Inmate Charles Garrett had hoped the result of his Dec. 15 oral argument before the Dallas Court of Appeals would become a belated Christmas present. Unfortunately, the court’s Jan. 24 opinion could have been authored by Ebenezer Scrooge himself. Garrett, an admitted drug addict, was arrested in 1968 for possessing less than 2 grams of heroin.

In 1970, an all-white Dallas jury convicted the African-American first-time offender of drug possession. At the time, possession of any drug, from heroin to marijuana, carried a maximum sentence of life in prison. Today, however, the maximum sentence stands at 10 years, and most lawyers agree that a judge could even suspend the sentence.