The Hoosier State reduced the applicable radius from 1, to feet, eliminated the zones around public housing complexes and added a requirement that a minor must reasonably be expected to be present when the drug offense occurs. Though Tennessee's legislature has not adopted any reforms, the state's highest court has ruled that the mandatory minimum does not apply in cases, like Bryant's, of facilitation. Had he been convicted later, his sentence would have been far shorter. One of the primary objections raised to the law is that it in dense urban centers - like Nashville - nearly every patch of habitable land is covered by the law, while in wealthier suburbs, virtually nowhere is.
Furthermore and as a result, an overwhelming number of convictions are of the poor and people of color. In a brief, Bryant's attorney Daniel Horwitz noted that 62 people have been convicted in Davidson County for violating the law since , 90 percent of whom were people of color and 78 percent of whom were African-American.
Demetrius Bryant in Tennessee
Bryant is the only person in Davidson County convicted under the law as a first-time offender. Since his election, Nashville's District Attorney-General Glenn Funk has changed his office's policy on prosecuting the offense. Funk declined to comment on the Bryant case specifically, but, through a spokesperson, said only one drug-free school zone case has been taken to the grand jury during his tenure and that "his policy is to only submit cases in which school children are placed in danger by the activity of the defendant.
In an op-ed published statewide, Funk has said "This enhancement puts street level drug-free school zone act violations on par with second degree murder. The idea that this law keeps school kids safe is a myth, all it accomplishes is the destruction of communities. In , the Davidson County grand jury wrote "The decision to seek increased penalties resulting from school zone violations seemed to be arbitrarily reached at times. The law needs to be applied equally, not arbitrarily and capriciously.
On Nov. Bill Haslam in support of reforming the Volunteer State's law, saying in part:. A poll found that 84 percent of Tennesseans - including 90 percent of Democrats and 80 percent of Republicans - support reforming the law.
The brief filed by attorney Daniel Horwitz includes dozens of character references from Bryant's family and friends, who describe him as gentle and a role model to his neighbors, to leaders from the local chapter of the NAACP and State Rep. Brenda Gilmore. Perhaps the most interesting letter of support comes from Rob McGuire. Though now a criminal defense attorney, McGuire served 13 years in the district-attorney's office and, in fact, was one of Bryant's prosecutors. Bryant's amenability to correction or would be required to maintain public safety," McGuire wrote, in part.
Horwitz said Bryant feels good about his chances, describing him as "genuinely remorseful, remarkably upbeat, not remotely bitter, and I daresay he's even optimistic about being able to help others learn from his mistakes and use his situation to help inner city kids avoid what happened to him. Bryant has more than paid his debt to society, and as everyone who is familiar with his case has recognized, he deserves to be released," Horwitz said.
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