“In January 1990, Ira Johnson stood in a federal courtroom and pleaded with the judge to show her son mercy. Darrell Frazier, 29, had just been sentenced to life in prison without parole. He wouldn’t have the right to appear before a parole board – not at age 60, 70 or 80 – no matter what he did to make up for his crimes.
“Frazier had not been charged with murder or another violent crime – the sort of thing that one might associate with a life-without-parole sentence – but rather with conspiracy to distribute cocaine. He initially accepted a plea deal that likely would have gotten him 20 years, but he refused it, not realizing that if his case went to trial, he could spend his entire life in prison, according to an appeal of his sentence.”