Justice in America – Who is Alice Johnson?

Here’s a sentence you probably never expected to read: Donald Trump did the right thing by rejecting – at least in one case – the racist, classist results of America’s draconian drug laws.

He pardoned Alice Johnson, a 63-year-old great-grandmother who served 21 years in prison for a first-time, nonviolent drug offense.

Trump almost certainly didn’t pardon Johnson for the right reasons – he has, after all, never shown the slightest interest in justice. He did it because fellow reality TV star Kim Kardashian West – whose husband recently praised the president – made a highly-publicized visit to the White House.

Whatever the reason, the pardon is a huge victory for Johnson, her family, and the people whose lives this extraordinary woman will undoubtedly touch now that she’s free. It’s also a small win for the nation because everybody is talking about it – how unfair the sentence was for Johnson and how the War on Drugs hurts all of us by throwing strong, productive people in cages.

Who Is Alice Johnson?

In 1990, Johnson’s life started falling apart. She was already struggling to raise five children when she found herself dealing with a gambling addiction, a divorce, and bankruptcy. She lost her home and her longtime job at FedEx and her youngest son was killed in a motorcycle crash.

Desperate, she made what she calls the worst decision of her life – she got involved in a drug-dealing and money-laundering scheme. Johnson wasn’t selling drugs or laundering money. Her job was to work the phones, passing messages so the people who were selling cocaine didn’t have to speak to each other directly.

But when federal agents busted the operation in 1993, they accused Johnson of being one of the leaders. She was hit with eight federal charges. As is common in drug cases, several other members of the drug-dealing operation testified against her, reducing their own sentences and probably inflating hers.

No Justice After Rehabilitation

In 1996, Johnson was convicted and sentenced to life in prison. And then, she started to shine. She became an ordained minister, penned several plays, and tutored her fellow inmates. She never committed even a minor disciplinary infraction while in prison.

In 2014, President Obama started soliciting names for his clemency project, which focused on nonviolent offenders who had maintained exemplary conduct while imprisoned. Johnson’s supporters saw that she was the perfect candidate, and her name was submitted along with praise from prison staff, the warden, lawmakers, and numerous legal experts.

But, she was denied with no explanation.

The Age of Celebrity Appeal

And then Kim Kardashian West visited the White House, chatted with Trump, and Johnson was pardoned. Kardashian West didn’t know Johnson, she just read her story online.

So, moral arguments and sound, expert legal advice did nothing to help Alice Johnson, while a celebrity’s appeal made all the difference. I don’t know what that says about our country or our legal system, but we should celebrate any victory for justice.

How do you get Justice in America? At the trial level, you pay for the odds of getting justice – based on your income level, you can get either the bare minimum of the U.S. Constitution’s guarantee of effective counsel or you can get the best trial lawyers, investigators, and experts available.

For clemency, under the current administration, you may get justice if you are a celebrity, if you have ever appeared on Fox News, if you are a high-profile right-wing conservative, or if you have the backing of a celebrity who praises the president.

SC Criminal Defense Attorney in Columbia, Lexington, and Myrtle Beach

SC criminal defense lawyer Lacey Thompson limits her practice to criminal defense cases in SC courts. If you have been charged with a crime in the Richland County, Lexington County, or Horry County areas, call the Thompson Defense Firm now at 843-444-6122 or message us through our website to discuss your case.

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