Monthly Archives: March 2009

Kitsap Jury Acquits Medical Marijuana Defendant

http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/kitsap/poi/news/41760957.html
http://www.kitsapsun.com/news/2009/mar/24/jury-acquits-south-kitsap-man-medical-marijuana-ca/

A medical marijuana patient being prosecuted in Kitsap County Superior Court for drug trafficking was found not guilty on Tuesday morning, after a jury ruled that his use of the drug was within the law.

The jury deliberated for approximately two hours prior to its ruling.

The prosecution alleged that the crop was being sold commercially, and that the Olsons were hiding behind medical marijuana laws as cover for a drug operation.

Defendant Bruce Olson decided to go to trial as the law had changed and he was advised that he had a better chance of acquittal.

The trial was attended by a floating group of medical marijuana
activists, from patients to political activists. Several of them noted
that it was rare for such cases to go to trial, as defendants usually
enter a plea.

These activists filled the courtroom throughout the trial, with no
visible support for the prosecution’s position.

Olson, who turns 55 on Wednesday, maintained a subdued manner
throughout the trial, and barely talked when he was in the courtroom.
This changed on Tuesday, when he was laughing and joking with his
attorney prior to the verdict’s reading.

When it was announced Olson blurted “thank you, thank you you guys” to the jury, prompting Superior Court Judge Leila Mills to repeat her admonition to stay quiet until the jury was released.

“As a businessman I am really discouraged at all the money that was
spent on this trial,” Olson said. “It was a waste, and a lot of people
who have seen the trial and are in business are wondering why I was
prosecuted.”

My opinion?  Great job, jury.  The government should not tamper in the affairs of defendants who are licensed to possess marijuana.  Period.   I welcome the day when marijuana will be legalized.  Let’s face it: the “War on Drugs” is a failure.  Marijuana should not be demonized as a Gateway Drug.  Legalize it!

State v. Brooks: WA Court Rightfully Dismisses Criminal Charges Because Prosecution Withheld Evidence

A victory.

WA Court of Appeals dismissed a criminal case due to prosecutorial mismanagement and withholding  of evidence.

http://www.courts.wa.gov/opinions/index.cfm?fa=opinions.showOpinion&filename=361710MAJ

My opinion?  It’s about time!  The prosecutors, God bless ’em, usually have the upper hand with judges.   Typically, judges won’t sanction prosecutors or dismiss cases due to prosecutorial misconduct, mismanagement, or withholding of evidence (trust me, I’ve tried).

This opinion opens the door for judges to exercise more discretion in dismissing poorly managed cases.  In this case, the prosecutor withheld a a 60-page victim statement from the defense until the day of trial.   Unbelievable!  Imagine this: your attorney has geared up for trial.  They agonizingly prepped the case from start to finish.  Attorney has their theme, theory, motions in limine, opening statement, closing statement, voir dire questions, direct exam questions, and cross exam questions fully prepared before entering the court.  All of the sudden, prosecutor plops a huge pamphlet of papers in front of defense attorney’s face.  “Sorry you have no time to review this new statement, but go ahead and cross examine my witness on this.”  Unbelievable.  We have no idea what the statement contains.  If admitted to evidence, this unread statement could, by itself, utterly throw your case theory out the window.

The Court of Appeals has boldly decided these “Hide the Ball” shenanigens are going to get cases dismissed.  That governmental mismanagement materially affects a defendant’s right to a fair trial.  Good.  I understand that prosecutors work hard.  Their caseloads are huge.  But hey, let’s be real, people’s lives and liberty are at stake.  Constitutional rights are at risk.  Consequently, cases should be dismissed when poorly handled and/or mismanaged.

Retired Judge Says It Is Time To End War On Marijuana

Here’s an excerpt of  Bellingham Herald article written by retired Whatcom County Superior Court Judge David A. Nichols:

“It is my fervent belief that this state and nation must come to recognize that continuing to treat drug users as criminals perpetuates an evil that rewards the drug sellers and corrupts our society. Until we honestly and appropriately deal with the entire drug issue as a health problem analogous to tobacco or liquor, and not as a ‘war’ we cannot win, we will continue to reap the whirlwind of huge world-wide illegal drug profits which are costing us billions, threatening the stability of nations, causing soaring crime rates and diverting money which is sorely needed elsewhere.”

My opinion?  Way to tell the truth, Judge!

Read on, it’s an excellent article.

http://www.bellinghamherald.com/291/story/836691.html

Decades of Disparity: Drug Arrests and Race in the United States

New drug arrest data shows the persistence and extent of racial disparities in the “War on Drugs” in the United States.

http://www.hrw.org/sites/default/files/reports/us0309web_1.pdf

The report indicates dramatic racial disproportions among incarcerated drug offenders.  It states, “Since blacks are more likely to be arrested than whites on drug charges, they are more likely to acquire the convictions that ultimately lead to higher rates of incarceration.” The report also shows that although data indicates that blacks represent about one-third of drug arrests, they constitute 46 percent of persons convicted of drug felonies in state courts.

Among black defendants convicted of drug offenses, 71 percent received sentences to incarceration in contrast to 63 percent of convicted white drug offenders.

My opinion?  The “War on Drugs” should rename itself as the  “War on Race.”  The data speaks for itself.

End the War on Drugs.  Legalize marijuana.  Stop institutional racism.

Defendants Could Be Free From Probation

http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/local/402697_supervision07.html

Lawmakers, facing an $8 billion budget deficit, are looking for ways to save money.

Senate Bill 5288, which would lower the number of criminal offenders on parole or probation, reflects suggestions made by the governor to reduce the growing budget deficit by making cuts in the Corrections Department.

Interestingly enough, police gurus support the bill “with some discomfort,” but feel that if the Legislature must make cuts in the Department of Corrections, supervision of low- to moderate-risk offenders would be the right place.

The bill would totally eliminate supervision of low- and moderate-risk offenders unless they were convicted of a violent offense, a crime against a person, or ordered to chemical dependency treatment.

Their supervision would be terminated after six months if they have not reoffended.  However, those offenders categorized as high risk, or low to moderate risk convicted of a sex offense, would still be supervised.

Under the current wording of the bill, gross misdemeanants would not be supervised by parole or probation.  The cost-savings would ultimately mean a big job loss for probation officers.

My opinion?  Pass the legislation!  For the most part, my clients are hardworking; law abiding citizens facing criminal charges from an isolated event or circumstance.  All of the sudden, they get labelled as criminals.  The system painfully grinds them through a process which threatens to take their time, money, dignity, energy, and reputation.

For many of my clients, probation is an unnecessary evil.  Understand this:  in Whatcom County, a first-time DUI offender and/or Domestic Violence offender faces up to TWO YEARS of probation at a cost of $75-$100 per month.  Do the math.  That’s $900 – $1200 per year.   This cost, along with the cost of mandatory treatment, jail, and fines, clearly skyrockets the cost of doing justice.

And for what?  Why?  Is it because the police sometimes violate your Constitutional rights when they pull you over and investigate you for DUI?  Or is it because the police MUST arrest someone in the wake of a heated argument between spouses?  An argument where, in most cases, the victim does not want to pursue prosecution and wants the charges dropped?

“Alex, please do something to get me off probation or decrease the amount of time I’m on it.”  These words are uttered by many clients who want to avoid trial and negotiate a favorable resolution with the prosecutor.  They hire me to get justice.

The legislature is finally realizing probation is unnecessary in many circumstances.  Either that, or they’re realizing probation is expensive in roughshod economic times.  In any event, let’s all realize the obvious and pass this legislation.

Increased Numbers On Parole & Probation in WA

Washington ranks near the bottom in the country for the number of people it incarcerates, but like many states, it’s having to find ways to pay for a steadily growing number of people on probation and parole.

http://www.thenewstribune.com/news/northwest/story/643665.html

According to the above article, one in 30 adults is under correctional control in the state.  With more than 165,000 people either incarcerated or on parole or probation, Washington state ranks 17th out of all the states.  But Washington ranks 44th for the people it puts behind bars – just over 32,000 are incarcerated in either prison or jail.

Consequently, the vast majority are either on probation or parole – more than 133,000, or about one in 37 people, ranking the state 12th in the nation.

The numbers of those under community supervision have increased.  Unfortunately, so have the costs. For the 2003-2005 budget, about $190 million went toward supervision. For the current budget ending in 2009, it has increased to nearly $307 million. While that’s just a small part of the state’s $1.8 billion two-year corrections budget, in a year where the state is facing a projected $8 billion deficit through 2011, officials are feeling the pinch.

Interesting times . . .

King County Police Deputy Caught On Tape Punching, Kicking 15-Year-Old Girl (VIDEO)

SEATTLE — A King County sheriff’s deputy kicks a 15-year-old girl, slams her to the floor of a jail cell, strikes her and pulls her hair in violence captured on videotape.

Prosecutors released the surveillance video in Friday in the assault case against Deputy Paul Schene, who is accused of using excessive force on the girl.  The footage shows the attack beginning after the girl enters the cell at suburban SeaTac City Hall and kicks off one of her shoes toward the deputy.

Schene, 31, pleaded not guilty to fourth-degree assault in Superior Court on Thursday.  The incident last November began after the girl was brought in for an auto theft investigation, according to court documents.

“We believe this case is beyond just police misconduct, it’s criminal misconduct,” King County Prosecutor Daniel Satterberg said. “This is clearly excessive force.”  Satterberg added the case is uncommon because cameras captured the entire incident.

To those who don’t believe police misonduct exists, all I can say is this: watch the video.  It’s an eye-opener.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/02/28/paul-schene-king-county-d_n_170786.html

Can’t Afford to Hang ‘Em Anymore

Some states are passing legislation to end the death penalty over  — gasp — financial concerns!

Kansas is leading the effort.  “Because of the downturn in the national economy, we are facing one of the largest budget deficits in our history,” state Sen. Carolyn McGinn, a Republican, said in an opinion piece posted on TheKansan.com Friday. “What is certain is we are all going to have to look at new and creative ways to fund state and community programs and services.”

The state would save more than $500,000 per case by not seeking the death penalty, McGinn wrote, money that could be used for “prevention programs, community corrections and other programs to decrease future crimes against society.”

Fiscal concerns are just a part of the argument.  In addition, a disproportionate rate of minorities are sentenced to death.  The legislation would seek to curb the disproportion.

http://www.cnn.com/2009/CRIME/03/02/economy.death.penalty/index.html