Note by Hayley H. Fritchie
Bernard W. Noble is currently serving thirteen years and four months’ imprisonment at hard labor for his possession of two marijuana cigarettes. Noble is a high school graduate who was gainfully employed for twenty years while supporting seven children. In May 2011, Noble was convicted of marijuana possession for the fourth time, which is considered a felony under Louisiana law. Noble’s previous felony convictions for nonviolent drug offenses in 1991 and 2003 allowed the state to prosecute him under Louisiana’s habitual offender law as a third-felony offender, which carries a mandatory minimum sentence of thirteen years and four months’ imprisonment. Despite the mandatory minimum, the trial judge sentenced Noble to five years’ imprisonment at hard labor. On appeal, the Louisiana Court of Appeal for the Fourth Circuit (Fourth Circuit) remanded the matter to the trial court to justify its downward deviation from the mandatory minimum sentence. On remand, the trial judge maintained Noble’s five-year sentence and articulated the reasoning why a lesser sentence was warranted. The state filed a writ application with the Fourth Circuit, arguing an insufficient showing by the trial court to warrant a deviation from the mandatory minimum sentence. The Fourth Circuit found that Noble had adequately justified that his mandatory sentence of thirteen years and four months was constitutionally excessive, and the court affirmed his five-year sentence.
89 Tul. L. Rev. 933 (2015)