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Function of Juries & Jury Nullification | 19 May 2014

-Texas Man Faces Life in Prison for Baking Brownies


marijuana jury nullification thumbnailIn their ever tougher job of putting peaceful people behind bars for victimless offenses, prosecutors are now relying on artificially inflating the severity of marijuana offenses by fictionally magnifying the amount of the substance allegedly involved in the offense. Consider the case of Jacob Lavoro, whose prosecution was bumped from misdemeanor level to felony level—putting him at risk for a level of punishment for a victimless alleged offense on par with what many murderers serve.

Teen faces life in prison for pot brownies

A Texas man is facing up to life in prison for his baking habit. Joe Lavoro said, “It’s outrageous. It’s crazy. I don’t understand it.”

Lavoro says he can’t understand why his son is in so much legal trouble. Authorities say 19-year-old Jacob Lavoro is accused of making and selling pot brownies.

Seriously? Life in prison? How is that possible? Read on for the fiction that will allow the state to prosecute a victimless, pot-related crime on the same level as a murder:

The charge is so severe because the recipe Jacob used includes hash oil, which allows the state to use the sugar, cocoa, butter and other ingredients to determine the weight of the drugs.

Holmes said, “They’ve weighed baked goods in this case. It ought to be a misdemeanor.”

In effect, he is being prosecuted mostly based on the weight of perfectly legal ingredients regularly consumed by five-year-olds in the form of tasty after school treats. The only difference between a perfectly legal snack and one that can land a person in prison is the oil used in Lavoro’s recipe; however, he’s not being prosecuted based only on the weight of the illegal substance, but for the most part based on the weight of perfectly legal substances.

This is reminiscent of the case of Dennis and Deborah Little, recently acquitted of charges of possession of marijuana for sale and of cultivation of marijuana. Terrie Best of San Diego Americans for Safe Access explained how, in spite of the vast majority of the so-called evidence not actually existing, the prosecution was allowed to artificially inflate the severity of the alleged offense:

After the DEA removed the Littles’ cannabis garden and confiscated all of their medicine, they proceeded to weigh the evidence and destroy almost all of it at an undisclosed location. The Littles were then charged with possession for sale and cultivation of cannabis. At the preliminary hearing, Deputy Matt Stevens stated that, in total, he seized more than 640 pounds. The Littles have never had the opportunity to test the DEA’s incredible assertions by analyzing and testing the evidence themselves to demonstrate that, in fact, they were cultivating an amount reasonably necessary for their medical needs.

A sanction was put in place by the trial judge in the case, Richard Munroy. Because of the DEA’s destruction of plant evidence his honor restricted the prosecution from perpetrating the fallacy of the unsubstantiated weight of 640 pounds. The prosecution will face a “fashioned remedy” and be limited to testimony of 118 pounds, a fictitious amount to level the playing field in the face of the DEA fallacy.

What we are looking at here is outright lying being openly permitted in courts for the sake of helping prosecutors secure convictions and lengthy sentences. Tactics like this are commonly used in carrot-and-stick fashion by government to bully its victims out of their Constitutionally-guaranteed rights. The carrot in such situations may be reduced charges or recommendation for a lesser punishment if the defendant agrees to forego his right to trial by jury as the vast majority of defendants in criminal courts do these days. The stick is that prosecutors and judges have virtually no limit on the amount of punishment they can subject their victim to if he is convicted. Such punishment is not doled out primarily for the offense committed, but rather to teach the victim a lesson and serve as an example for future defendants of what will happen if they assert their Sixth Amendment right to trial by jury.

As jurors, we should be very skeptical of the information we are spoon fed in a court of law. We should keep in mind that the courtroom is not a level playing field in which justice is sought by all involved, but rather a game with the rules twisted in favor of conviction and incarceration. When a defendant appears before a jury, in many cases it has taken a great deal of courage to get to that point after all of the bullying and intimidation to which the government has subjected him. It is not only our right, but our duty to defend with our Not Guilty votes those who have harmed nobody against the harm the government would inflict on them without just cause to do so.