Pubdate: Sat, 15 Apr 2000
Source: Orange County Register (CA)
Copyright: 2000 The Orange County Register
Contact:  P.O. Box 11626, Santa Ana, CA 92711
Fax: (714) 565-3657
Author: Teri Sforza


A Judge Reverses Marvin Chavez's Conviction And Orders Him Released
On Bail Pending Appeal

There was a moment of shock. Then the courtroom erupted in whoops and
cheers as the judge - who last year sentenced medical marijuana
activist Marvin Chavez to six years in state prison - unexpectedly
freed him Friday, pending appeal.

"I'm so surprised!" said Linda Chavez, his ex-wife.

But Chavez must post $25,000 bail. In the elated atmosphere outside
the courtroom, some 20 supporters dug into their pockets to help raise
the $2,500 needed for his bail bond, collecting nearly $600 on the
spot. Attorney J. David Nick, who's representing Chavez for free,
forked over $60 of his own and vowed to personally drive the bail bond
to the Vacaville prison, wait until Chavez is released, escort him to
the airport, and put him on a plane home. Chavez should be in Orange
County by Monday.

"All humans are capable of change," Nick said of Judge Thomas Borris'

But Nick wasn't expecting change, and he went into the hearing ready
for a war. Nick said in court that Borris should recuse himself from
the case - and the two battled for several minutes.

That made Borris' decision even more surprising. He said he granted
bail because Chavez's appeal raises substantial legal issues, Chavez
has strong ties to the community, and he doesn't pose a danger.

Borris also issued a plea from the bench - echoed by Nick - imploring
the state Court of Appeal to finally rule on the highly controversial
Proposition 215. The medical marijuana law passed in 1996, but its
application and interpretation have been uneven.

Chavez has said he believed he was operating in good faith under Prop.
215 when he gave pot to people who said they were sick. But Borris
didn't allow him to mount a defense based on the law. Chavez was found
guilty and has been in prison for more than a year.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Derek Rea