A three-letter typo has chopped years off of a jail sentence for a repeat drug offender.
CNN.com reports that Calvin Eugene Wells of Akron, Ohio, was able to shave nine years off of his term after reading a copy of the verdict that lead to his conviction. The prisoner was originally found guilty of possession more than 100 grams of crack, which is a first-degree felony offense.
Upon close inspection, he found that the verdict form (typed up by the prosecutor’s office), had a typo reading:
"We, the jury, find the defendant guilty of the offense of possession of crack cocaine. We, the jury, further find that the amount of crack cocaine was in the amount exceeding ten one hundred (100) grams as charged in the indictment."
If you’re not up on your legal speak, you might not know that using the word “ten” in the second line was extraneous. But what did that mean for Calvin’s prison term?
According to Ohio law, for someone to be found guilty of a high-level crime, the jury has to specify the severity or conditions of the suspect’s offense. When jurors added “ten” to indicate the degree of Calvin’s crime, his lawyer said that it fudged the meaning of the verdict, and a panel of judges agreed.
"The form is unclear, and we cannot determine what the jury understood ‘ten one hundred (100) grams’ to mean," said Judge Eve Belfance. "It certainly could have meant an amount exceeding one hundred grams, but it is possible the jury believed the form actually meant an amount exceeding less than one gram."
Because of that clarity issue, Calvin could only be convicted of a fifth-degree felony, and those only carry a one-year jail sentence maximum. However, the inmate has already served four years of hard time. He’d actually been sentenced to serve 10 years behind bars.
"At the end of the day, he was convicted, and I understand that some people are going to feel upset that he’s essentially out six years earlier than anyone anticipated," said Jason Desiderio, Calvin’s lawyer. "But in our system, we give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant, and we do that for good reason. And in here there’s a statutory mandate to ensure that we know what we’re convicting people of and we know why we’re doing it. And that mandate wasn’t met."
However, Calvin is still a wanted man in New Jersey where he violated the terms of his probation for drug and weapons charges back in November of 2000.
— Sonya Eskridge