When Diana Marquez was sentenced to prison for money laundering and conspiracy to import and distribute marijuana, she was the young mother of five children and the allegedly abused wife of a man involved in the drug trade. Today, she’s 63 years old and has 16 grandchildren.
At her husband Mario’s request, Marquez acquired property and the move sealed her fate of serving 34 years, according to media reports.
Marquez knew about her husband’s activities but didn’t have control over the situation, according to Amy Ralston Povah, president of the Clemency for All Non-violent Drug Offenders (CAN-DO) Foundation. A non-violent, first offender, Marquez has served almost 13 years and is now under clemency consideration by Pres. Donald Trump.
“There should not be anyone serving time for marijuana when we have people who are earning billions of dollars legally selling cannabis, which occurred after Diana was sentenced,” Povah told the El Paso Standard.
Although Marquez separated from her husband, she got sucked into his criminal case due to the conspiracy statute.
“Conspiracy is the statute in which most drug cases are charged,” Povah said. “Conspiracy doesn’t necessarily mean you distributed drugs. It could mean you handled some money, you gave someone a ride or you were just associated with people who sold marijuana.”
Marquez is in custody in federal prison in Bryan, Texas, while her soon-to-be-ex-husband remains a fugitive.
“Diana would like a divorce but it’s hard to do from prison,” said Povah, who received clemency from former Pres. Bill Clinton after serving 9 years in federal prison for a similar crime.
Marquez’s case is representative of the larger phenomenon of mandatory sentencing in which defendants are bound by the legislature—not the judicial system—to sentences that are predetermined, according to a press release.
“The government embellished charges against her,” Povah said. “I have met so many women like Diana who are the only ones still left in federal prison for the longest amount of time because they have less information to trade in a plea agreement.”
According to Change.org, which is accumulating petition signatures for her release, Marquez mentors younger Hispanic women in prison, and has completed accounting and computer application courses.
Marquez is on the CAN-DO Foundation’s “Top 25 Women who Deserve Clemency from Federal Prison” list.