I received a telephone call earlier this week that one of my first clients had died. He was caught with two kilograms of cocaine in a federal case. We were unable to get the case to go away - he was the proverbial client caught red handed.
However, I got his sentence reduced on appeal. U.S. v. Miller, 179 F.3d. 961 (5th Cir. 1999). All good enough.
The problem was that Mr. Miller had a kidney transplant while on bond prior to pleading guilty. He was selling drugs in order to make money to pay his doctors. While in the custody of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, his special needs as a transplant patient were completely neglected. Consequently, his transplanted kidney failed and he had to go back on dialysis.
And now, he is dead.
Did the war on drugs kill him? Hard to say. That, and poverty, and kidney disease, and perhaps other problems. Our willingness to hand out pain and death instead of aid and education, however, must be considered a major factor.
Sometime, somehow, someway, we must re-think our approach to non-violent crime. The death of Mr. Miller should be, but won't be, the last needless casualty in our "get tough on crime" approach.