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In 1994, Jeff Mizanskey was convicted of attempting to buy several pounds of marijuana. It was his third conviction, after arrests in 1984 and 1991 for possessing more than 35 grams of marijuana, and he was sentenced to life in prison without parole as a "prior and persistent offender" under Missouri's three-strikes law. On Tuesday morning, after 21 years, Mizanskey will leave the Jefferson City Correctional Center a free man.
In 2014, the Missouri legislature repealed the three-strikes law, and Gov. Jay Nixon (D) commuted Mizanskey's sentence in May, making him eligible for parole. In early August, the parole board granted his release. Mizanskey's case was publicized by his family and a group called Show-Me Cannabis. In a Change.org petition that got 391,254 supporters, Jeff Mizanskey's son, Chris Mizanskey (pictured below, before his father's last conviction), said his father was "an easy fall guy" in the case.
"My dad was driving a friend to a deal that turned out to be a sting operation," he wrote. "All of the other convicted men involved were set free years ago, but my dad was given a virtual death sentence." Jeff Mittelhauser, a former prosecutor who helped convict Jeff Mizanskey, told KCTV5 he supports the clemency, but only "if he would stop misinterpreting his criminal history, and his involvement in the offense."
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Either way, Mizanskey says he will probably never smoke pot again. "As long as it's illegal, either federally or state, I can't smoke it," Mizanskey told KCTV5. Before his mother died, he added to TV station KOMU, he promised that if he ever got out of prison "that I'd never do anything knowingly to break the law to get put back in."
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