Griner should be released

A seven-time WNBA All-Star and two-time Defensive Player of the Year, Brittney Griner was sentenced in August to nine years in prison in Russia. Griner was arrested in the Sheremetyevo International Airport in February for drug charges. Griner apparently had on her vape cartridges with marijuana concentrate hashish oil when she was stopped by the Russian Federal Customs Service.

Keep in mind, Griner is of African-American descent and a part of the LGBTQ+ community, two communities of people that Russians do not like.

Griner pleaded guilty to the drug charges on July 7, but insisted her intentions were harmless and she was packing in a hurry and didn’t notice.

“I’d like to plead guilty, your Honor. But there was no intent. I didn’t want to break the law,” Griner stated, according to Reuters. “I’d like to give my testimony later. I need time to prepare.”

Every vote matters, and if we want to make a change, we must be the change.

— Kaitlin Hunnicutt

On July 27, Griner testified at her trial, explaining her side from that day. She said the interpreter did not give her a full translation and that she had to use Google translate to communicate with one of the customs officers. Griner also said that she was not once explained her rights or granted any access to lawyers while being forced to sign documents.

Griner’s defense team filed an appeal for her nine-year sentence, arguing that her punishment is “excessive”, even though she could’ve been charged with the maximum sentence of 10 years. According to the Associated Press, defendants in similar cases in Russia have received average sentences of five years, and almost a third have been granted parole.

Griner’s guilty plea is, however, a smart move on her part. This could lead to a prisoner exchange between the United States and Russia. Griner wrote President Biden at the White House, hoping it could lead to her freedom.

But why hasn’t she been brought home yet? She has been stuck in Russian custody for almost nine months and isn’t any closer to being back in America.

My point: midterm elections are coming up. You have a voice, and you can use that voice by voting.

Every vote matters, and if we want to make a change, we must be the change.

Kaitlin Hunnicutt