Pubdate: Tue, 22 Feb 2000
Source: Redding Record Searchlight (CA)
Copyright: 2000 Redding Record Searchlight - E.W. Scripps
Contact:  PO Box 492397, Redding, CA 96049-2397
Website: http://www.redding.com/
Forum: http://www.redding.com/disc2_frm.htm
Author: Maline Hazle

PAIR GUILTY OF CONSPIRACY
Mother, Son Cleared Of Other Pot Charges

In verdicts that raise more questions about medicinal marijuana law, a
Shasta County jury Tuesday acquitted a Redding mother and son of
growing marijuana and the son of possessing pot for sale, but found
both guilty of conspiracy to cultivate marijuana.

Within minutes of the announcement, Redding attorney Eric Berg, who
represents Jim Hall, 38, and Lydia Hall, 62, asked Superior Court
Judge Bradley Boeckman to set aside the guilty verdicts, calling them
''inconsistent and illegal as a matter of law.''

''I don't think it's something I just want to shoot from the hip on,''
Boeckman replied, telling Berg he would make that decision at the
Halls' sentencing hearing April 10. The Halls remain free until that
date.

Boeckman also ordered the Halls to cooperate with county probation
officers, who will make recommendations about sentencing.

The mother and son face up to three years in prison if the verdicts
stand.

It was the second time since December that a Shasta County jury has
acquitted a medicinal marijuana patient of growing marijuana for sale.

Tuesday's verdicts came after about 21/2 days of deliberations by the
10-woman, two-man jury and just as defendant Jim Hall returned from a
hospital emergency room where he had gone for treatment of intense
back spasms his attorney said were prompted by a weekend bout with flu
and vomiting.

The jury's deliberations were punctuated by several questions for the
court, including an inquiry about whether Jim Hall could be convicted
of possession and cultivation of marijuana if he had pot ''in excess
of what is reasonable use.''

Shasta County sheriff's deputies last year confiscated 188 plants from
the Halls' garage and 49 from a hydroponic garden in Jim Hall's closet
 most of them seedlings. In addition, six sandwich bags of processed
marijuana were seized.

The Compassionate Use Act of 1996, under which the Halls received
doctors' recommendations for marijuana use, does not specify how many
plants patients can grow or how much marijuana they may possess.

But prosecutor Tim Kam argued during the trial that the Halls had far
too many plants for personal use, so Jim Hall must have been planning
to sell some of it.

Jurors seemed to agree with Kam to an extent.

''What we were struggling with was the amounts and the intent,'' said
juror Don Matthews, 50, of Cottonwood. ''That was when we had to, or
at least I had to, haggle with the Compassionate Use Act. Once the
plants moved from the closet to the garage, that showed an intent to
grow more.''

Juror Myra Grow of Redding said the panel ''felt that there was a very
high possibility'' that the Halls took advantage of the law.

''There were a couple of jurors that said the marijuana law is very
black and white, and they felt that no matter what evidence was
brought in, they could walk because it was medical marijuana,'' she
said.

''We all felt that if he had kept his grow confined to the closet that
he could have been growing it just for them, but when he took that
leap and moved it to the garage we started saying, 'Well, I don't know.'''

The jury found the Halls guilty of conspiracy because ''they conspired
to break the law and abuse the law,'' said jury forewoman Stacy
Gardner, 34, of Palo Cedro.

Lydia Hall's testimony that she didn't smoke much marijuana and didn't
really like it made it harder for the jury to believe that Jim Hall
was going to keep all the plants he was growing, Gardner said.

''We all believed she (Lydia Hall) was innocent up to a certain point,
but she crossed that line,'' Gardner said. ''She went too far, allowed
too much.'' Gardner said jurors did not doubt Jim Hall's ''medical
need'' for marijuana.

''But we all believed that the law was not written as a free
enterprise to grow as much pot as you want.''

After the verdict Gardner wished Lydia Hall well and told her that Jim
Hall wouldn't have been convicted had he ''left the plants in the closet.''

Lydia Hall told Gardner that her son's closet garden simply had not
produced enough.

''I've never done any illegal thing in my life but driving fast, and
I'm not about to start now,'' Lydia Hall said.

Her son said that he ''never intended to sell pot. ... I've never sold
drugs in my life. I'm no angel, but not that.''

He questioned how he could be acquitted of a crime but convicted of a
conspiracy to commit that crime.

''I'm totally confused'' by the verdict, he said.

Berg declined to comment on the verdict, but his words to Judge
Boeckman made it clear that he believed it was inconsistent.

Prosecutor Kam called the verdicts ''an innovative decision of the
jury,'' adding that he would ''never want to question the work of a
jury.''

Kam's boss, District Attorney McGregor Scott, said he knows that Berg
will ''file an appropriate motion and we will file an appropriate response.''

''Conspiracy and commission of a crime are two different things,''
Scott said. ''Would I think they (the verdicts) are legally
inconsistent. My answer is no.''

He said conspiracy could be ''projected into the future,'' meaning
that the Halls could have been conspiring to grow big crops in the
future even if the plants seized by deputies were very small.

Forewoman Gardner criticized both Kam and Berg for not having
presented ''more evidence, better evidence'' and not having
''presented it better.''

All three jurors interviewed criticized the medicinal marijuana law as
being ''vague,'' and Scott agreed.

''This case has again demonstrated the need for clarification at the
state level,'' he said. ''I cannot think of a more stark example as to
why clarification is needed.''

That clarification may come in the form of legislation being drafted
at the behest of state Sen. Maurice Johannessen, R-Redding, who
announced Jan. 21 that he would write legislation to clear up the law.

The legislation is still being drafted, Undersheriff Larry Schaller
said Tuesday afternoon.

Schaller also said that the sheriff and Scott have agreed on a set of
guidelines that police, deputies and prosecutors can use to determine
whether to arrest and prosecute people who have obtained doctors'
recommendations to use marijuana. Those guidelines will be released
later this week, Schaller said.

Sheriff Jim Pope promised to develop those guidelines after the
December acquittal of Richard Levin, 49, of Redding, who also had been
accused of possessing marijuana for sale.

Judge Boeckman ordered Levin's seven bags of marijuana returned after
the acquittal, but on Jan. 21 a U.S. magistrate in Sacramento issued a
seizure warrant and Shasta County sheriff's deputies handed over
Levin's pot to a federal drug agent.

Berg, who also represented Levin, has asked Boeckman to hold the
sheriff and Schaller in contempt of court.

Tuesday Schaller said his department will not simply abandon
investigation of medical marijuana.

''We will proceed on a case-by-case review of cultivation and
possession cases,'' he said. ''I would still characterize the Hall and
Levin matters as being much less to do with medical marijuana and
everything to do with commercial cultivation.''

Scott said he does not intend to stop prosecuting medicinal marijuana
cases because of the acquittals.

''We will continue to do what we have in the past  review each case
on its own merits and make decisions on whether or not to prosecute,''
he said.
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Reporter Maline Hazle can be reached at 225-8266 or  ---
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