Jurors in pot case decry their own verdict

AP, Feb. 3, 2003
DAVID KRAVETS, AP Legal Affairs Writer

Jurors who convicted marijuana guru Ed Rosenthal of cultivation and other drug charges said Monday they would have acquitted him had they been told he was growing medical marijuana for the city of Oakland.

“I feel like I made the biggest mistake in my life,” said juror Marney Craig, a 58-year-old Novato property manager. “We convicted a man who is not a criminal. We unfortunately had no idea of who he was or what he did.”

Other jurors reached by The Associated Press agreed. They plan an unusual gesture: writing Rosenthal to apologize.

Rosenthal, 58, the self-described “Guru of Ganja,” faces up to an 85-year prison term when sentenced June 4. Prosecutors on Tuesday are scheduled to ask U.S. District Judge Charles Breyer to revoke Rosenthal’s bail.

After a two-week trial Friday, a 12-member federal jury unanimously concluded that Rosenthal, a world-renowned marijuana advocate, was growing more than 100 plants, conspired to cultivate marijuana and maintained an Oakland warehouse for a growing operation. He was painted as a major drug manufacturer and put on little, if any, defense.

The jury was not told that Rosenthal was acting as an agent of the city of Oakland’s medical marijuana program, which was an outgrowth of a 1996 medical marijuana initiative approved by California’s voters.

“I really feel manipulated in a way. I feel the jury was railroaded into making this decision,” said juror Pam Klarkowsky, a 50-year-old Petaluma nurse. “Had I known that information, there is no way I could have found that man guilty.”

Throughout the two-week trial, Rosenthal’s defense team had repeatedly tried to call witnesses to testify that Rosenthal was growing medical marijuana. The judge denied those requests. The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the judge twice during mid-trial appeals.

During the trial, Rosenthal told reporters the judge should have removed himself. After the verdicts were read, he called Breyer’s courtroom a “kangaroo” court.

Still, legal experts said Judge Breyer, brother of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, had federal precedent on his side when excluding defense witnesses.

“A bank robber is not allowed a defense that he was stealing money for his starving children, even if he was,” said Rory Little, a Hastings College of the Law professor. “The general principle is: Motive is not a defense to a crime.”

The reason is simple — to prevent jurors from acquitting because of personal feelings. A hung jury in Rosenthal’s case required only one holdout.

Also backing Breyer, experts say, was a ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court two years ago prohibiting advocates for the sick and dying from doling out marijuana to those with a doctor’s recommendation. That decision prompted a string of raids on medical marijuana growing operations throughout California. In addition, the federal government does not recognize the medical marijuana laws in nine states that have them.

Even so, some of the jurors on Rosenthal’s case feel duped.

Juror Debra DeMartini, a 45-year-old Sonoma restaurant manager, said she would have acquitted had she known what the media was reporting during the trial. Breyer ordered the jury not to listen, read or watch any news accounts of the trial.

“I’m hearing all of these things after the fact,” she said. “That sheds a whole new light on it.”

Jury foreman Charles Sackett, 51 of Sebastopol, said he hopes Rosenthal’s case is overturned on appeal.

“Some of us jurors are upset about the way the trial was conducted in that we feel Mr. Rosenthal didn’t have a chance and therefore neither did state’s rights or patient’s rights,” the landscaper said. “I would have liked to have been given the opportunity to decide with all the evidence.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Tuesday February 4, 2003.
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