Equal Justice Matters Wall (M)

Rudy Martinez

Martinez, Rudy

Serving a mandatory LWOP sentence  for his first conviction, for his involvement in a drug conspiracy from age 22 to 25.
George Martorano

Martorano, George

Served 30 years in prison for managing a large drug distribution enterprise. He believes he is the longest-serving first-time nonviolent offender sentenced to LWOP in the federal system.
Robert Mathis

Mathis, Robert

Robert, a 66-year-old Vietnam War veteran diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, was sentenced to LWOP at the age of 44 for the sale of 8.2 grams of crack within 1,000 feet of a school.
Patrick Matthews

Matthews, Patrick

Serving LWOP for stealing tools from a tool shed and a welding machine from a yard when he was 22 years old.
No Available Image

Mead, Sylvester

Serving LWOP for a drunken threat to a police officer while handcuffed and sitting in the back of a patrol car on the way to a police station.
Danielle Metz with family

Metz, Danielle

Danielle, a mother of two, is serving three life sentences plus 20 years for her involvement in her husband’s cocaine distribution enterprise, her first offense.
Hershel Miles

Miles, Hershel

Serving LWOP as a habitual offender for forgery and petit larceny for attempting to cash a stolen check.
Ricky Minor

Minor, Ricky

Ricky, a self-described meth addict at the time of his crime, was sentenced to LWOP after just over one gram of meth and over-the-counter decongestants were found in his home.
John Montgomery

Montgomery, John

Serving LWOP for an armed burglary committed while he was off of the medications that treat his bipolar disorder.
Daniel Mosley

Mosley, Daniel

Serving LWOP for buying four ounces of methamphetamine.
Terrance Mosley

Mosley, Terrance

Serving LWOP for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.
Rudy Martinez

Rudy Martinez with his son, Julian, at the federal prison in Allenwood, Pennsylvania, in 2004. Julian was four years old when his father was incarcerated.


Martinez, who is Mexican-American, was born and raised in Chicago. He says he never knew his father and his mother suffered from depression and alcoholism. Martinez’s older, drug-dealing brother went to prison when he was 15. According to Martinez, he followed in his brother’s footsteps and began selling marijuana joints at age 12 and cocaine at age 14; he says he saw drug-dealing as a way out of his childhood poverty after witnessing how hard his mother worked to earn $45 a week at a laundromat. He was expelled from school after completing the ninth grade and left home at age 16. Martinez explained that he takes full responsibility for his actions and he does not want to use his upbringing “as a cop-out either, because it’s a cheap cop-out.”

Martinez was sentenced to a mandatory LWOP sentence for his involvement in a St. Paul drug ring that operated out of a farmhouse in Pine County, Minnesota, and in Chicago from 1988 to 1991. Six members of the drug ring were charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. Cindy Pluff, the owner of the farmhouse and alleged ringleader of the drug ring, testified against Martinez pursuant to a plea deal under which she served less than three years in prison. Martinez claims Pluff gave false testimony against him and has since admitted that she lied about the extent of Martinez’s involvement in the conspiracy.

According to Martinez, he met Pluff when he was 19 and working as assistant manager of a Chicago nightclub owned by a man involved in distributing cocaine on Chicago’s North Side. Pluff became a cocaine distributor in the Twin Cities, and Martinez says his boss at the nightclub was one of her suppliers until his death, after which Martinez assumed the role at age 22. According to prosecutors, Martinez and others provided Pluff with cocaine that she then sold in Minnesota. After a raid on the Minnesota farmhouse in February 1991, Martinez, then 25, turned himself in. He admitted that he sold drugs and had an illegal business relationship with Pluff, but he has consistently denied being the head of the organization and says he did not know about the drug-dealing operation in Minnesota, but was simply one of Pluff ’s suppliers.

Martinez was charged with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. According to Martinez, the prosecutor offered him a plea deal of eight years if he cooperated by identifying and testifying against his supplier, which he rejected. Three days later, a superseding indictment was brought against Martinez, charging continuing criminal enterprise and increasing the alleged amount of cocaine the drug ring had distributed. Martinez says Pluff later wrote to him that federal authorities pressured her to testify to increased amounts of cocaine and to say that Martinez was her only source. In a letter on file with Martinez, Pluff wrote, “There was no way [the amount of cocaine] was that much…. Besides, it wasn’t all you. There were other people…[t]hey wanted us to focus on you.” Pluff also later wrote an affidavit confirming that she had exaggerated the amount of cocaine sold by the drug ring. Martinez was convicted of running a continuing criminal enterprise that sold cocaine and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He was sentenced to life without parole, a mandatory sentence, on the continuing criminal enterprise charge.

At sentencing, Judge Milton I. Shadur told Martinez that he “simply does not have discretion” in sentencing him to LWOP and was troubled by the federal sentencing guidelines, which “evidence…more trust in prosecutors than in federal judges.” Judge Shadur added, “[F]airness has departed from the system. It is no longer the operative standard for federal judges. And as a result in a way it is sort of an insult… to the process to talk of fairness within the context of standards that to such a great extent do not involve considerations of fairness.”

Judge Shadur later reflected on Martinez’s case in an appearance on the “MacNeil/ Lehrer NewsHour,” “It seems to me…that it’s very difficult to say that, that someone in that position is sufficiently hopeless in terms of redemption.” In a letter to a journalist investigating Martinez’s case, Judge Shadur wrote that the case is “a prime example of the way in which the guidelines could operate in an inappropriately disparate manner.” Judge Shadur noted that Pluff was “the principal offender in a conspiracy in which the jury found Mr. Martinez to have been a participant,” and added that Pluff ’s significantly shorter sentence “made it particularly troubling that Rudy Martinez, then in his middle twenties, should have a life sentence imposed under the mandate of the guidelines.”

Martinez has served 22 years in prison. All of his co-defendants have been out of prison for more than a decade. A strict federal statute enacted since Martinez was sentenced, the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, bars him from appealing his case and taking advantage of a Supreme Court ruling that struck down the mandatory nature of the sentencing guidelines used to incarcerate him for the rest of his life.

Martinez says it has been particularly difficult to be separated from his two sons, Edwin and Julian, who were ages three and four when he was incarcerated. When asked about his sons he becomes too emotional to speak, so he wrote to the ACLU, “No words could ever fully describe the pain within when you know that you will never spend any type of quality time with your children, for the rest of their lives. I wish that on no parent.” Martinez says he talks with his sons and granddaughter about once a week, but he is not able to see them as often as he would like, as he is incarcerated about nine hours away from them.

While in prison Martinez, has earned his GED and completed close to 200 programs, including a 500-hour drug treatment program, Alcoholics Anonymous, parenting classes, a web design class, and other educational classes. Although he had never read a book before he was incarcerated, he is now an avid reader. He has been imprisoned in federal prisons in Kansas, Pennsylvania, Illinois, and Kentucky, where he is currently incarcerated.

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 63).

*Rudy’s sentence was ultimately commuted by President Obama after serving more than 25 years behind bars.


Martorano says he dropped out of school at age 15 and began selling marijuana to friends. By 1980, he had joined smugglers flying marijuana from Jamaica to Florida. According to prosecutors, the ring eventually also distributed cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, and Quaaludes. After a 15-month undercover FBI operation involving informants and taped phone conversations and meetings, Martorano was arrested in September 1982 at age 31. The government seized 3,000 pounds of marijuana, two kilograms of heroin, and 300,000 fake Quaaludes. Martorano was charged with 19 counts of managing a continuing criminal enterprise, drug possession, and conspiring to distribute large quantities of cocaine, methamphetamine, methaqualone, and marijuana.

According to Martorano, on the advice of his lawyer, he pleaded guilty to all of the charges against him, assuming he would receive a 10-year sentence at the most. He had no prior convictions—not even a traffic ticket. The federal Presentence Investigation Report recommended that he be sentenced to 40 to 52 months in prison, but the sentencing judge sentenced him to life. Because parole was abolished in the federal system in 1987, Martorano is now serving life without parole.

Martorano, now 63, has served 30 years in prison. “When I came in, they called me ‘the kid,’” he says. “Now they call me ‘pops.’” He calls his imprisonment a “waking nightmare.” Since he has been incarcerated, his wife died of cancer, his son was killed in a motorcycle accident, and his father was murdered. He remains in close contact with his elderly mother and daughter.

While in prison, Martorano has become a prolific writer. He has written more than 31 books, including several novels and a published autobiography about growing up in an Italian-American community in Philadelphia, nine screenplays, poetry, and numerous short stories about life in prison. He has bartered cookies for typing paper and cigarettes for ballpoint pens to write his manuscripts. For decades, he has taught inmates reading and creative writing, he counsels suicidal prisoners, and he reports he has not been written up for a single disciplinary infraction in 30 years. He says, “I’m not the person I was. I worked hard to change. If they would give me a chance, they would see that. As far as the streets are concerned, it’s over with.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 66).

*George’s sentence was ultimately commuted by President Obama after serving more than 32 years behind bars.

George Martorano

George Martorano with his daughter, Francesca, who was four years old when he was imprisoned.

Robert Mathis

Robert Mathis


Mathis was drafted into the Army and served in the Vietnam War from 1966 to 1968, after which he was honorably discharged. He says he has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of his combat service and that he sought treatment for his mental illnesses, but this treatment was ineffective. Prior to his incarceration, he worked picking fruit and selling produce and was training to be a truck driver.

In February 1989, Mathis was arrested for selling 8.2 grams of crack cocaine valued at $20 near a school zone. He was also charged with possession of drug paraphernalia for a piece of copper screen found in his pocket containing crack residue. Mathis believes he was framed for this crime by the sheriff, whom he says has had his eye on him ever since the two were involved in a car accident years before. He went to trial, during which his mental illness and competence to stand trial were central issues. His court-appointed lawyer told the court he believed Mathis was not competent to proceed and “may have been insane at the time of the offense.” However, Mathis would not allow his lawyer to raise his mental illness at trial and continually sought permission to represent himself. The trial judge denied these requests on account of Mathis’s mental illness.

Mathis was found incompetent to stand trial in July 1989 and was involuntarily committed to the Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services in Tallahassee. In March 1990, the court ruled him competent to proceed to trial. Mathis was convicted of distribution of crack cocaine within proximity of a school and sentenced to life without parole as a habitual offender in April 1990. He had prior nonviolent drug convictions: in October 1985, Mathis was sentenced to five years in prison for two counts of constructive possession of drugs and possession of a hallucinogen other than marijuana, and in 1986, he was convicted of sale or purchase of heroin and sale or purchase of $5 bags of marijuana.

Mathis says that when he was sentenced to die in prison, it “felt like I had died again in the Vietnam War.” His petition for rehearing, which he filed and prepared himself without the assistance of an attorney, was denied as incoherent. His pro-se appeals were similarly unsuccessful.

Mathis has been incarcerated for 23 years, during which he says he has received only one visitor. Now 67 years old, he suffers from glaucoma, headaches, and extremely high blood pressure, and requires regular dialysis. He describes the feeling of being separated from his family and friends as “going off to war!”

Mathis reports he was held in solitary confinement for one year after he was charged with attempted assault of a prison guard. According to Mathis, inmate witnesses to the incident observed the guard assaulting him over an apple that pre-dialysis inmates such as himself were allowed to take into their dorms for a snack. In a separate incident, Mathis was assaulted by another prisoner, who caused injuries requiring emergency eye surgery. Mathis describes his incarceration as “hell.” Despite this, he says he has tried to better himself in prison and has taken educational courses, including GED classes and vocational training in masonry.

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 106).


A father of two, Matthews worked for a historical restoration company, but after construction work dried up he says he could not find employment and spiraled into drug addiction. Despite his addiction to methamphetamine and heroin, Matthews reports he never received any substance abuse evaluation or treatment after his first conviction at age 18 or before he was sentenced to die in prison at age 22.

According to prosecutors, in April 2009, Matthews stole tools from the tool shed on a property in Slidell, Louisiana, with a co-defendant. They also allegedly stole a welding machine and generator from the yards of two other houses in Slidell. The property was recovered and returned. Matthews was arrested while riding in the truck of a friend who pawned the tools; he says that he merely helped his friend pawn some items he did not know were stolen.

In November 2009, Matthews was convicted of one count of simple burglary, for stealing the tools, and two counts of theft, for stealing the welding machine and generator. Prior to convicting him, the jury asked whether he could instead be convicted of accessory to burglary after the fact, but the court said no. Matthews was originally sentenced to 10 years on the burglary count and seven years on each of the theft counts. He was resentenced to life without parole for the burglary charge as a fifth-time habitual offender and to 20 years on one of the theft charges.

“I never in the world would’ve thought that could happen,” he says. “Made one mistake and was treated like a murderer.” He had no violent criminal history and had never served a single day in a Department of Corrections facility. His co-defendant also had prior convictions but received a five-year suspended drug court sentence.

Matthews’s prior convictions were four simple burglary convictions stemming from a single incident in 2005 when he was 17 years old; he burglarized a pawn shop and fruit stand with friends while high on methamphetamine, reportedly to get money to buy more drugs. According to Matthews, his attorney told him that the other charges would be dropped if he pleaded guilty to three simple burglaries, so in order to return to his one-year-old son, he pleaded guilty to three counts of simple burglary in 2005 and received a five-year suspended sentence. He was then rearrested on a fourth simple burglary charge that was supposed to be dropped due to the plea agreement (this count should have been resolved as part of the 2005 plea deal but was inadvertently omitted) and was convicted of the fourth charge in 2007, making him a four-time offender even though the charge had stemmed from the same incident in 2005, his first offense. He received an additional two years of probation. He says he was never warned that he faced a potential life sentence if he burgled again.

In denying Matthews’s appeal, Judge Page McClendon wrote in a concurring opinion, “I do not believe that the ends of justice are met by a mandatory sentence for this 22-year-old defendant, who did not invade any homes and whose past criminal history was limited to nonviolent crimes. Thus, I am constrained to follow the mandate of the legislature… However, I am compelled to note that the imposition of a life sentence for this particular defendant forever closes the door of hope, negates any chance of the defendant becoming a contributing member of society, and imposes an undue burden on the taxpayer, who is required to feed, house, and clothe him for life.”

His mother, Cathy Matthews, told the ACLU, “To see your child get life without parole at 22 years old has to be the most gut-wrenching feeling that you could ever feel. Because it’s like giving him a death sentence. Because there’s no life—no life for a man, with his children or his parents or anybody else once they’re in there.” She adds, “Something has to change. Because these boys are just getting wasted away in these prisons for no reason…They’re not really bad, they just have a drug problem and needed help and didn’t get that, either. Patrick didn’t get one ounce of drug help. None.”

Now 25, Matthews has earned his GED in prison and participates in Narcotics Anonymous and Alcoholics Anonymous. He desperately misses his two young children, Blayton and Hayley, who are eight and six years old, respectively. He says of his sentence, “It feels like you are dead to the world, empty inside and stripped of your children’s life…Stripped from the world, who treats you as if you are dead, in the tomb.” He told the ACLU that he wishes for another chance to raise his children and be a law-abiding citizen. “I pray I get another shot at life,” he said.

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 114).

*Patrick’s sentence was ultimately commuted after nine years by U.S. District Judge Nannette Jolivette Brown, citing that the sentence violates the U.S. Constitution’s ban on “cruel and unusual” punishment.

Patrick Matthews

Patrick Matthews with his mother, Cathy Matthews, and two children, Blayton and Hayley, who are eight and six years old.

No Available Image

No Available Image


Mead worked as a factory machine operator and installed sprinkler systems in Shreveport, Louisiana. He says he worked hard to support his family, including his wife, children, and mother. In October 2000, he drank too much at a party with his wife, burned the catfish he began cooking after returning home, and became angry and belligerent. His 15-year-old stepdaughter called the police. Police responded to the call at about 2:00 a.m., arrested and handcuffed Mead, and escorted him out of his house and into a patrol car. According to the trial court, during the ride to the police station, Mead, who was still drunk and handcuffed, told the Shreveport police officer, “I should have shot you this time,” and something to the effect of, “If you come back again, you better bring your arsenal.” He also reportedly said, “I’ll do everything I can to get your damn badge,” and “in about two hours, you make the trip back to my house.”

After a jury trial in September 2001, Mead was convicted of public intimidation, for his drunken threat to the police officer. Though the jury found him guilty of public intimidation, the trial court ruled that the evidence, viewed in the light most favorable to the prosecution, did not support a guilty verdict and accordingly set aside the jury’s verdict. The prosecutor appealed the post-verdict acquittal, the appellate court reinstated the conviction, and Mead was sentenced to 10 years in prison as a second-time felony offender. The prosecutor again appealed, and the appellate court then found Mead should be sentenced as a third-time felony offender.

Mead was subsequently resentenced to a mandatory sentence of life without parole under Louisiana’s habitual offender law because of his previous convictions for aggravated battery, to which he pleaded guilty in 1995, and simple burglary in 1985. Under Louisiana law, public intimidation is usually punished by a fine of no more than $1,000 or imprisonment of no more than five years. Mead filed a number of motions without the assistance of a lawyer and represented himself for some of the appellate and remand hearings. He says that he told the trial judge he did not understand the proceedings and should not have been allowed to represent himself.

When resentencing Mead, the trial court acknowledged that he suffered from substance and alcohol abuse problems that may have contributed to his crime, and found that the conviction “did not involve physical violence, but rather the use of words, which were perceived by the police officer as threatening.” The judge, Judge Leon L. Emanuel III, again stated that the trial evidence did not support the conviction for public intimidation and told Mead that he disagreed with the mandatory life-without-parole sentence, but he had no choice. Judge Emanuel said:

“Now, having considered the evidence that’s been presented, the whole record, this court is still convinced and still believes that the nature of the instant offense, public intimidation, does not warrant, under any conscionable or constitutional basis, a life sentence…. I just simply don’t think that this particular case warrants a life sentence…. I still don’t think he was a threat to the police officer, and I don’t know what could ever convince me that you were a threat….”

“I’m convinced that I have no choice and the law does dictate. So having said that, rather than spend any more of my time, the Court’s time, or any other resources and try to come up with a reason for you not to get a life sentence, I’ve given up. I’ve done all that I can do. Because I think this would be the fifth time I would try to do something and I think it would be the fifth time I would be reversed.”

At the resentencing hearing, a prison ministry counselor at the prison where Mead was incarcerated at the time testified that Mead was a good candidate for the organization’s rehabilitation program, which assisted prisoners in their efforts to re-enter society.

Mead told the ACLU that when he was sentenced, “It made me feel lost, and helpless. Because I mitigated my life, by getting married, buying my home, and raising my children. [And] [h]elping my mother.” He added, “The hopelessness will eat you alive if you can’t handle it.”

Mead, who is Black, is 51 and in his thirteenth year in prison. He reports he has never been written up for a disciplinary infraction. While in prison, he has earned his GED and completed substance abuse, anger management, and religious programs. He spends his time reading books and researching law in the law library. He says that he is a changed man and explains, “I respect life more today. Each day is a blessing. I am a better person today I have greatly improved my demeanor and actions.” If he were released from prison, he says he would return to work and be with his children and his mother for “whatever time she has left to live.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 96).


The youngest of nine children raised in New Orleans, Metz became pregnant at 17 by a man who was murdered when their son Carl was six months old. She subsequently became involved with a drug dealer named Glenn when she was 18. She recalls that Glenn, then 30, promised to care for her and her baby. She says that she knew he was involved in drug distribution and that she was not initially involved in his activates. They married after they had a daughter together, Gleneisha.

Metz says her husband was very controlling and forbid her from getting a job or leaving their home for more than an hour at a time. According to Metz, he became physically and mentally abusive after they married and made her feel subservient because he paid the bills. She cut hair inside their home, but she reports she had no other job skills or independent source of income. According to Metz, after one abusive episode, to address her husband’s accusation that she did not contribute to the budget, she promised her husband that she would help out in any way he wished. She recalls that he later asked her to ride with her aunt Angela, a petty drug dealer who had become involved in Glenn’s drug activities, to transport money to Houston. Metz says she accompanied her aunt twice and brought cocaine back to New Orleans on one of these occasions. According to Metz, she also collected money from Western Union, also at Glenn’s request.

Metz reports she never had a bank account in her name or a Social Security Number and was dependent on her husband. In 1990, they moved to Las Vegas, separating her from her family. According to Metz, Glenn struck her, causing her nose to gush with blood, while they were visiting her sister in Los Angeles. While returning to Las Vegas, Metz planned her escape. She says that when Glenn left for the casino, she left a note in the closet and took the kids to a hotel, where they stayed the night. The next day, before boarding a flight to New Orleans, where her family still lived, Metz says she called Glenn to tell him where she had left the car and that she was leaving him. Two months later, she was arrested and indicted for participating in a drug conspiracy with her estranged husband.

Metz was arrested in New Orleans at 25 and charged with conspiring with eight co-defendants, some of whom she says she had never met, in her husband’s cocaine distribution enterprise. According to Metz, her attorney had never tried a criminal case and visited her only once, the day before her trial. Prosecutors argued that Metz was a “prime force, and not just a passive presence” in her husband’s organization’s acquisition and distribution of large quantities of cocaine, and the appellate court concluded that she directly oversaw the drug trafficking activities of three of the co-conspirators. Although no drugs were seized from any of the co-defendants or produced at trial, on the basis of the co-conspirators’ testimony, the trial court concluded that the operation distributed 1,000 kilograms of cocaine.

Metz was convicted of participating in a continuing criminal enterprise organized and managed by her husband, possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and money laundering. She recalls that her jury was comprised of 11 middle-aged white jurors and one Black juror. She was not personally linked to any violence or weapons, but at trial the jury heard testimony about firearms seized from some of her co-conspirators and the murder and other violent acts committed by co-conspirators in connection with a fourth charge, conspiracy to possess cocaine with intent to distribute, that was later vacated in her case. Metz, then 26, was sentenced to three LWOP sentences plus 20 years in 1993. It was her first conviction.

Metz was convicted largely on the basis of testimony from her aunt Angela, who had earlier been arrested for an unrelated drug charge and testified against Metz and her husband as part of a plea deal. Metz says that she had no useful information she could trade, the only way to win a sentence reduction under federal mandatory sentencing. She believes she was indicted solely to testify against her husband. “When I was arrested, these people told me that they didn’t want me for anything; that they wanted my husband and if I would tell them everything that they needed to know that I would be set free, and if I couldn’t, I would never see my kids again,” she says. “I replied by saying that I couldn’t tell them when I did not know.”

Metz, 46, has served more than 20 years in prison. Her daughter and son were ages four and seven when she was incarcerated. They are now 23 and 27. For the first few years of Metz’s incarceration, her young daughter, Gleneisha, was told that her mother was in the hospital. Her son, Carl, first visited her in jail a year after her arrest. “When I first saw my mother,” Carl recalls, “I was crying, but I wasn’t hurt. I never really felt like that, so I was confused. Tears are coming out my eyes and I’m happy? My mother explained it to me – ‘You’re crying ’cause you’re happy.'”

Carl first learned the details of his mother’s sentence when he was 12. “I didn’t even think it was real at the time,” he said. “I thought she was kidding. I remember saying, ‘You can’t do triple life. You only have one.'” He says that on visiting weekends, Sundays “hurt more than fire – knowing I had to leave at a certain time, and she’s not coming with me.” He recalls Christmas visits during which he would line up to sit on the lap of the prison Santa and always repeat the same Christmas wish: to have his mother home.

“The hardest part of all is the separation from my children,” Metz said. “We need each other terribly. How do you tell your child, ‘Mama will never be coming home’? My heart aches to know that all the love I pout out to them may not be enough to convince them that I haven’t left them so far away out of not caring for them.” She told the ACLU, “To be away from my kids, to miss them growing up, to have to parent them over the phone and in the visitation room, to miss my daughter’s wedding, took a piece of me that can’t be replaced.” She adds, “It’s a tragedy shared by women, children, families and communities across this country…leaving the kids to think they don’t have a hope in the world.”

Metz remains very close with her mother, children, and siblings, who describe her as the “glue” of their family. Her sister, Adrian Bernard, raised her daughter, Gleneisha, and moved from Louisiana to California 10 years ago in order to be closer to Metz, whom they visit twice a month. For the past 20 years, Metz’s 77-year-old mother, Barbara Bernard, has traveled from New Orleans to Dublin, California, to visit her daughter twice a year on her birthday and Christmas. Barbara says, “[M]y only desire is to see my baby, Danielle, free and home to share a laugh or two with m e and her children before the Lord call[s] me home to Glory.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 44).

*Danielle’s sentence was ultimately commuted by President Obama after serving more than 23 years behind bars.

Danielle Metz with family

Danielle Metz and her two children, Gleneisha Metz and Carl Bernard, who were four and seven when she was first imprisoned. They now are 23 and 27.

Hershel Miles

Hershel Miles


A mother and son in Panola County, Mississippi, returned home in September 2001 to find that their front door was damaged and a VCR, Sony PlayStation, Nintendo 64 console, and Nintendo games were missing. The value of all of the stolen items was under $250. Several days later, Miles attempted to cash a check bearing the signature of the deceased husband of the woman whose house had been burglarized. Miles maintains that he received the check for payment for a motor that he sold to a man named Al on the same date as the burglary. None of the stolen items were found to be in Miles’s possession, and he was not charged with the burglary. In 2002, Miles was sentenced to life without parole under Mississippi’s habitual offender law. According to prosecutors, Miles had prior convictions for sale of cocaine, burglary of a non-habitation, robbery, burglary, and aggravated burglary, and he had served time in prison for each of these prior offenses. Miles, who is Black and 42 years old, has served nearly 11 years of his life-without-parole sentence.

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 105).


Minor was born and raised in Niceville, a town in the Florida Panhandle. He says he began using drugs at 13, dropped out of school at 16, and became addicted to cocaine at 20. He ran a carpet installation business for 15 years, married, and tried to be a responsible father to his daughter and two stepchildren, but he says he struggled with depression and drug addiction; after a period of sobriety, he became addicted to methamphetamine in 1998.

Minor was convicted of a number of nonviolent prior offenses, most of which he says were committed under the influence of drugs or alcohol. He did not serve any time for these prior offenses, which included convictions for assault and trespass in 1991 for yelling at a neighbor who had poisoned his dogs; convictions for battery and breach of peace in 2000 for bumping a vehicle with his car after a verbal confrontation with another driver; and several convictions for possession of marijuana, cocaine, or methamphetamine.

In 2000, acting on a tip from a confidential informant, police found 1.2 grams of methamphetamine dissolved in liquid in Minor’s home. They also found an over-the-counter decongestant (pseudoephedrine), acetone, matches, and lighter fluid. Although there was no meth lab in Minor’s home, the Drug Enforcement Agency estimated that 191.5 grams of methamphetamine could have been produced from the decongestant pills, an estimate that sentencing guideline experts later determined was far too high. Minor says he never sold meth and reduced the recipe to make only enough to support his and his wife’s addiction.

Initially, Minor was charged under state law; he recalls he was told he faced a two-and-a-half-year sentence. He says the prosecutor threatened to “bury [him] in the federal system” if he would not cooperate, but he refused to snitch on others. Two months after his arrest, he was indicted under federal law and faced a mandatory life-without-parole sentence because of his prior crimes. He pleaded guilty to attempting to manufacture methamphetamine. According to Minor, his federal public defender told him that his wife would be prosecuted and likely sentenced to 10 years if he chose to go to trial, and he says he felt he had no choice but to plead guilty in order to avoid leaving their three children parentless.

Minor was sentenced to mandatory LWOP as a career criminal in August 2001. Judge Clyde Roger Vinson, an appointee of former President Ronald Reagan, said when sentencing Minor, “The sentence…far exceeds whatever punishment would be appropriate…. Unfortunately, it’s my duty to impose a sentence. If I had any discretion at all, I would not impose a life sentence…I really don’t have any discretion in this matter.” Minor’s mother, Judy Minor, told the ACLU, “I was sitting in the courtroom when it happened, and it was all I could do to stay seated in my chair. I was so shocked. I just couldn’t believe they could do that to him. For what they didn’t find…no money, no violence.” Minor told the ACLU, “For this to happen to someone like me, I was devastated…. I had a drug problem. I had been dabbling in drugs all my life, but hurt someone? Never. I never even carried a gun…. The hardest thing is how minor the crime that I did was, and my past history, and I get this lifetime sentence.” He added, “I was raising a family. I was a responsible person, and all this was destroyed and my life was taken away from me over some sinus pills.”

Minor’s nuclear family has fallen apart since his incarceration in February 2001. He and his wife divorced. His stepson died of a drug overdose. His ex-wife, who also struggled with drug addiction, was unable to care for their daughter. Minor’s retired parents have been raising his teenage daughter, Heather, since he was incarcerated when she was seven years old. Heather told the ACLU that when her father was sentenced, “I was so young I didn’t grasp that for the rest of my life he wouldn’t be here. At 10, I started to grasp that he would never come home and I’d be alone forever and that was how it was going to be.” She added, “It’s hard being a young girl being without your dad. I was so close to my dad; he was my right-hand man and we were inseparable. It’s hard being separated from him…just his presence alone would make things easier for me.” Minor told the ACLU that “it’s been an absolute nightmare” to be separated from his family. He said, “Being away from my daughter, my biological child, being as close as we are, it tore us both up…. It messes with your head because you want so bad to be there for her and you can’t.” He says he talks to Heather at least once a week and e-mails her every day. Minor’s parents, who are both in their late 70s, continue to financially support Heather, who was the first person in the family to graduate from high school and is pursuing advanced education. Minor’s mother says Heather has always been “really devoted to her daddy,” and they have struggled to schedule their visits to see Minor, who is incarcerated 10 hours away in Salters, South Carolina, so that Heather does not miss too much school or work.

During his 12 years in prison, Minor has earned his GED and taken classes in computer skills, business, real estate, and accounting. He reports he has stayed sober since his incarceration and completed a 40-hour drug abuse education class, but is not eligible for the 500-hour residential drug treatment program because he will never be released from prison. He is now 50 years old and says that he is a changed man since getting sober.

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 77).

*Ricky’s sentence was ultimately commuted by President Obama after serving more than 15 years behind bars.

Ricky Minor

Ricky Minor with his daughter, Heather. Now 19, Heather was seven years old when her father was sentenced to life without parole.

John Montgomery

John Montgomery with his mother and grandmother.


On April 21, 2011, Montgomery was convicted of armed burglary, possession of burglary tools, burglary of an unoccupied structure, and grand theft. According to the arrest report, on August 26, 2010, Montgomery entered John Wilson’s home with a crowbar and tried to steal a safe containing $3,000 in cash. The arrest report indicates that Wilson told police that when Montgomery saw Wilson, he attempted to hit him with the hand cart he had been using to transport the safe. The two began fighting, and Wilson reportedly struck Montgomery a few times on the head before Montgomery fled in his Jeep Cherokee. Montgomery claims he entered the home to help his friend move and did not intend to commit theft. He says he did not realize anything was wrong until Wilson entered the house and the two got into a struggle.

According to the arrest report, police chased after Montgomery’s car, and Montgomery eventually fled on foot into the woods. The officer deployed his Taser after Montgomery refused to come out from behind the brush, and, according to the officer, Montgomery struggled with him to knock the Taser away. The officer eventually deployed the Taser on Montgomery’s back and took him into custody. Police found Wilson’s air compressor, floor jack, and BC regulator for open water diving in Montgomery’s car. Montgomery told the police that he had been chased by demons for the last four days and was unable to recall where he was coming from, where he was going, or if he had run from the officer.

Montgomery has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychosis. According to Montgomery, he had been receiving treatment for his mental illness but became delusional and psychotic when, at times, he went off his medication. He says his family was concerned for his safety and tried to get help for him. Montgomery told the ACLU that immediately before committing the armed burglary that led to his life-without-parole sentence, he was turned away from the hospital, where he sought treatment for his mental illness, because there was no room.

Although in an initial psychological evaluation requested by defense counsel, Montgomery was found to be sane at the time of the offense and competent to proceed with trial, the evaluator noted that he suffers from serious and continuing mental health issues. According to his lawyer, during trial Montgomery stated he was not receiving proper medications and reported experiencing auditory hallucinations.

Montgomery was sentenced to life without parole on the armed burglary charge under Florida’s Prison Releasee Reoffender Law, and five years’ imprisonment for the other charges. He says that hearing his sentence made him feel “like a nightmare was coming true.” He was 38 years old.

According to Montgomery, due in large part to his mental illness and lack of proper treatment, he had previously committed a series of crimes as a teenager and young adult. In June 1998, Montgomery was sentenced to over three years in prison for a series of offenses committed between the ages of 18 and 21: four counts of burglary of an unoccupied structure, two counts of grand theft, one count of battery of a law enforcement officer, one count of resisting an officer with violence, and one count of possession of a firearm by a felon. A few months later, in September 1998, he was sentenced to three-and-a-half years and four-and-a-half years for possession of cocaine and burglary of an occupied dwelling, respectively. In May 2007, he was sentenced to four years in prison for aggravated assault of a law enforcement officer and fleeing a law enforcement officer. Prior to his incarceration, Montgomery worked as a fine dining food server and in the tree service industry. He had a GED and had completed some college courses.

Since he began serving his LWOP sentence three years ago, Montgomery reports he has sought treatment from a prison psychiatrist who at last ascertained the correct dosage and medication for him. “This changed my life,” he said. Armed with the correct medications, he says he believes he can return to society, finish college, and obtain a job. In prison, he has participated in Alcoholics Anonymous, Bible study, and anger management programs, and has received other counseling. He also attends church and sings in the choir. Now 41 years old, he hopes to be released so that he can spend time with his family, whom he says he misses dearly. It is “devastating,” he said. “To think that I might never be out there with [my family] again is heartbreaking.” He speaks with his mother and grandmother on the phone every day, and they visit when they are able.

Discussing his sentence, Montgomery told the ACLU, “There is a hopelessness that cannot be explained—to think that you will die in here is ever present, always in the back of your mind.” Montgomery reports he was once placed in solitary confinement for 37 days for laughing at the wrong time, which was considered disorderly conduct.

Prison “has turned out for the good,” Montgomery said. “I’ve gotten proper mental health care, learned about my illness, gotten on a medication program that works, but now I am ready to go home.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 132).


In August 2008, Mosley had just purchased four ounces of meth from a dealer and was backing out of the dealer’s driveway when Norman, Oklahoma, drug task force officers arrived to serve a search warrant. Officers searched his pockets and found the drugs. He was 52 at the time. A mistrial was declared following his first trial, and the trial judge dismissed the case. Following the district attorney’s appeal, the dismissal was reversed and Mosley was retried and convicted of trafficking in methamphetamine.

For years, Mosley had suffered from drug addiction and alcohol abuse, leading to a series of convictions for drug possession and driving under the influence of alcohol. He says he did not steal or deal drugs to support his habit, and he was never accused of such offenses. He was convicted three times of DUI in 1992 and 1993, possession of marijuana in 1993 and 1995, and possession of marijuana and methamphetamine in 2000. In 2005, police searched his home and found 39 grams of marijuana and baggies with methamphetamine residue totaling less than five grams. Several months later, police stopped him while he was walking on the street and asked him if he had drugs in his possession; he handed over a small bag of marijuana, a small bag of meth, and two syringes. As a result of the two arrests, in 2006 Mosley was convicted of two counts of marijuana possession, one count of meth possession, and one count of maintaining a place for keeping controlled drugs, for which he received a suspended sentence.

As soon as he was released on bond for the August 2008 arrest, Mosley, realizing that he was sick and needed help, signed up for drug treatment. After a two-month waiting period, he entered and completed an intensive 10-month inpatient drug treatment program. He had gotten clean for the first time in his life, enrolled in graduate school, and was working toward a master’s degree in drug and alcohol counseling.

“I needed long-term extensive treatment and therapy but did not get it in prison. Prison did not work. I got to this very effective treatment program. I actually get into recovery!” he recalls. Mosley says he grew up in a family of alcoholics and drug addicts and left home at age 17 to escape physical abuse, all of which he believes contributed to his later drug addiction, and which he finally addressed in drug treatment. He had a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, but because his criminal record made it impossible for him to get work in his field, he worked at McDonald’s while he was studying to become a drug and alcohol counselor.

In April 2010, he was imprisoned when his suspended sentence for the 2006 charges was revoked on account of the August 2008 arrest. Two years later, he was about to be released to a halfway house and resume his studies when he was sentenced to mandatory LWOP for the August 2008 charge. Mosley had been recommended for one-year community sentencing. In a pre-sentence investigation report, a parole officer noted that Mosley had completed inpatient drug treatment and maintained a drug-free lifestyle, concluding, “[H]e does not appear to pose an immediate threat to the community…it seems it would be most beneficial to work with him in a community setting.” Although the judge stated she wanted to show mercy, she was not permitted to do so under Oklahoma’s habitual drug offender statute because of his prior nonviolent drug convictions.

“Prison didn’t help me, but recovery did, and now you want to put me in prison for the rest of my life? I had a drug addiction; I needed recovery,” Mosley told the ACLU. “In my case, the legal war on drugs has done more damage than the drugs themselves. I’ll take this to the grave.”

Now 57, Mosley has been incarcerated for three and a half years, during which he has participated in drug recovery and faith-based programs. He reports he has stayed clean and sober despite the hopelessness of his sentence, which he says “is like being buried alive.” If released from prison, he wants to resume the career path he was on when he was incarcerated and help other people with drug addiction.

“I went to school to work toward a degree in counseling to be a part of the solution rather than the problem,” he told the ACLU. “I got into recovery, and I took it as a vision of God. I had this deep-down feeling that this is what I’m supposed to do for the rest of my life, to educate myself and use my past experiences of addiction, depression, and prison, and use my success to…get these people the help they need instead of just throwing them in prison.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 107).

Daniel Mosley

Daniel Mosley

Terrance Mosley

Terrance Mosley


In August 2008, he was seated in the passenger seat of a parked car when a police officer searched the car, allegedly because it had duplicate license plates and was parked on the street, facing traffic. The officer found two bags of marijuana in the car that totaled 867 grams, or about two pounds. Mosley says he was trying to get a ride and did not know the marijuana was in the car, which he adamantly insists did not belong to him. The driver of the car received probation in exchange for pleading guilty and did not serve any time. Mosley was first sentenced to 25 years in prison, but was subsequently sentenced to life without parole as a third-strike offender. To adjudicate Mosley a habitual offender, the judge used a 12-year-old conviction for a nonviolent drug crime he had committed as a juvenile. Mosley, a former special education student who has an eighth-grade education, had only two priors: possession of cocaine with intent to distribute when he was age 17 and distribution of cocaine when he was 18. Mosley has served five years of his LWOP sentence and says that he feels “dead” and “lost in the system.” Calling his sentence “pure hell,” he says that it is “cruel and unusual punishment to think you will never be free before you die.” His fiancée continues to support him and visits him regularly. The father of five children, 36-year-old Mosley says, “I’d like to have my freedom back and be the best in society possible and father for my children.”

Click here to view original ACLU article (Page 156).

Support Equal Justice Matters!