Nashville, Tennessee—In an order issued earlier this morning, Calvin Bryant, a former college student and beloved Hillsboro High School football star who received a 17-year mandatory minimum sentence for a first-time, non-violent drug offense, was denied sentencing relief by Criminal Court Judge Steve Dozier. The injustice of Mr. Bryant’s sentence garnered substantial local and national media attention, in part because his first-time, non-violent drug offense landed him a punishment that was more severe than the sentence that he would have received had he committed a violent crime like Rape or Second Degree murder. Mr. Bryant—who has already served a decade in prison—had also received an outpouring of support from national advocacy groups and elected officials across the political spectrum. Judge Dozier’s order denying him relief is accessible here.
“[I]n certain situations, such as with the Petitioner, a strict interpretation and enforcement of the Act can lead to sentences that courts and some members of the community would be hard-pressed to describe as fair. This is especially true in Davidson County, where much of the county, and especially those areas with a higher concentration of minority populations, falls within the ambit of the Act,” the Court wrote in its Order. However, “while the Court recognizes the Petitioner’s contention that his sentence is severe, the Court is of the opinion that the sentence is not so unjust as to give rise to an inference of gross disproportionality. Thus, the Court must find the Petitioner’s sentence is constitutional,” the Order reads.
“While we respect the Court’s opinion, the fact that Tennessee law punishes first-time, non-violent drug sales between adults more harshly than violent crimes like rape and murder cannot be justified under any rational sentencing scheme,” said Daniel Horwitz, Bryant’s attorney. “We continue to believe that Mr. Bryant’s mandatory minimum sentence is grossly disproportionate based on applicable precedent, and I have every expectation that this opinion will ultimately be overturned.”
The Court’s order also expressly encourages Mr. Bryant and his many supporters to seek clemency from the Governor, which he will do while his appeal is pending. “In order to secure Mr. Bryant’s early release from his grossly excessive sentence, I intend to petition Governor Haslam to commute Mr. Bryant’s first-time, non-violent drug offense to the “lesser” offense of rape,” Horwitz stated.
Selected Media Coverage
-Nashville Scene: Council Members Petition Judge Over Drug-Free School Zone Case
-Families Against Mandatory Minimums: Calvin Bryant: 17 Years for a First Offense/FAMM Reacts to Denial in Calvin Bryant’s Drug-Free School Zone Case
Selected Case Filings