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ragingloli's avatar

Do you think a judge should be allowed to ban you from defending yourself in court?

Asked by ragingloli (35188 points ) 1 month ago

Because that is what happened in this story:
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/07/09/benton-mackenzie-guilty_n_5572445.html
It is a weed related case.
Basically the judge banned the defendant, under threat of jail, from telling the jury that he grew the weed to alleviate his crippling and terminal cancer.
Why is shit like this even allowed?

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19 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Admitting you grew it is not a defense.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Tropical_Willie First, that would be irrelevant even if true. The defendant is allowed to present nearly any defense he or she finds appropriate with minimal limitation. Second, it could be construed as an affirmative defense (akin to self-defense, where one admits to the act without admitting to the crime).

livelaughlove21's avatar

Well, first of all, the judge can do whatever the hell he wants for the most part. Whether the guy had cancer or not, he was growing marijuana illegally. Just because you have a disease doesn’t mean you get to break the law, no matter how stupid you may think that law is.

“A terminal cancer patient who says he grew marijuana to treat his tumors…”

Weed doesn’t “treat” tumors. It can be used to alleviate nausea from chemo and pain (I suppose), but there’s no evidence that it actually cures cancer.

“Mackenzie said prison may kill him as his health worsens.”

Pretty sure it’ll be the cancer that kills him.

“Iowa voters overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana. A recent poll found 81 percent favor legalization.”

Yet it’s still illegal. It doesn’t matter what people support. You break the law, you face the repercussions. Simple. It doesn’t matter if the law is unpopular.

“Marijuana in any form remains illegal under federal law.”

And there’s that.

The judge probably didn’t want to jury to be swayed by some pity party. Since what he did was illegal either way, the information about his illness was irrelevant to the case. Although, showing up in a blanket and hospital ID bracelet was probably enough to earn some sympathy.

Those tumors are horrible, and I don’t completely lack human emotion, so I feel bad for the guy. However, being sick doesn’t allow you a free pass. Sorry, dude.

Dutchess_III's avatar

@Tropical_Willie But the reason he grew it could be a defense. It’s like admitting, “Yes, I killed the guy. He was strangling my daughter.”

@SavoirFaire not in this case. The article said that he said he was threatened with jail time if he even mention marijuana.

Interesting excerpt: “Iowa voters overwhelmingly support the legalization of medical marijuana. A recent poll found 81 percent favor legalization.

JLeslie's avatar

The judge is always (hopefully) in America doing what he believes will protect the accused and his rights not the opposite. The judge would have superior knowledge to the legal system than the defendant in most cases.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Dutchess_III I was responding to @Tropical_Willie, not the article. My point was that the judge’s actions could be construed as overstepping his authority precisely because defendants are supposed to be allowed nearly any defense they choose.

@livelaughlove21 “It doesn’t matter if the law is unpopular.”

Except that it does. That’s why we have jury nullification. I don’t disagree that the judge may have been trying to avoid a pity party. But it’s an open question whether he had the right to do so.

CWOTUS's avatar

What the defendant is attempting to do, and rightly, I think, though judges from coast to coast tend to disagree, is an indirect form of jury nullification. Some defendants (and attorneys) attempt to do that directly; this is a less direct attempt to do the same thing.

It’s an admission that “yes, I did the thing that I’m accused of having done, but it’s not a crime to do it, so the law should be invalidated by the jury returning a Not Guilty verdict.”

funkdaddy's avatar

love the click bait title

It will be interesting to see where this goes, I think he should be able to mount whatever defense he wants, but the article seems biased.

Not noted in the story, but pertinent, is that he’s been convicted at least twice before for growing drugs. Apparently he also had another house that was involved and either growing or storing marijuana. I would imagine that’s why the judge has not allowed the defense.

source

Seems like a tough call. Again, I think he should allowed to present a reason if he wants, but how do you decide when it’s just trying to influence a jury? If it was his third DWI, but he had a really good reason, would it matter?

I’m sure you’ll keep an open mind until the appeal, right?

Seaofclouds's avatar

I feel like that article was leaving out some information. What was the conspiracy charge for? Why did he have 71 plants (that’s quite a bit)? Even in states where medical marijuana is legal, there are limits to how much people can have. I’d be interested in seeing more information behind this decision and I’m sure there is more to it.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

Of course a judge should not be allowed to ban you from defending yourself in court.

But this court is in Iowa. And it is somewhere in Iowa so small they don’t even mention the town’s name in the article.
These small towns in red-neck America run what is known as good ole boy justice.

There is no appeal.

stanleybmanly's avatar

There are details missing from this story. The judge is probably forced by law to prohibit the line of defense sought by the defendant. What puzzles me is the fact that the prosecutor chose to bring the case to trial in the first place. 71 plants sounds like an awful lot of medication. There are a lot of things missing from this article necessary to form an opinion.

funkdaddy's avatar

It looks like @stanleybmanly is right, there’s actually case history in Iowa where the supreme court ruled that a medical defense for cannabis was not allowed for a gentleman who had AIDS.

And the local paper did a piece on the prosecution’s position.

@Dan_Lyons – the town’s name is Davenport, it’s part of a 380,000 person metropolis on the border with Illinois. Not really very redneck.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

@funkdaddy Good Ole Boy justice is practiced in towns with millions of people.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@funkdaddy That’s an interesting find, but it is out of date. The decision is from 2005 and is explicitly predicated on the Iowa Board of Pharmacy Examiners not having acted to reschedule marijuana. However, the Board did precisely that in 2010.

As for the good ole boy system, I don’t see what it has to do with population size or being a redneck. The Ivy League colleges have long had a good ole boy system of admissions, networking, and hiring.

Dan_Lyons's avatar

And there you have it. Good ole boys are everywhere.

Paradox25's avatar

I’ve seen quite a few cases where the defense used pity tactics, so why is there an exception to not allow this defense tactic concerning a drug case? The defendant had every right to use what defense he wanted.

So let me guess, it’s wrong to violate drug laws according to some people, but yet it’s all right for the law to violate the Constitution and the will of the people themselves, as authorities in several states have done concerning asset forfeiture laws have done?! Drug offenders are pretty much political criminals, so they tend to get treated differently than other types of criminals. Look at many laws, including forfeiture laws, and you’ll clearly see my points.

@Seaofclouds He was trying to get enough cannabis to produce a non-psychoactive compound. Whether this was justified, or viable still seems irrelevant to me here.

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