60 Minutes documented the story of Richard Paey (“How One Man's Quest For Pain Relief Landed Him In Jail”) earlier this year. The case itself is filled with legal and non-legal issues:
- Does possession of a certain amount of a substance establish “intent to deliver” or “trafficking” with no evidence of actual sale or delivery?
- Did the prosecutor’s pre-trial offer of probation with no jail imply that the State believed the evidence of trafficking was weak at best?
- Should possession of prescription medication without a valid prescription be punished as harshly (or more so) than possession of wholly illegal substances such as cocaine and heroin?
- Should it be a felony, or criminalized at all?
On Wednesday, Florida’s Second District Court of Appeals affirmed his sentence, rejecting his primary appellate issue that the ridiculously lengthy sentence violated the Eight Amendment’s prohibition against Cruel and unusual punishment.
The majority opinion contains a fairly accurate (if unfortunate) review of Eight Amendment caselaw, and correctly states the proposition that “Historically, the Eight Amendment has protected individuals with respect to the method of punishment, not the length of a period of incarceration.” [Emphasis Mine] The court basically concludes that it is the legislature’s job to determine the length of sentences for various drug offenses, and from the legal perspective, they are probably correct.
This emphasizes the need, then, that we who oppose these punishments ask our elected representatives to reform these laws. After all, don’t forget that you are paying for his incarceration.
The dissent is a better read than the majority, arguing we could use a dose of common sense mixed in with precedent:
I suggest that it is cruel for a man with an undisputed medical need for a substantial amount of daily medication management to go to prison for twenty-five years for using self-help means to obtain and amply supply himself with the medicine he needed.
I suggest it is cruel for government to treat a man whose motivation to offend sprang from urgent medical problems the same as it would treat a drug smuggler motivated to obtain personal wealth and power at the expense of the misery his enterprise brings to others.
I suggest that it is unusual, illogical, and unjust that Mr. Paey could conceivably go to prison for a longer stretch for peacefully but unlawfully purchasing 100 oxycodone pills from a pharmacist than had he robbed the pharmacist at knife point, stolen fifty oxycodone pills which he intended to sell to children waiting outside, and then stabbed the pharmacist.
Well said. Florida needs to elect that man to the legislature, so he can start rewriting the laws.
(Hat Tip: Windy Pundit for quoting the dissent)