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What's a Guy Gotta Do to Get Some Justice Around Here?

Submitted by Phillip Smith on
In 2003, Harrison County (Mississippi) Sheriff George Payne got a tip from a confidential informant (that's law-speak for "snitch") that marijuana plants were being grown on land leased to the Boarhog Hunting Club. Payne led a crew of lawman onto the property and chopped them all down, even though a field test on a sample plant didn't identify it as marijuana. The property owner, Marion Waltman, said he only found out about the raid when he turned on the local news and saw inmates chopping down the plants at the sheriff's direction. Waltman was first puzzled, then outraged--the sheriff and his crew had just destroyed $225,000 worth of kenaf (hibiscus cannabinus), a plant Waltman was growing as deer feed. So, the sheriff errantly raids private property and destroys a healthy amount of goods belonging to the property owner. He should pay up, right? Wrong. At least according to US District Judge Louis Guirola, who dismissed Waltman's civil lawsuit against Sheriff Payne in May 2005. U.S. District Judge Louis Guirola Jr. in May 2005 dismissed Waltman's civil lawsuit against Payne. Waltman had claimed the sheriff violated his rights by destroying more than 500 kenaf plants grown as deer food. But Judge Guirola rule that Sheriff Payne was protected by qualified immunity since he was acting in his official capacity and his conduct was "objectively reasonable." Now, Waltman is appealing.

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