One Day Too Long
This week a federal appeals court overturned the 2003 marijuana convictions of Ed Rosenthal, the "Guru of Ganja" who was nabbed by the feds for growing pot for patients in the San Francisco area. A 9th Circuit panel ruled that Rosenthal had been denied a fair trial because a juror, suspecting that the marijuana was intended for medical use, had called a lawyer friend of hers prior to the verdict to ask if she could consider matters the judge, Charles Breyer, had deemed irrelevant, such as California's law allowing the medical use of marijuana. The lawyer told her she could "get in trouble" if she did not follow Breyer's instructions. "Jurors cannot fairly determine the outcome of a case if they believe they will face 'trouble' for a conclusion they reach as jurors,"' the 9th Circuit said in its decision. "The threat of punishment works a coercive influence on the jury's independence."
Seven members of the jury publicly regretted their verdict after learning about the information Breyer had excluded: that Rosenthal was growing pot for medical use in compliance with state law and with the city of Oakland's official approval. Although Breyer ruled that none of that mattered under federal law, he concluded that Rosenthal honestly believed he was acting within the law and therefore gave him a token one-day sentence instead of the five-year mandatory minimum or the six and a half years requested by the prosecution. The government appealed the sentence, a decision it may now be regretting.