JACKSON — Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves said Monday that he’s not currently thinking about pardoning a woman who is serving a life sentence after she was caught with marijuana during a traffic stop and was sentenced as a habitual offender because of previous convictions.
Tameka Drummer, now 46, received a life sentence in 2008 after she was pulled over for an expired license plate in northern Mississippi’s Alcorn County and officers found a small amount of marijuana in her car. Drummer was sentenced as a habitual offender because of previous convictions.
A petition posted in mid-August to change.org asks Reeves to release Drummer. Nearly 40,000 people had signed it by Monday.
The libertarian Mississippi Center for Public Policy wrote last week about the state’s habitual-offender laws that keep people such imprisoned for years, and it cited Drummer’s life sentence as an example of a harsh sentence.
In response to questions during a news conference Monday, Republican Reeves said he had heard of Drummer’s case but did not know details about her prior convictions.
“I don’t know all the facts of the case, but I am not considering pardoning her or anyone else at this time,” Reeves said.
Drummer was convicted of voluntary manslaughter in 1992, aggravated assault in 1998 and possession of marijuana in 2007 in the Criminal Court of Shelby County, Tennessee, the Clarion Ledger reported.
Mississippi has one of the highest incarceration rates in the U.S., and more than 70 inmates have died in the state’s prisons since late December, when outbursts of violence led to the death or injury of several inmates. The U.S. Justice Department announced in February that it is investigating the state’s prison system.
In July, Reeves vetoed a bill that would have made more Mississippi inmates eligible for the possibility of parole. The bill passed with bipartisan support in the Republican-controlled Legislature. Reeves wrote in his veto message that the bill was “well-intentioned” but “would threaten public safety.”
FWD.us, a nonprofit advocacy group founded by technology and business executives, published a report in 2019 saying that Mississippi’s habitual offender laws are causing “extreme” prison sentences that disproportionately affect African American men and cost the state millions of dollars for decades of incarceration.