Pubdate: Wed, 14 Nov 2007
Source: Times Argus (Barre, VT)
Copyright: 2007 Times Argus
Author: Susan Smallheer
Bookmark: (Marijuana)


WHITE RIVER JUNCTION -- Most of the Windsor County legislative
delegation has called on Gov. James Douglas to withdraw his directive
against Windsor County State's Attorney Robert Sand over his
controversial decision to refer a marijuana possession case to court

"Our concern is based on the integrity of county government, voters'
rights and the well-established legal principle of prosecutorial
discretion," read a portion of the two-page letter, signed by Sen.
John Campbell, D-Windsor, Sen. Richard McCormack, D-Windsor, and 11
House members, all Democrats or Progressives.

Not signing the letter was Sen. Alice Nitka, D-Windsor, and four
Republican House members.

"Not only does your order usurp the duties of Mr. Sand's office, it
serves as a personal affront to the people of Windsor County who have
repeatedly and overwhelmingly chosen to re-elect him as our state's
attorney. The voters of Windsor County have the right to have our
local elections respected. Your actions are in direct conflict with
the oft-preached recognition of 'local control,' which we have heard
you support and promote on numerous occasions," the legislators wrote.

Jason Gibbs, Douglas' press secretary, said late Wednesday afternoon
the governor hadn't seen the letter, but the order would not be withdrawn.

Douglas ordered all state law enforcement officials, the state police
and fish and wildlife wardens to forward any "significant" marijuana
cases to the attorney general's office for prosecution.

The Windsor County delegation also sent a similar letter to Attorney
General William Sorrell, who had also been critical of Sand's decision
regarding the case of Martha Davis, 61, of Windsor. The fact that
Davis is a lawyer and until last week a part-time family court judge
has prompted many to claim she was the beneficiary of special treatment.

Gibbs said the governor's hotline had received "dozens" of calls last
week from people protesting the Davis case. Davis, who originally
faced two felony counts for possession of 2-1/2 pounds of marijuana
and 32 small marijuana plants, was referred to court diversion.

"This letter has nothing to do with the actual decision made by Bobby
Sand. It has everything to do the governor has bypassed the voters of
Windsor County. He's saying I don't care what the voters of Windsor
County say," said Campbell, the Senate majority leader.

Campbell, himself a former police officer, said that prosecutorial
discretion is an important principle to defend.

"The state's attorneys look at a lot of things. This is a first time
offender, a model citizen, 61 years old. Were there extenuating
circumstances? I don't know."

Campbell said it was also very "disconcerting" for Douglas to
"minimize the value of the court diversion program."

"To describe this program as merely a 'get out of jail free card' is
intemperate, inaccurate and insulting to the court diversion personnel
and volunteers," Campbell wrote.

Gibbs said Douglas is a strong supporter of court diversion. He said
the governor was most concerned about the perception about a lack of
equality in the Davis case.

Campbell said court diversion lets people "who made a bad decision,
have a second chance."

"It's incumbent on us as a society on how best to help those folks who
have made bad decisions," he said.

Sand, who is preparing for an upcoming murder trial, didn't return a
phone call. 
- ---
MAP posted-by: Richard Lake