Michael Edwards has been incarcerated for almost twenty years. His offenses consist of two counts of the sale of cocaine, three counts of possession and one count of possession of paraphernalia. The state offered him 15 years concurrent on all counts with the threat of 60 years if he proceeded to trial and was convicted. Mr. Edwards lost trial and the state kept it’s promise and filed a Habitual Felony Offender Notice followed by the pronouncement of a 60 year sentence. Now, almost two decades later, Mr. Edwards has exhausted all of his judicial remedies and has appealed to the Clemency Board for commutation of an extremely severe sentence rendered for a crime that was neither first degree murder or capital sexual battery. In his letter to the Clemency Board, dated March 8, 2011, Mr. Edwards states, “Since my arrest in 1993, I have matured and made moral changes in my life and now accept full responsibiliby for my actions. I am guilty of the charges and should have agreed to the State’s plea offer of 15 years instead of taking my case to trial. I pray you will forgive me.” Mr. Edwards goes on to list the 20+ educational and self-improvement programs he has completed including substance abuse. His extensive reading covers a wide range of topics from business to Bible. He has received a letter of recommendation from his Classification Officer who supports his bid for a commutation of sentence. But most importantly, Mr. Edwards is not the same person he was 20 years ago. Neither are we.
If his sentence is not commuted, Mr. Edwards will be over 70 when released. He will have served a de facto life sentence for a non-homicidal offense. And Mr. Edwards is not alone, there are thousands of offenders who have become victims of Florida’s mandatory minimum sentencing and habitual offender laws and have no hope of parole. Michael asks only for a second chance at being a law-abiding, productive citizen. Forgotten Majority, Inc. strongly advocates the Reinstatement of Parole specifically for those who have turned their lives around and pose no threat to society.
Is humanity best served by denying Mr. Edwards a second chance at freedom after he’s served two decades of an unusually cruel and harsh sentence? Is community best served when the state prevents Mr. Edwards from returning to a supportive family and stable employment? Are tax payers best served by the annual $22,000 cost of keeping Mr. Edwards in prison if he poses no safety risk to society?