Pubdate: Thu, 10 Aug 2000
Source: Auburn Journal (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Auburn Journal
Contact:  1030 High St., Auburn, CA 95603
Website: http://www.auburnjournal.com/
Author: Jessica R. Towhey, Journal Staff Writer

ATTEMPT TO TOSS OUT SEARCH WARRANT FAILS

It Is Second Trial For Rocklin Dentist And Wife Accused Of Growing Marijuana

A Rocklin dentist facing a second trial for possession of marijuana for sale
lost a motion Wednesday to throw out evidence obtained by a Placer County
Sheriff's Office search warrant.

The attorney for Michael Baldwin, whose May 1999 trial ended in a 6-6 hung
jury, claimed sheriff's investigator Jeff Potter misled the court in
acquiring a search warrant for Baldwin's Loomis home.

Attorney J. David Nick said after the hearing he would appeal the decision
by Superior Court Judge J. Richard Couzens upholding the search.

Baldwin and his wife Georgia were arrested Sept. 23, 1998, when the Placer
County Marijuana Eradication Team discovered 146 plants growing inside their
rural Loomis home. Both Baldwins possessed physician recommendations for the
drug.

In his affidavit, Potter said he found "marijuana leaves and stems recently
cut from a mature marijuana plant. The marijuana was fresh green and still
moist." Potter also stated he found marijuana seeds and a hydroponic grow
rock.

However, Nick said what Potter actually found in the trash can was .08 grams
of partially burnt marijuana, one marijuana seed and no indication the
marijuana was freshly cut or moist.

"This is marijuana that has been smoked," Nick said. "It's not fresh and
it's not moist. You have deception here."

Nick called two witnesses Wednesday morning in his effort to convince
Couzens of the illegality of a search conducted under false pretenses.
However, the testimony of Tammy Harris, an evidence technician with the
Placer County Sheriff's Office, and Tito Andrada, a technician with Valley
Toxicology, did not sway Couzens.

Andrada testified the evidence bag he received from the sheriff's office was
unsealed, even though Harris testified the standard operating procedure is
for officers to heat-seal the bags after placing the evidence inside.
Andrada also stated the specimen he received did not appear either fresh or
moist since there was no mold growth.

But, he said fresh marijuana in an unsealed package could dry out within
four weeks, which would be about the right time frame between when the
narcotic found in the trash  Sept. 16  and when Andrada examined it  Oct.
7.

Also, Harris, who has worked in the evidence room for more than 15 years,
stated that while the initials JP  for Investigator Jeff Potter, she
presumed  were on the bag, no date appeared alongside them. According to
Harris, anyone who opens an evidence bag reseals it with a piece of tape on
which is written initials and the date the bag was opened.

Still, Couzens ruled against the defense.

"The arguments you made would have been excellent if the people had the
burden of proof," Couzens said to Nick. "Unfortunately, you have the burden
of proof. I didn't find anything to indicate deception in getting the
warrant."

Deputy District Attorney Chris Cattran, who argued against the motion
throughout the morning session, said after the hearing he believed Couzen's
ruling to be appropriate and that no further hearings would be warranted.
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