Group protests ‘unjust’ use of three-strikes law
by Rachel Gray
April 10, 2014 04:00 AM | 3902 views | 14 14 comments | 17 17 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Addie Owens says a 30-year stretch in prison for her daughter, Marciael Owens, was far too excessive for her drug-related crime. Staff/Jeff Stanton
Addie Owens says a 30-year stretch in prison for her daughter, Marciael Owens, was far too excessive for her drug-related crime. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Marciael Owens’ brother, Eric Owens and his daughter Erial, 10,  took to the streets in Marietta to protest. Staff/Jeff Stanton
Marciael Owens’ brother, Eric Owens and his daughter Erial, 10, took to the streets in Marietta to protest. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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Friends of Marciael Owens protest outside Marietta City Hall on Wednesday. Owens was given a 30 year sentence nearly 7 years ago for a drug offense friends say doesn’t fit the crime. The friends include, from left: Shakeria Miller, Eleanor Taylor, Lemisha Heard and Montaja Brooks.   Staff/Jeff Stanton
Friends of Marciael Owens protest outside Marietta City Hall on Wednesday. Owens was given a 30 year sentence nearly 7 years ago for a drug offense friends say doesn’t fit the crime. The friends include, from left: Shakeria Miller, Eleanor Taylor, Lemisha Heard and Montaja Brooks. Staff/Jeff Stanton
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MARIETTA — Twenty people protested outside of Cobb’s Superior Court on Wednesday afternoon, holding signs with a picture of their loved one and chanting “Let the time fit the crime.”

The group rallied on the corner of Haynes Street and Lawrence Street to draw attention to what they called an unjust use of the three-strikes law designed to levy harsh prison sentences on habitual offenders.

Friends and family were protesting the 30-year sentence given nearly seven years ago to Marciael Owens, 42, who attended Marietta High School in the early 1990s.

Marciael Owens is serving prison time at Lee Arrendale Correctional Institution in Alto for what her supporters call a nonviolent crime.

According to Cobb Superior Court records, Owens previously faced charges of violating Georgia’s Controlled Substances Act.

For arrests in 1992, 1996 and 1997, all charges were dropped. But Owens pleaded no contest to felony drug charges in 1993, pleaded guilty to felony drug charges, possession of a firearm and reckless conduct in 2001, and pleaded guilty to attempting to elude a police officer and battery in 2006.

The arrest that led to Owens serving a long prison term for the first time, according to the warrant, was for instances investigated from December 2007 to January 2008.

After waiving her right to a jury trial, Marciael Owens pleaded guilty to six counts of drug offenses, including possession, selling and trafficking of cocaine.

She also pleaded guilty to tampering with evidence by concealing cocaine in the ceiling of the police interview room and marijuana in a body cavity, according to the court records.

In August 2008, Owens was sentenced to 40 years, with 30 years in prison and 10 years of probation.

According to the plea agreement signed by both Owens and her attorney, Jim Berry, she could have been sentenced to a maximum of five life sentences or a minimum of 10 years.

Family takes issue to the streets

Originally, the protesters were outside the Superior Court of Cobb County building, but they were told to move across the street in front of the Marietta City Hall because the group did not have a permit.

“We are trying to get somebody to listen to this case,” said Addie Owens, Marciael Owens’ mother, who now lives in Powder Springs after raising six children in Marietta.

One of Marciael Owens’ older brothers, Derrick Owens, 45, said he graduated from Marietta High School in 1988 and now lives in Powder Springs.

Derrick Owens said his sister has paid enough time “by far” after six and a half years.

“The sentence that they gave her is completely overkill,” Derrick Owens said. “We are hoping somebody inside the building will hear our voices and reduce her sentence. “Marciael Owens, also listed as “Big Bonnie,” was represented by four defense lawyers, including Vic Reynolds, who now serves as the Cobb district attorney. Judge Mary E. Staley, who was elected superior court judge in 1992, presided over the case.

According to the Cobb District Attorney’s office, Marciael Owens was a repeat offender with three prior felony convictions.

As a recidivist, Marciael Owens was given a tough sentence. Georgia state law also requires a repeat offender not be eligible for parole.

Because of the second part of the statute, “whatever sentence you are given, you serve every day of it,” said Kim Isaza, spokeswoman for the Cobb District Attorney’s Office.

A mother and son split apart

Marciael Owens has one child, an 18-year-old boy, who she will not see graduate this spring from McEachern High School.

“It is a hardship on her. It is a hardship on him and all of us as a family,” said Addie Owens. “Besides the fact that it is unjust.”

Addie Owens said her daughter is trying to instill good, “old-fashioned” values in the young man.

“She is raising her son on the phone,” Addie Owens said, except when he is able to visit his mother every other weekend during scheduled visitation.

Addie Owens, who has medical issues, said the hour-and-a-half drive each way is too much for her.

Eric Owens, twin brother of Derrick Owens, played basketball, football and ran track while attending Marietta High School.

He said the family never expected his sister to get anywhere near 30 years in prison.

While she is locked up, Eric Owens said, “I tell her I love her and we are trying to do everything we can.”

Marciael Owens knew about the protest planned for Wednesday afternoon, and Eric Owens said she is happy for the support many inmates do not receive.

Eric Owens said it is hard that his daughter, Erial, 10, who was at the protest, “barely knows her aunt.”

So he shares how much fun he used to have with Marciael Owens, who Eric Owens admits “wasn’t a saint.”

Eric Owens said he does feel a conflict living in Cobb and being active in the community while still feeling victimized by the county.

For instance, on Wednesday night Eric Owens was acknowledged by the Marietta City Council for taking a young girls basketball team affiliated with the Cobb County Parks, Recreation and Cultural Affairs Department to the state championship game.

“To me, it feels like a stab in the back,” Eric Owens said.

Comments
(14)
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Mike In Smyrna
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April 10, 2014
If you cannot do the time, don't do the crime. Someone, please enlighten this group on the 3 branches of the government and then point them towards the gold dome.
Rev Gantt
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April 10, 2014
The Drug war was not a war on drugs it was a war on poor people/ black people as our communities were flooded with drugs, not that there was no drugs in the white communities, there was far more drugs in white communities than black communities - but police do not riad and run drug operation in the white communities they run drug task forces in our communities. The truth be told all of America know that there are more drugs in white communities than black, but we are the ones arrested and incarerated for drugs under this Drug War tactics.
MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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April 10, 2014
@"Rev Gantt": Unless you can provide a reputable and verifiable source (you can't & won't) for your black vs. white drug usage statistics, your comments are meaningless.

You folks wanted "equality"? Well, now you've got it, along with the personal responsibility that goes with it!
Mike In Smyrna
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April 10, 2014
I hope that your presents scare small children and they run away. A young person, who was trying to excel and better himself, would have a tough row to hoe around the Rev.
anonymous
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April 10, 2014
Give me a break Rev. The color and poor people song just doesn't cut it. Take the "America is so unfair to black folks" gig and go get a clue.

The reality is the war on drugs hits everybody regardless of their color and the money in their pocket. Case in point are some local cops who became addicted to pain killers they used to combat pain from on the job injuries. The crushing grip of addiction does NOT discriminate between black folks, white folks or green folks or how much money they make. PERIOD. Addicts who get caught up in the war on drugs after getting caught for possession/"dealing" are hit with the same devastating penalties as everyone else. No one comes out unbattered.

Unfortunately, many in the black communities get hit harder as "dealers" because they wallow in the hood culture which discourages education and mocks anyone of color who would dare educate themselves to become anything anything more than a thug drop out that willingly engages in the well known art of dealing dope.

Once the whining hood culture devotees decide to stop whining and take responsibility for themselves and do more to development themselves and their capabilities, they will find that their circumstances and opportunities will become a whole lot better.

anonymous
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April 10, 2014
This kind of willful blindness and denial of reality is why nothing ever gets better in some communities.

MAY-RETTA SURVIVOR
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April 10, 2014
Not surprisingly, those shown protesting are the VERY SAME minority who, for years, wanted to be treated equally and like everyone else. Well, honey, you all wanted it...and now you've got it. Welcome to the real world!
slavesinthesouth
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September 16, 2014
Telling from your written dialect, you sound very country and racist. Being treated equal has obviously nothing to do with this situation. How does a black women receiving 30 years for being a repeat offender warrant equality. Ok..... There are many white people who get off with much less and I know this for a fact I have sat in court and listened to their cases and seen the results with my own eyes. You also have the senseless murdering of black teens by racist Caucasian and they simply get off with a slap on the wrist. Michael brown, Renisha McBride, Travon Martin, and the list goes on. The system is unjust and you are obviously a racist to condone the BS. May-Restta your not a survivor your a sucker to racism.
Just Wait
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April 10, 2014
And we are supposed to feel sorry for a career drug offender? I think she's in the right place.
anonymous
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April 10, 2014
Oh yeah. I would much rather pay to house these people in prison...NOT.

This woman more than likely IS a DRUG addict. Her actions in 'dealing' are likely directly connected to the expenses she faced in obtaining drugs to support HER habit.

I am tired of the war on drugs.

I am tired of people being shut out of career opportunities because they are turned into criminals due to their usage/possession/"dealing" of drugs.

I do not understand how the freest country on the face of God's green earth can have the highest prison population of any country on earth...with 80% of that population being there for 'drug offense'?

I am NOT a liberal bleeding heart.
Just Wait
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April 10, 2014
I wonder if you opinion would be the same if you became a victim of theft, burglary or robbery so this "addict" can supply her need. What if someone you love is shot for their money to feed her habit. Would you want her working beside your family so she could get a "career opportunity" while stealing from co-workers and/or employers? Who do you think would pay for her treatment, if she were to seek it? The same tax dollars used to incarcerate her. At least in jail, she is not a danger to the public.
Mike In Smyrna
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April 10, 2014
When you quote percentages out of thin air - it does not make you any smarter.

2012 Federal Prison population – 50% drug related

2011 State Prison population - 17% drug related

anonymous
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April 11, 2014
@ Mike in Smyrna - I am going to have to suggest YOU are pulling stats out of the air. 70-80% is a dang good number for crimes related to drugs. Consider...forgery of a prescription...because the addict needs their fix. Drug related, indeed. Consider robbery by an addict looking to get funds for their fix (black market makes prices high---rarely does anyone rob to buy beer).
anonymous
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April 11, 2014
@ Just Wait...I have more than a few close family and friends who have been victims of crime (violent, deadly and not)...by dopers...looking to get their fix. The dopers were not stealing/robbing to buy beer ( which is cheap, legal and easily obtained). They were stealing for money to by illegal drugs. The war on drugs (prohibition) is what pushes up prices and makes crime a common occurrence for law abiding citizens.

There is a sound argument to be made that a VERY large level of crime could be eliminated if only we took steps to eliminate the black market for goods ( dope) that addicts have to have. Prices come down. Like with alcohol, addicts will stop robbing, hurting others for money to afford the black market prices of illegal drugs/penalties imposed by the war on drugs.

The war on drugs has been a giant failure. Yet law abiding and taxpaying citizens are continuing to pay for it...thru higher levels of crime and taxation.

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