In 2008, Fate Winslow was arrested and sentenced to life in prison for selling $20 of cannabis to undercover officers.
Twelve years later, he is being freed, thanks to the Innocence Project, a nonprofit organization committed to exonerating those who are wrongfully convicted.
According to reports, Winslow, who was homeless at the time, was approached by an undercover officer in Shreveport, Louisiana who asked him about where he could buy cannabis. Windslow then biked to find them a small bag of weed, in exchange for $5 for food.
He was previously convicted of three other non-violent crimes. Due to his record, Winslow was sentenced to life without parole under the state’s repeat offender law.
However, officers did not arrest or charge the white dealer who sold Winslow the cannabis.
“You’re Doing Life for a bag of Weed?”
“I was in a bunch of articles and two documentaries,” Windslow noted to WWLTV. “The other inmates could never believe it. They always said, ‘You’re doing life for a bag of weed?’
After he served 12 years in a maximum-security prison, the Innocence Project’s work ultimately got Winslow released.
When the executive director of the project, Jee Park, heard of Winslow’s story, she made an appeal. Her appeal was based on grounds of ineffective assistance of counsel.
In their application for post-conviction relief, they argued that Winslow’s defense attorney, Alex Rubenstein, did not provide Winslow a fair trial.
“You read the transcript of his trial and you’re just horrified about what happened,” Park explained to Yahoo News. “[His attorney] doesn’t object when he gets sentenced to life. He doesn’t file a motion to reconsider… he doesn’t do anything. [Rubenstein] just says, “Sorry, you got a guilty verdict, you’re going to prison for the rest of your life.””
Officials eventually re-sentenced Winslow to time served and he walked out of Louisiana State Penitentiary this week.
“I get my freedom back, I get my life back. There are no words that can really explain my feelings right now,” the 53-year-old said to Yahoo News.