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First-Time Offender Facing A Life Sentence Gets Second Chance

Brittany Barnett met long-time friend Sharanda Jones twelve years ago while studying law at South Methodist University. Barnett discovered a YouTube video of Jones, who was facing a life sentence in prison for a first-time non-violent offense, and reached out to try to help.

According to Jones, she grew up in poverty in Terrell and struggled to make ends meet as an adult. Although she was running a hair salon and restaurant, money was hard to come by, and she had trouble supporting herself and her eight-year-old daughter. She decided to make a few trips to see a drug supplier in Dallas and buy power cocaine. She then sold it to some of her friends, who converted it into crack cocaine to sell to others.

Coming to Terms with a Lifetime in Prison

Instead of taking the plea deal prosecutors offered in exchange for testifying that a police officer was involved in the conspiracy, Jones decided to let her case go to trial. She was facing seven different charges related to her involvement in the crime. The supplier, along with several other witnesses, agreed to testify against Jones.

Jones was found not guilty on six counts and guilty on the seventh count of conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine. During sentencing, the judge used the point system to determine how much time she should serve in prison for her crimes. This method uses points based on the circumstances of the offense. The higher the number of points, the longer the term of imprisonment.

The judge began by calculating how many drugs Jones sold based solely on the witnesses who testified against her. Then he started adding points because she decided to testify in her own trial and perjured herself. She was also in possession of a gun, amounting to more points; however, she had a concealed carry permit, and there was never any evidence that she used it to commit her crimes. The judge ultimately entered a life sentence based on the resulting number of points.

President Grants Clemency for Sharanda Jones

President Ronald Reagan signed the Anti-Drug Abuse Act into law in 1986. It made penalties disproportionately harsher for offenses involving crack cocaine than powder cocaine. In 2010, Congress decided to reduce the penalty for those convicted of crimes involving crack cocaine. The Fair Sentencing Act eliminated a mandatory minimum prison sentence for crack cocaine possession and increased fines. Unfortunately, it doesn’t help individuals who are already facing punishment under the old draconian drug law.

Six years after first meeting Jones, Brittany Barnett had graduated from college, began working as an attorney, and helped free her from prison. She wrote a letter to then-President Barack Obama explaining the circumstances of the case and asking him to grant her clemency. President Obama ultimately granted Jones clemency in December 2015, more than 16 years since beginning her life sentence.

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The Texas criminal defense lawyers of Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian have the experience, resources, and knowledge to defend against the charges you’re facing. When you get arrested and face a possible prison sentence, it can cause significant stress. You worry about your financial standing, family, reputation, and future. Our goal is to fight against the prosecution with an effective legal strategy that gets those charges dropped or your sentence reduced. We will work hard to secure your freedom and future.

If you were arrested or charged with a drug offense or another type of crime in the Dallas/Fort Worth metroplex or elsewhere in Texas, call Rosenthal Kalabus & Therrian at (972) 369-0577 for an initial free consultation to discuss your legal options.