1. Dear Drugs-Forum readers: We are a small non-profit that runs one of the most read drug information & addiction help websites in the world. We serve over 4 million readers per month, and have costs like all popular websites: servers, hosting, licenses and software. To protect our independence we do not run ads. We take no government funds. We run on donations which average $25. If everyone reading this would donate $5 then this fund raiser would be done in an hour. If Drugs-Forum is useful to you, take one minute to keep it online another year by donating whatever you can today. Donations are currently not sufficient to pay our bills and keep the site up. Your help is most welcome. Thank you.
    PLEASE HELP
    Dismiss Notice

USA - Texas Grandma Sentenced to Life Without Parole for First-Time Drug Offense

Discussion in 'Justice & Law' started by enquirewithin, May 16, 2012.

  1. enquirewithin

    enquirewithin Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    3,666
    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2004
    Messages:
    5,809
    Male from bermuda
    May 15, 2012 --Texans can sleep more soundly at night knowing that Elisa Castillo, a grandmother and nonviolent first-time drug offender, is serving a life without parole sentence in Fort Worth. Yes, you read that right — the latest casualty of our War on Drugs is a grandmother who never even touched the drugs that sent her to prison. Though she may not look like public enemy No. 1, our persistently illogical criminal justice system has determined that this harsh punishment fits her crime. The truth, though, is that her fate was sealed, in large part because she didn't have a card to play when negotiating her sentence.

    Convicted in a drug-smuggling conspiracy, 56-year-old Castillo maintains that she didn't know she was being used as a pawn in a cocaine trafficking operation between Mexico and Houston. Given her alleged role as a low-level player in the conspiracy, it makes sense that she was not privy to — and therefore could not provide — any valuable information to federal agents that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the leaders or other high level members of the alleged conspiracy. Since she was of no help to the government, Castillo received the harshest sentence of the approximately 68 people involved in the scheme, despite being a first-time offender who never saw the drugs she was accused of trafficking.

    It is well known that state and federal sentencing schemes allow for reduced punishment when offenders are able to provide information that leads to the prosecution of others. As former federal prosecutor Mark W. White III explained, "Information is a cooperating defendant's stock in trade, and if you don't have any…the chances are you won't get a good deal." But at what cost are these bargains made? There are clear incentives for law enforcement officials to seek information from criminal suspects when possible. But this system of trading information for reduced time often means that those at the bottom of the chain end up suffering consequences that are disproportionate to their crimes. As such, Castillo was effectively left to die in prison because of what she did not know.

    In the past year, the national conversation about the failure of the War on Drugs has grown, but Castillo's case proves that we have a long way to go in reshaping the unnecessarily punitive sentencing laws that lead to the long-term incarceration of offenders who pose no threat to public safety. In light of the limited resources available to states in the aftermath of the recent fiscal crisis, it is both overly expensive and completely illogical to impose such a draconian and unnecessary sentence on someone who was convicted of playing so small a role in a drug smuggling conspiracy. And yet, within our criminal justice system, it's par for the course.

    "Information Clearing House"-- http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article31328.htm
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2012
  2. beentheredonethatagain

    beentheredonethatagain Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    2,193
    Joined:
    May 30, 2007
    Messages:
    3,295
    Male from California, U.S.A.
    texas is one of those states that will build a prison for you. they believe in strict justice, although in this case it may be their undoing. I cant see how they can do this to a very senior citizen. I hope the good people of texas get this poor woman out of this jam. what a shame.
     
  3. ThisIsAHeresy

    ThisIsAHeresy Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    0
    Joined:
    May 14, 2012
    Messages:
    8
    25 y/o Male from U.S.A.
    Poor woman... I really do hope that she gets it sorted out. :/
     
  4. nitehowler

    nitehowler Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    -115
    Joined:
    Dec 14, 2011
    Messages:
    163
    48 y/o Male from Australia
    The government are the ones that need to be punished for their ridiculous policies .
    One minute they admit to failing families with their lost war against drugs -putting people behind bars for these non violent crimes punishing everyday men and women and their families.
    THESE DRACONIAN law makers need to be held accountable for their inaction their wives their families need to be punished by every means possible and taunted.
    Then they will realize the damage they are doing to the community.
    We vote for these people and sometimes think they may one day better our system but it just seems to get worse.
    Answer this question why do western countries ( the so called democratic free society's) of say Australia and America have more restrictive laws than communist China and Russia put together?

    FREEDOM IS A WORD USED AS AN EXCUSE TO PUNISH SOCIETY
     
  5. godztear

    godztear Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    620
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2009
    Messages:
    1,036
    31 y/o Male from Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Houstonian, who has no secrets to trade, is doing more time than drug lords

    FORT WORTH - The U.S. government didn't offer a reward for the capture of Houston grandmother Elisa Castillo, nor did it accuse her of touching drugs, ordering killings, or getting rich off crime.

    But three years after a jury convicted her in a conspiracy to smuggle at least a ton of cocaine on tour buses from Mexico to Houston, the 56-year-old first-time offender is locked up for life - without parole.

    "It is ridiculous," said Castillo, who is a generation older than her cell mates, and is known as "grandma" at the prison here. "I am no one."

    Convicted of being a manager in the conspiracy, she is serving a longer sentence than some of the hemisphere's most notorious crime bosses - men who had multimillion-dollar prices on their heads before their capture.

    The drug capos had something to trade: the secrets of criminal organizations. The biggest drug lords have pleaded guilty in exchange for more lenient sentences.

    Castillo said she has nothing to offer in a system rife with inconsistencies and behind-the-scenes scrambling that amounts to a judicial game of Let's Make A Deal.

    "Our criminal justice system is broke; it needs to be completely revamped," declared Terry Nelson, who was a federal agent for over 30 years and is on the executive board of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. "They have the power, and if you don't play the game, they'll throw the book at you."

    Castillo maintains her innocence, saying she was tricked into unknowingly helping transport drugs and money for a big trafficker in Mexico. But she refused to plead guilty and went to trial.

    In 2010, of 1,766 defendants prosecuted for federal drug offenses in the Southern District of Texas - a region that reaches from Houston to the border - 93.2 percent pleaded guilty rather than face trial, according to the U.S. government. Of the defendants who didn't plead not guilty, 10 defendants were acquitted at trial. Also, 82 saw their cases dismissed.

    The statistics are similar nationwide.

    The latest case in point came this week with the negotiated surrender of a Colombian drug boss Javier Calle Serna, whom the United States accuses of shipping at least 30 tons of cocaine.

    While how much time Calle will face is not known publicly, he likely studied other former players, including former Gulf Cartel lord Osiel Cardenas Guillen.

    Cardenas once led one of Mexico's most powerful syndicates and created the Zetas gang. He pleaded guilty in Houston and is to be released by 2025. He'll be 57.

    As the federal prison system has no parole, Castillo has no prospect of ever going home.
    "Any reasonable person would look at this and say, 'God, are you kidding?' " said attorney David Bires, who represented Castillo on an unsuccessful appeal. "It is not right."

    Castillo's elderly mother in Mexico has not been told she's serving life, and her toddler grandson thinks she's in the hospital when he comes to visit her in prison.

    Castillo is adamant about her innocence.

    "Put yourself in my shoes. When you are innocent, you are innocent," she said. "I don't say I am perfect. I am not … but I can guarantee you 100 percent that I am innocent of this."

    At the urging of her boyfriend, Martin Ovalle, Castillo became partners with a smooth-talking Mexican resident who said he wanted to set up a Houston-based bus company.

    But the buses were light on passengers and shuttled thousands of pounds of cocaine into the United States and millions of dollars back to Mexico. Her lawyers argued she was naive.

    Castillo claims she didn't know about the drug operation, but agents said she should have known something was wrong when quantities of money and drugs were repeatedly found on the coaches.

    "After hearing all the evidence as presented from both the government and defense in this case, the jury found her guilty … ," said Kenneth Magidson, chief prosecutor here.

    Former federal prosecutor Mark W. White III said if Castillo had something to share, she might have benefited from a sentence reduction for cooperating.

    "Information is a cooperating defendant's stock in trade," White said, "and if you don't have any, … the chances are you won't get a good deal."

    Castillo has faith that she'll somehow, some day, go free. Her daily routine doesn't vary: when she eats breakfast, when she works, when she exercises, and when she brushes her hair, which has gone from red-blond to black and gray. The gray gets respect in prison.

    "I will leave here one day with my head held high," she said. "I don't feel like a bug or a cockroach. I am a human being, with my feet firmly on the ground."


    By Dane Schiller
    http://www.chron.com/news/houston-t...s-first-time-offender-grandmom-to-3547226.php
     
  6. henryfree

    henryfree Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    5
    Joined:
    Jan 19, 2009
    Messages:
    58
    Female from Texas, U.S.A.
    Texas doesn't care about age.....my mom was sentenced to 10 years for involuntary manslaughter (first offense) at age 56 and served just over 5 years of that sentence which is 2 more years than what is considered "norm" for others. She was made a Trustee and earned her GED while in, yet they still stuck it to her.
     
  7. DoctorGnarfsatchel

    DoctorGnarfsatchel Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    -55
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    19
    Male from U.S.A.
    Age has nothing to do with this... I'm not even sure why that seems to be played as a "key" element of the story. The word "grandma" is used because the author wants the reader to feel sympathetic before the first sentence has even been read.

    Anyway, this lady should never have been able to get a CDL to drive the bus if she wasn't intelligent enough to realize what she was doing. An idiot - she is.
     
  8. godztear

    godztear Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    620
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2009
    Messages:
    1,036
    31 y/o Male from Minnesota, U.S.A.
    I would have to argue the opposite. It takes at least some form of intelligence to be able to smuggle tons of cocaine across the border without ever touching the drugs once.

    I do not understand where your statement about a CDL holds any relevance, what-so-ever considering the tons of drugs smuggled nation wide in semi-trailers.
     
  9. DoctorGnarfsatchel

    DoctorGnarfsatchel Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    -55
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    19
    Male from U.S.A.
    I'm sorry you don't understand.
     
  10. godztear

    godztear Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    620
    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2009
    Messages:
    1,036
    31 y/o Male from Minnesota, U.S.A.
    Maybe instead of being so arrogant you can explain what you mean when you call her an idiot and saying she should not have a CDL if she is such.

    Hundreds of tons of drugs are shipped across state lines every day by CDL licensed drivers. Many of them get caught by DEA, but many more do not.

    Please, enlighten me on why you feel she is an idiot who should not have a CDL and what that has to do with this story at all.
     
  11. alienesseINspace

    alienesseINspace Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    467
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Messages:
    361
    Female from Texas, U.S.A.
    First of all, the age of the person matters. If a person has a first offense at a later age, it demonstrates their lack of criminal experience. A lack of criminal history normally plays a part in sentencing. For example, usually a third felony conviction means life in prison in the US. A first time offender is often given the ability to rehabilitate. Second, there are plenty of people that have a CDL that have broken laws. Intelligence plays a minimal role in one's ability to obtain many kinds of certifications. Third, you are quick to pass judgement. Is your slate so clean that you have the right to deem others an idiot? Worse than being an idiot is being a hypocrite.

    On a side note, I gotta get the hell outta Texas. Jails = major industry here.
     
  12. DoctorGnarfsatchel

    DoctorGnarfsatchel Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    -55
    Joined:
    Apr 16, 2012
    Messages:
    19
    Male from U.S.A.
    What the hell? I'm not going to do the thinking for you, fellas.

    If you get caught smuggling "at least a ton" of cocaine across the border from Mexico - YOU GO TO JAIL. It doesn't matter how old you are, and if you "unknowingly" transport that amount of drugs and admit to seeing large amounts of money change hands yet your buses are empty, and you still don't think you're doing something illegal - then you're too goddamn stupid to have a license to move large quantities of people, lives in your hands, in the first place.

    I'm not sure how you are confused by my post? Are you a CDL holder and somehow found a way to be offended by me calling this woman an idiot? And wtf does my "slate" have to do with this? Ummm... Last time I'm posting in this thread - you guys struggle.
     
  13. Tech House

    Tech House Titanium Member

    Reputation Points:
    535
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
    Messages:
    276
    Male from U.S.A.
    This story couldn't make me feel more proud to be a Texan. Governor Perry refused to allow a last-minute review of a death penalty sentence for a mentally ill man, convicted on shoddy evidence, and he was re-elected. We need more prisoners for the private prison industry to earn a profit, so you'd think that Perry would slow down the death penalty enforcement in order to keep living bodies in jail cells.

    There should be a special prison for the worst of the worst of Texas criminals: District attorneys and prosecutors who care more about their political and financial success than they do about justice.
     
  14. alienesseINspace

    alienesseINspace Newbie

    Reputation Points:
    467
    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2011
    Messages:
    361
    Female from Texas, U.S.A.
    I cannot speak for everyone but I can speak for myself. On this forum, I do my best to understand the point of views of others even if they come across as beligerent at first. I would have used this as an opportunity to have a healthy conversation about the legal system and how you view it. Instead, you become defensive which is totally unecessary.

    Unfortunately, the law is not even and fair for all people. Some people who smuggle drugs are given reduced sentences or simply house arrest if they are able to provide information about someone else higher up on the food chain. The article does point out that the lady in question was given a severe penalty because she didn't provide information about anyone else. Had she been directly involved, she would have probably been able to provide some detail about the situation. Of course, she may have simply chosen not to give information. If that is the case, I wouldn't call her stupid at all. I would say that she is in fear of her life or the lives of her family.

    There is a very famous case concerning two females who had drugs put in their luggage at an airport and were caught. The females claimed that they didn't know but were sentenced to death under the country's drug laws. In this case, the grandma may never have seen the drugs or money. She may have been given a minimal amount of money. We don't know this for sure. The person she was in business with may easily have been using her. In Houston, there is a lot of poverty. If this grandma were making a bit of money by driving a bus and the alternative being homeless or starving, which is speculation, not truth... then she really might have thought she was earning an honest living.

    Unless you live in Texas, it is hard to imagine the way the law here works. I am a "normal" looking 30 year old female of the white persuasion... this has no effect on police. I get asked where I am going and what I am doing if I am walking somewhere. If I get pulled over, the police ask to search my vehicle with no probable cause. I get asked for my ID for no reason and when I ask "is this protocol," only then do I get told "no, you're helping us voluntarily."

    The biggest struggle is not understanding your words, but understanding how someone can be righteous in a forum like this. Many of the members have used drugs or still do, so it unexpected that another poster would proclaim "if you do this, then YOU GO TO JAIL." So many crimes are committed by white collar folks, as noted in the above post. The Enrons and Bernie Maddoffs are the norm, however the prosecution of people who embezzle and steal literally millions of dollars in uncommon.

    It is sadly disproportional how many people from the lower income brackets are prosecuted. In my life, I would have fared a lot better if I could have afforded a lawyer. I had a public defender who had to be guided pretty strongly. Perhaps it was my fault to have gotten into trouble, but person B and person C committed worse crimes but purchased their freedom.

    My advice is to try to be fair. Preaching from the ivory tower doesn't help you or anyone else. Good luck.
     
  15. Tech House

    Tech House Titanium Member

    Reputation Points:
    535
    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2011
    Messages:
    276
    Male from U.S.A.
    This is so true. Recently I was bored enough to click a link that showed photographs of people who had been arrested in Austin during the previous week. About HALF of all the arrests were for misdemeanor pot possession, and the photographs were primarily of disheveled-looking minorities, especially Blacks. It has been my observation that pot use is more common among white people, who outnumber blacks by about 4 to 1 in Austin, but they're far less likely to be arrested.

    Once arrested, being poor, less-educated, less-attractive, and a minority, all weigh heavily on the likelihood of conviction and a jail sentence. Juries are more likely to convict for any of the above non-criminal "offenses." As Grandmaster Flash rapped back in the 1980s, "There's no justice, there's just us."

    Privileged white conservative attractive individuals who have never experienced truly hard times, rarely develop compassion unless it was taught to them when they were young. They go on Fox Noise and complain bitterly about the awful immigrants "stealing our jobs" (even though it's immigrant kids who are most likely to save social security and the economy in general), they bemoan high taxes from behind the gates of their wealthy enclaves, and they stereotype people on public assistance as free-loaders. The only worse stereotyping that goes on is what I'm doing in this paragraph. There are a lot of very compassionate white wealthy privileged people, so I'm only referring to a sub-category and even then... it's still a stereotype so I shall cease and desist!
     
  16. mickey_bee

    mickey_bee Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    2,417
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2008
    Messages:
    1,007
    Male from U.K.
    Yeah, the sentence is ridiculous, like pretty much all sentences relating to drug offences. But at the same time, if you're playing the game, then you know the rules.

    Harsh sentence, and I don't think anyone should be imprisoned for non-violent drug offences, but at the same time, you know the risks when you're getting involved in organised smuggling, and you make a decision to accept those risks in pursuit of potentially huge financial gain.

    The only way I could really have sympathy for the woman is if she really was just a bit of a gullible fool, who'd simply been manipulated by the other traffickers. But unfortunately, I don't know enough about the case to be able to say whether she's just a bit of an idiot, or a smart woman who knew the game she was playing, and is now simply playing whatever card she's got. Hope it's the latter.
     
  17. mickey_bee

    mickey_bee Gold Member

    Reputation Points:
    2,417
    Joined:
    Sep 17, 2008
    Messages:
    1,007
    Male from U.K.
    Sorry, but a 'very senior citizen'?? She's 56!! That's not even close to being able to draw a state pension in the UK, lol.
     
  18. George9617

    George9617 Silver Member

    Reputation Points:
    30
    Joined:
    Jun 7, 2012
    Messages:
    123
    26 y/o Male from U.S.A.
    Lmao that's what was thinking she's not that old. For sure not cenile my dads 56 he's no grandpa and he wouldntn be naive enough to not know what was going on. this article made me picture an 80 year old lady, very misleading. I live in Texas and it's not that hard to stay out of trouble just don't go smuggling cocaine lol