On December 16, 2014, Deadhead, father, traveler, artist and jewelry maker Roderick “Rudd” Walker died in prison at the age of 42. Walker was in the second decade of serving a life sentence without possibility of parole for the non-violent offense of conspiracy to distribute LSD.
On March 12, Walker’s best friend Jeremy posted a statement on Change.org, where the petition he started asking President Obama to grant Walker clemency had amassed over 100,000 signatures. Jeremy wrote that Rudd died from cardiac arrest behind bars, despite “half a decade of requests to the prison system for proper medical care of ongoing heart issues.”
The chilling details of Walker’s conviction for conspiracy to distribute LSD are contained in the record of his appeal. He was never found in possession of LSD. A plea deal with a sentence of 8 years was offered to him in exchange for a guilty plea, but Walker chose to go to trial. His conviction was based entirely on the testimony of federal agents who operated undercover, and defendants who were bargaining down their own prison terms in exchange for testifying against Walker. He was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute LSD, and four counts of using a communication facility to facilitate the commission of a felony under the Controlled Substances Act. Because of two prior convictions on his record, Walker was sentenced to a term of life imprisonment, and assessed a fine of $10,000. His appeal was denied.
To receive a life sentence with no possibility of parole for a non-violent offense is an egregious miscarriage of justice. The only penalty more severe in the US is the death penalty. And the truth is, Walker’s unconscionably harsh sentence—coupled with the lack of medical care in prison—killed him.
To read about more people serving long or life sentences in prison for non-violent drug offenses, and sign petitions calling on President Obama, the Department of Justice, and state governors to grant clemency to these men and women, visit the Clemency Project at Change.org.