Thursday, January 14, 2010

Firing the Firemen to Fight the Drug War

The Baltimore Sun is reporting that Baltimore City may have to lay off 125 firemen next year. Perhaps I am a bit conservative, but I think that the main purpose of government is to protect life. Certainly putting out fires and the like ought to be a priority for any government. Having spent a few years in the State's Attorney's Office in Baltimore I certainly saw lots of waste. I spent (or rather wasted) countless hours fighting the drug war. I recall a lot of time and money that I once helped to spend on a simple marijuana possession case. The officers in question were on overtime when they made the arrest. They got overtime when they came to court. A judge and jury were tied up with this petty case. After the guilty verdict (the only time I got a jury in Baltimore to convict on marijuana charges. I tried a few other times.) for this one small bag of marijuana, the defendant was sentenced to one (1!) year (although he had a horrible and violent record). And, of course, the case was later overturned on appeal.

So sure, go ahead, and slash the Fire Department's budget. Let the people of Baltimore die in fires. We have to protect them from potheads. And we can't have violent criminals walking around stoned, they might hurt someone.


  1. I find it very interesting that you only obtained a jury conviction on marijuana charges a single time. I'm guessing that's mostly because the majority of cases for minor marijuana possession involve a plea instead of a jury trial.

    Still though, I'd be curious to find out why there were a few cases in which you attempted to get a jury to convict on marijuana charges, and failed. Were there actual legitimate questions about whether or not the defendant possessed cannabis? Were the verdicts largely the result of procedural and legal technicalities? Or do jurors actively resist the idea of sending a man to jail for possessing a plant?

    Anyway, yeah the people of Baltimore should be outraged; their government has sacrificed their personal safety so it could continue waging war against their friends, children, parents, and loved ones simply for having a plant in their possession.

  2. Sort of reminds me of the Benjamin Franklin quote. It is more important to waste time on the drugs than it is to fight fires? Someone has their priorities screwed up! People are not getting safety, after giving up their liberty?
    So, we keep giving up liberty with worsening security? I guess Ben was a visionary! The people need to speak up!

  3. I quickly found myself placing most marijuana cases onto the so-called inactive docket, sometimes with the condition that they do community service. Although I never remember checking up with the community service office because I had too much to do. I generally didn't press a marijuana case unless the defendant had a bad record. The office had something called 'the war room' which tracked violent offenders. If the file had a big WR on it we were supposed to prosecute the case, no matter how petty, or we would be harassed by the War Room prosecutors for dropping it. If I could get a plea, even to time served, I would take it. Many times defendants would reject time served offers if they had parole or probation issues. I think I took about three marijuana cases to trial. I only got one conviction. After I lost one case I talked to some of the jurors. They had all sorts of strange and bizarre reasons for their not guilty verdict. It seemed to me that it was a nullification case, but they didn't want to admit it to me. Or they were just really really stupid, because the case was not complicated.

  4. Haha, stupid jurors? I can't imagine you ran into that much....

    That's interesting though, thanks for sharing. I've often wondered if nullification, either in name or in spirit, is a common occurence in criminal trials. It seems to have started out as a valid option in the eyes of lawmakers, judges, etc. But if you watch a modern courtroom procedural or movie -- sadly, one of the biggest cultural information sources regarding the goings-on in a typical court of law -- you'd think that jury nullification was legally forbidden ("your job is not to decide whether the law is right or wrong", etc etc etc).

    David Simon and Ed Burns, creators of The Wire, actually penned an op-ed along with a few of the show's writers a while back encouraging juror activism as one of our main tools against the drug war. They pledged to vote to acquit if called to serve in any non-violent drug trial, no matter what the law said and no matter what evidence was present.,8599,1719872,00.html


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...