Corvain Cooper (@40tonsbrand) is our next highlight in the ILLICIT Freedoms Campaign, which aims to share the stories of prisoners from the war on cannabis.
After a Lakers game in 2009, Corvain was pulled over driving his friends home where he admitted to 1lb of marijuana and a bottle of codeine in the trunk of his car. These charges, Corvain’s first and second drug priors, would turn out to be the nails in his coffin.
Later in 2013, Corvain was arrested in California, then shipped and charged along with fifty other people to Charlotte, North Carolina for conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute 1000kg of marijuana.
“The indictment doesn’t match, none of these people hustled with each other, 90 percent of the people haven’t even spent one day in Charlotte,” says Corvain. Because of this, Corvain, Evelyn and Natalia made the decision to go to trial. After the one-week trial, it took the Mecklenburg County jury one hour to decide their fate, charging Corvain as if he were personally responsible for how much marijuana the network might have distributed over its entire history of operation, 40 tons. The third strike rule landed him a life sentence without the possibility of parole.
Conspiracy charges allow prosecutors to charge everyone involved in a drug supply operation for the same conduct, regardless of their individual role.
“When they led him into the courtroom,” Patrick Megaro, Corvain’s lawyer said, “the judge said on the record that he was extraordinarily uncomfortable with giving a life sentence, without the possibility of parole, to a 34-year-old man with children in a case like this.” However, Corvain was sentenced just the same.
Corvain advocated and advertised for his clemency, finally reaching President Trump after 8 years behind bars and $290,394 of taxpayer money. Releasing Corvain saved taxpayers over $725,000, assuming he would have remained alive behind bars for another 20 years.
“Ever since I’ve been home I’ve been doing the best I can to enlighten people to get their record expunged.” He said, “If I had had my record expunged they wouldn't have been able to charge me with life on the three strikes.”
Click the link in our bio to hear Corvain tell the story himself and stay tuned next week as we discuss courtroom statistics in North Carolina, where Corvain was tried.
After one week of fighting, it took the Mecklenburg County jury one hour to decide their fate, charging Corvain as if he were personally responsible for how much marijuana the network might have distributed over its entire history of operation, 40 tons.
Corvain remembers, “It was hard to call your mom or kids and tell them you’re never coming home; You’re gonna die in prison,” he says, “but I never used those words, I always said I’m coming home. This is just a minor setback for a major comeback.”
Today, one of every five Black men in prison is serving a life sentence.
Black male offenders receive sentences on average 19.1 percent longer than similarly situated White male offenders. An increase in the proportion of white males in the jury pool results in a significant increase in the conviction rate for black defendants, and a neutral to negative effect for white defendants, according to a study out of Wake Forest University.
Most Recently, the North Carolina Supreme Court banned the state from reinstating the death sentence on a Black man after a North Carolina judge found that his trial was influenced by racial discrimination in the jury. At the original trial, the prosecution removed half of qualified Black jurors from serving — but only 15% of white jurors.
Despite roughly equal usage rates, Black people are 3.73 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana.
Corvain was relentless in spirit. He says, “If you look at any of my prison pictures I always have my head up high. I’ve read over 1000 books, when else would I have the time to do that, I just wrote 3 or 4 books; My book series is coming out soon called “Look Into My Eyes.”
Corvain says, “Bet on yourself. and just keep pushin.”