Federal Courts

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Hempfest marches onward

Location: 
OH
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Lantern (OH)
URL: 
http://media.www.thelantern.com/media/storage/paper333/news/2007/05/14/Campus/Hempfest.Marches.Onward-2903077.shtml

State Assembly approves hemp farming bill

Location: 
Sacramento, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Napa Valley Register (CA)
URL: 
http://www.napavalleyregister.com/articles/2007/05/11/news/national/doc464403f1d635a764646808.txt

Letter from Virginia Resner (President of Green Aid) about Ed Rosenthal: Count Down to Trial

Dear Friends: At the last two hearings, on April 13 and 20, Judge Breyer urged the prosecutor to drop Ed Rosenthal's case. The judge was trying to prevent the feds from marching straight ahead into a quagmire, just like in Iraq. Using the same wisdom they have shown on other issues, they decided to forge ahead. Trial begins in two weeks. We need to raise $100,000. We are asking for your help because Ed's case will change marijuana policy for all of us. This is a totally political case: what's on trial is the future of medical marijuana. The court has already agreed that Ed cannot receive any more time, since he has already served his sentence. Federal prosecutors are hoping to use this trial to close all the dispensaries in California. If Ed wins acquittal, it can change their misguided policies. We need your help right now to send a message to Washington. Ed is being defended by a dynamic team of attorneys mentored by Tony Serra, who share his disdain for these cruel and unjust policies. Even though they are working at a reduced rate, funds are still needed for courtroom transcripts, expert witnesses, investigators and all the other resources necessary to explain the whole truth to the jury. The publicity campaign is also expensive but necessary to educate the media and the public about what's really at stake. Ed's case has already backfired on the government. During the first trial, public interest in medicinal marijuana skyrocketed. The media was extremely favorable and supportive. It was a huge victory for patients, providers, and the drug policy reform movement. Keith Stroup, founder of NORML said, "The world changes when people like Ed Rosenthal stand up and fight back." Why? Because this is not a criminal case, it's a political one. Ed's already served his sentence. With this in mind, the trial is a farce similar to that of the Chicago Seven or the Scopes Monkey Trial. The Chicago Seven changed how people viewed Vietnam-era protestors. The Scopes Monkey Trial changed how people viewed the teaching of Darwin's theory of evolution, in a courtroom battle that pitted science against myth and superstition. That's exactly what we want to accomplish when Ed goes to court May 14 -- show that the government's position on medical marijuana not only lacks any medical or scientific credibility, it hurts people. This trial will convince more people that the government is spending billions of dollars to maintain a policy that is out-of-touch, cruel and has no rational basis. At the same time we are protecting the democratic process in the 12 states that have made the compassionate decision to allow medical marijuana. We've all wanted to change the laws for a long time. By making a generous contribution to Green Aid today, your funds will go directly to this upcoming trial. Raise some funds for Ed, and he'll make sure the public takes notice. Make a donation now at http://www.green-aid.com or you can send a check to Postal Mail Box #172, 484 Lake Park Ave., Oakland, CA 94610 We need contributions small and large. All are appreciated. If you can afford them consider these award levels. Guardian: $1000 "One Percenter": $3000 (this is 1% of the total cost of the trial of $300,000) Hero: $5000 or more. Thank you for your continuing support. We can't win without you! Don't think of it as helping just Ed. He's is on the front line to help all of us. Help him help you. Sincerely, Virginia Resner President of Green Aid "Most people would have backed down, but not Ed. He's in this to the end. We owe him for that." -- Jack Herer "Ed's not a flight risk. He's in this case till the bitter end." -- Magistrate Chin: "Most people considering their circumstances for one reason or another are forced to give in under the weight of government pressure. I have the privilege and opportunity to be able to stand for all the people who've been harassed and hounded by the government." -- Ed Rosenthal
Location: 
United States

Pain Medicine: Dr. Hurwitz Convicted of 16 Counts in Retrial

Prominent Northern Virginia pain specialist Dr. William Hurwitz was convicted last Friday on 16 counts of drug trafficking after a jury for the second time decided that he had overstepped the bounds of legitimate medical practice in prescribing large doses of opioid pain relievers to patients. Hurwitz' original conviction was overturned on appeal, and supporters hoped he would walk free after his second trial.

But the 12-member jury instead found him guilty on the 16 counts, not guilty on 17 others, and presiding Judge Leonie Brinkema dismissed the remaining 12 counts, saying she did not want jurors to have to come back and deliberate further. Brinkema had earlier dismissed the most serious charges against Hurwitz -- that his prescribing had caused the death of a patient and injury to two others.

Brinkema's dismissal of the remaining counts irked prosecutor Arthur Rossi, who behaved like a sore winner after managing to run up enough convictions against Hurwitz to send him to prison for centuries. Although he could be sentenced to time served,
he could also get up to 20 years in prison on each count. He has been jailed since he was originally found guilty in November 2004.

Still, although Hurwitz and his defense team would be hard-pressed to claim victory, he is in a substantially better position than after his first conviction. In his first trial, Hurwitz was found guilty of 50 of 62 felony counts, including causing the death of one patient and injury to two others. He was sentenced to 25 years by Judge Leonard Wexler, five more than the mandatory minimum he faced for the patient death. In the current case, the number of convictions against him has shrunk dramatically, the counts of patient death and injury were dismissed, and while he theoretically faces up to 320 years in prison, none of the counts carry a mandatory minimum sentence.

He may also fare better before Judge Brinkema, who has demonstrated fairness from the bench. That's in contrast to the judge in his original trial, the irascible Leonard Wexler, whose performance during the first Hurwitz trial raised serious questions about his fairness and objectivity.

While prosecutors portrayed Hurwitz as little more than a drug dealer, pain patients and their advocates saw him as a brave and heroic figure who prescribed necessary drugs for patients with nowhere else to turn.

The case "is not about the lawful practice of medicine... but rather about the unlawful drug trafficking of pain medication," said US Attorney Chris Rosenberg. "Drug traffickers come in all shapes and sizes. This one just happened to wear a white coat and be a doctor."

But Richard Sauber, a lawyer for Hurwitz, said defense attorneys are "disappointed in the verdict. We think that Dr. Hurwitz was a doctor first and foremost and not a drug dealer." He added that Hurwitz "saved a number of lives."

New York Times science reporter John Tierney, who has covered the trial in great detail on his TierneyLab blog, spoke with several jurors after the verdict was announced and reported that "they said that the jury considered Dr. William Hurwitz to be a doctor dedicated to treating pain who didn't intentionally prescribe drugs to be resold or abused. They said he didn't appear to benefit financially from his patients' drug dealing and that he wasn't what they considered a conventional drug trafficker."

Then why did they find him guilty of "knowingly and intentionally" distributing drugs "outside the bounds of medical practice" and engaging in drug trafficking "as conventionally understood"? Tierney asked. "After attending the trial and talking to the jurors, I can suggest two possible answers: 1. The jurors were confused by the law. 2. The law is an ass (to quote Mr. Bumble from 'Oliver Twist')."

The law may be an ass, but it's enough to send Dr. Hurwitz to prison for the rest of his life. The verdict is a victory for federal prosecutors in their war on what they regard as excessive prescribing of pain medication. Chronic pain patients are unlikely to be as pleased.

Mixed Result in Hurwitz Case

See NYT's John Tierney's initial post-Hurwitz trial blog post. Not the result we were hoping for by any means. On the other hand, the last time was far worse, and according to eyewitness accounts the prosecutors seemed really disappointed too. Judge Brinkema has the power to give a much less draconian sentence or even time served, and her handling of the case seemed pretty reasonable; we'll find out in July what she decides.
Location: 
United States

Pleas won't end probe of Atlanta police

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
URL: 
http://www.ajc.com/metro/content/metro/atlanta/stories/2007/04/27/0427metjohnston.html

2 Plead Guilty In Police Drug Raid Death

Location: 
Atlanta, GA
United States
Publication/Source: 
CBS News
URL: 
http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/04/26/ap/national/main2731851.shtml

Court Asked to Revive Challenge to Student Loan Restrictions

Location: 
Pierre, SD
United States
Publication/Source: 
Sioux City Journal
URL: 
http://www.siouxcityjournal.com/articles/2007/04/18/news/south_dakota/72ed44ec187db074862572c1000f281d.prt

LAPD skid row searches found unconstitutional

Location: 
Los Angeles, CA
United States
Publication/Source: 
Los Angeles Times
URL: 
http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-downtown25apr25,0,2444457.story?coll=la-home-local

Search and Seizure: Supreme Court Takes Up Rights of Vehicle Passengers

When police pull over the driver of a vehicle, are they also "seizing" the vehicle's passengers? That's the question the US Supreme Court pondered Monday as it heard oral arguments (transcript here) in the case of a California man arrested on methamphetamine charges after the vehicle in which he was riding was pulled over. Questions from the justices suggested they would not feel free to leave if they were passengers in a vehicle pulled over by police, and if that sentiment holds, the court could rule that passengers have the right to make Fourth Amendment challenges to any evidence seized and used against them.

http://www.stopthedrugwar.org/files/supremecourt1.jpg
US Supreme Court
The case pits the state of California against Bruce Brendlin, a former convict wanted for parole violation. Brendlin was a passenger in a car pulled over ostensibly to inspect possibly expired inspection tags. The officer recognized Brendlin, arrested him, searched the car, found methamphetamine supplies, and added a drug offense to the charges.

Brendlin eventually pleaded guilty, but appealed on the ground that the evidence should have been suppressed because the traffic stop was later found to be bogus. (The officer already knew the tags were good because he had stopped the car earlier that same day). The California Supreme Court rejected Brendlin's appeal, holding that only the driver had been "seized" during the traffic stop -- not Brendlin -- and thus Brendlin had no basis for challenging an illegal search.

Brendlin's attorney, Elizabeth Campbell, told the court that when a police officer pulls over a vehicle, "he seizes not only the driver of the car but also the car and every person and everything in that car."

California Deputy Attorney General Clifford Zall argued that it is only the driver, not the passenger, who is "seized" because it is the driver who submits to the officer's authority. That caused some skepticism among the justices, a majority of whom indicated through their comments that they believe passengers as well as the driver are "seized." That is also the position of the courts in most states.

While Brendlin appears likely to prevail on this issue, he is still likely to be imprisoned as a parole violator. Still, what would likely be a symbolic victory for Brendlin could become a substantive victory for the rest of us.

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