Saturday, May 07, 2011

Remembering Rachel Hoffman: Third Anniversary

Today marks the third anniversary of the murder of Rachel Hoffman, a former SSDP member and 23 year old graduate of Florida State University. Rachel was murdered by two drug dealers after the Tallahassee Police Department pressured her to become an informant in an undercover sting operation, promising to keep her safe, only to lose track of her.

Despite only finding 4 ecstasy pills and a few ounces of marijuana in her home, the police department asked Rachel to purchase 1,500 ecstasy pills, 2 ounces of cocaine, and a handgun (which was contrary to department policy as it opened the opportunity for the suspected criminals to explain the presence of the gun), using $13,000 cash in a buy-bust operation. She was murdered with the very gun police had sent her to buy. Rachel's lawyer, family, or the state prosecutor were never informed about the operation and after her murder, the Tallahassee Police Department held a press conference to blame her for her own death.

Three years later, this tragic loss of life must serve as a reminder of the need for reform of drug policies nationwide. It must remind those in defense of such policies that they simply don't work. More than that, it must help us all to change our mindsets about the relationship between people and drugs. This drug war has grown so large and seemingly unstoppable that its supporters no longer seem to care about measuring it's success. Rachel was labeled as a being some sort of drug kingpin despite only a few ounces of marijuana being found in her home. Now she's gone and the two drug dealers that murdered her are behind bars for life. If the drug war works, and this is what is called success, then no one should be able to find and use marijuana in Florida anymore right? We all know that's not true.

Margie Weiss, Rachel's mom, fought hard for the introduction and passage of Rachel's Law to help prevent more young people from being taken advantage of by police as informants. The law passed in 2009 and established minimum standards that law enforcement must meet when dealing with informants. Under Rachel's Law, law enforcement must "take into account a person's age and maturity, emotional state and the level of risk a mission would entail." It also prohibits police from promising informers more lenient treatment. 

The Purple Hatters Ball, a music festival to benefit the Rachel Morningstar foundation and celebrate Rachel's life and energy is taking place next weekend in Live Oak, FL. Named after the bright purple top hat Rachel would wear to concerts, the festival features lots of great live music and embraces Rachel's passion for life.

We wish the best for the Hoffman family and thank them for their strength and determination to bring change to Florida's criminal justice system.

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