Convicted drug dealer Calvin Eugene Wells is looking at a likely release from prison based not on his conduct or innocence, but a three-letter typo. Wells was sentenced in October 2005 to 10 years for his possession of more than 100 grams of cocaine. However, the verdict form signed by the jurors contained a typo that wast eh grounds for an appellate court to slashed his sentence down to a fifth-degree felony.
The matter for the appellate court came down to the word “ten.” The form stated:
“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.”
It is not clear if the mistake was the prosecution’s or the court clerk. But it was supposed to read just “one hundred (100) grams.” The appellate court ruled unanimously that the mistake left confusion over what the jury understood to be the amount of cocaine — a critical issue in sentencing.
Notably, Wells went through four attorneys and one appeal before his current lawyer spotted the issue and secured the decision.
Writing for the Ohio Appeals Court, Judge Eve Belfance ruled that “The form is unclear, and we cannot determine what the jury understood ‘ten one hundred (100) grams’ to mean. 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.”
The sentence for a fifth-degree felony is one year and Well has already served four.
Here is the opinion typo.appeal.opinion
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