Florida Supreme Court justice to exonerate inmate strung up for 13 years for marijuana possession

A Florida Supreme Court justice is moving to exonerate Kevin Strickland after the 63-year-old was sent to prison for 13 years on a marijuana-possession charge.

During the time that Strickland was in prison, he also served time in solitary confinement for protesting President Reagan’s decision to send a squadron of strategic bombers to fly over Cuba, Florida Today reported. Strickland was also physically abused and placed in solitary confinement during the two weeks he was imprisoned after striking the guard trying to prevent him from talking to an attorney.

“I was bitter and angry for almost eight years,” Strickland told Florida Today. “For years I didn’t like this country,” he said of the United States.

When the Supreme Court ordered a new trial for Strickland in 1987, and the judge excluded evidence of constitutional issues in the original jury trial, Strickland was sentenced to life in prison and the judge ordered that he be fitted with a GPS ankle bracelet.

Back in November, one of Strickland’s attorneys, Lizette Palma, filed an affidavit in which she described how Strickland was handcuffed and shackled while he was having plastic surgery to correct a hernia that would lead to an additional two years of incarceration. He was also subjected to forced medication and strip searches more than 100 times.

“He was getting stripped and shoehorned down into a padded cell where he was shackled in front of the razor, in a way that was clearly degrading to him,” Palma said. “He could not urinate or defecate in that place and in the bathroom on the floor and that place was a padded cell,” she said.

The Supreme Court ruled that Strickland’s trial lawyer had engaged in ineffective assistance of counsel. “The sole reason we have interest is that Kevin was deprived of his right to due process,” Justice Charles Canady said in the unanimous decision. The court called Strickland’s detention “a collective punishment, which was unconstitutional.”

Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricky Polston wrote that Strickland was deprived of due process because an attorney did not effectively or adequately represent him.

Strickland was finally released from prison on Friday, Florida Today reported.

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