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Eh...They're Just People

Scott Greenfield — how many of my posts these days start that way? — writes today about another asshole. Just another.

If I had a dime for every asshole we criminal defense attorneys encountered in the course of a typical week, I would not have to suffer the pain and sorrow of this system: I’d have retired long ago.

Scott’s post is about a guy who will likely be dead in a year.

Oh, it’s not what you think. He didn’t get the death penalty after a conviction, or anything like that, mind you.


The guy just has cancer.


He was “righteously” convicted for “schlepping a bunch of drugs.”

“Righteously” is my word-choice — likely also the government’s, which here includes primarily the judge, but likely also the prosecutor — not Scott’s.

I defended a guy awhile back who had cancer. I guess you could say “we won.” Although it cost my poor client — and I do mean “poor” in the pecuniary sense — about $15,000+, “we won.” Just before trial, I managed to get the charges dismissed.

It wasn’t that I hadn’t put on a good case beforehand, but, you know…assholes.

Or, as I call them around here: judges.

The case I defended my client against was also a “drug case”: he was growing medicinal marijuana.

He grew it because, after he lost well over a hundred pounds — after he lost more weight than some of the women I’ve dated ever had — someone told him that maybe, just maybe, he’d be able to stop vomiting, and maybe he’d be able to eat, keep the food down, survive, if he tried marijuana. The evil weed.

Faced with the choice of dying…dying…dying…or trying the evil weed, he succumbed. That is to say, he obtained and ate some weed.

And it worked. He survived. He did not die. Having lost more than half his body weight, he stabilized long enough…

…for the cops to show up at his house.

California, “fortunately,” has laws that allow dying people who might benefit from “medical marijuana” to buy, or grow, and — however they get it — possess until they consume, marijuana.

And so he was safe.

Until he wasn’t.

One group of cops stopped by — compliance check — and left without arresting him. Some months later, another couple of cops stopped by. Another compliance check. He showed them his papers — oops, can we say that in contemporary A-mur’-ca? — and they went on their way. But California is the land of Three Strikes, eh. And the third group of cops? They arrested him. In their eyes, he had “too much” marijuana. And in the course of talking to them — feeling he had nothing to hide — he mentioned that he’d once upon a time sold some excess from a “lucky crop” whence he’d obtained more marijuana than he personally needed. Sold it to the cooperative to which he belonged. The money he obtained for that was used to pay the rent that month.

A profit! A profit! California law does not allow making a profit from the sale of marijuana!

Which is how I met him.

J — you don’t really think I’m going to use his real name here, do you? — hired me after he was charged with a felony count of possession of marijuana for sale. The cops who arrested him knew that he had cancer. The Deputy District Attorney who read the reports and decided to file the charges knew that he had cancer. (I mean, it was in the reports. And, for most DDAs, I assume they can read.) Ultimately, the judge knew that he had cancer.

And they all knew that he grew, possessed, and used marijuana because of that.

The cop I cross-examined may not have “understood” that — trust me, you had to be there (it’s a fucking hilarious story) to get this — but everyone else did.

But, he was passed along. Despite the evidence concerning his medical condition, his recommendation regarding marijuana from a licensed physician, and a bunch of other stuff that pointed clearly to innocence of the charges which is (now) irrelevant, the police having arrested him, the prosecutor having charged him, the judge held him to answer, and we prepared for trial on felony charges of possession of marijuana for sale. My client paid me another $10,000, plus I think $2,500 for an expert (he ultimately got some of that back), and we prepared to try to convince a jury that the scar on his neck, and the weight loss of over 100 lbs, and the 56+ radiation treatments, his marijuana recommendation from the doctor, etc., etc., along with the lack of any evidence — no pay/owe sheets, no scales, no gargantuan chunks of cash, or lavish lifestyle — relating to any sales, meant that he was most likely innocent.

At the last minute, the DDA, having been shown medical records we were under no obligation to provide, finally decided that the judge at the prelim had been right: he was not likely to win the case in front of a jury. The case was dropped.

But until then, the police had stamped the case “good” and arrested him. The District Attorney’s Office had stamped the case “good” and charged him. The judge had stamped the case “good” and bound him over for trial.

My client, a cancer survivor (so far, cross your fingers, please), spent a bundle of money to avoid what the guy Scott wrote about got: free (substandard) health care until he dies in prison for something that, in the case of my client, was not a crime, and in the case of the guy Scott wrote about should not be a crime.

None of you should really care about this, though.

I mean…eh…they’re just people.