130 Missouri lawmakers signed this letter asking for clemency.  It was drafted by Representative Shamed Dogan, who points out that Mizanskey got his sentence under a “prior and persistent offender statute” legislators recently repealed.  Dogan added, “We as a body realized that this type of sentence is disproportionate for these types of offenses.”

390,000 citizens signed a Change.Org petition started by Jeff`s son.  Chris Mizanskey said, “Times are changing and things need to change.”  Chris was 14 years old when his dad went away.  He added, “It breaks my heart every time we go up there to see him. We have to leave and he has to stay. I can only hope he`ll be able to walk out of there one day, we`ll be able to enjoy our lives together what`s left of his and what`s left of mine.”

Columbia attorney Dan Viets today said he recently met with the Governor's office and was told the Governor is seriously considering granting clemency.  I followed up with the Governor`s office where a spokesman put it this way – “The request for clemency is being closely examined.”

Fox Files: Missouri man faces life for marijuana use