Source: Tulsa World (OK) 
Pubdate: Wednesday, 19 Aug 1998
Author: Bill Braun, World Staff Writer
Editors note: We have received word, not yet confirmed,  that at a parole
hearing Will Foster was recommended for immediate release. Please send any
news items about Will to   Perhaps the efforts to spread
the story about Will, which has resulted in worldwide criticism of the
Oklahoma justice system has had an impact? Besides the many articles on our
website, see the following for more about Will. - Richard Lake, Sr. Editor,
DrugSense News Service


Saying a 93-year prison term for marijuana convictions "shocks our
conscience," an appeals court modified a defendant's punishment in a Tulsa
County case to a 20-year sentence.

In a case that attracted national attention, the Oklahoma Court of Criminal
Appeals affirmed on Monday the convictions that William Joseph "Will"
Foster, 39, received in 1997 for four felonies and one misdemeanor.

A jury handed Foster a 70-year term and a $50,000 fine for cultivating

He was also assessed a two-year sentence and a $10,000 fine for possessing
marijuana with intent to distribute, 20 years for possessing marijuana in
the presence of a child under age 12, a one-year term and a $1,000 fine for
having no drug tax stamp, and a $1,000 fine for possessing drug paraphernalia.

Associate District Judge Bill Beasley routinely ordered that all the
sentences run consecutively. He noted that before the trial Foster had
rejected plea bargains calling for sentences totaling 10 or 12 years.

The appeals court said in a 4-1 decision this week that there was no trial
error to justify overturning the guilty verdicts.

However, the opinion by Judge Charles Chapel said the sentences were
excessive and "disproportionate" under the facts.

The appellate judges cut the 70- year sentence for cultivation by 50 years
and said that all the sentences should run concurrently, meaning Foster
must serve the equivalent of a single 20-year term.

Foster's 93-year sentence was featured in television, newspaper and
magazine reports broadcast and circulated nationally.

Assistant District Attorney Paul Wilkening said Tuesday that "it mystifies
me how the Court of Criminal Appeals will second-guess our juries and our

He said "this wasn't a runaway jury" because the panel imposed 70 years for
one offense and two years for another on counts that each allowed the
possibility of a life term.

The appellate opinion said Foster was a "first-time offender," which is
incorrect, according to Tulsa County court records.

Foster was found guilty in February 1993 of a 1990 felony offense of
obtaining a controlled drug by fraud. He received a two-year probation in
that case, records show.

No evidence about that conviction was presented to jurors at the 1997
trial, although it is mentioned in court documents filed in the latter case.

Wilkening and co-prosecutor Brian Crain said police discovered an elaborate
cultivation network of growing marijuana plants during a December 1995
search at Foster's Tulsa home.

His wife said Foster smoked marijuana to help alleviate the pain of
rheumatoid arthritis, but the defense presented no trial testimony from any
physician to support a "medical necessity" defense.

Oklahoma law does not accept that defense as a basis for acquittal on a
marijuana charge, but it can be offered as mitigation for a defendant.

In post-trial proceedings, Foster asserted that he never sold marijuana and
raised it only for his own use to "control my own pain."

At the trial, defense attorney Stuart Southerland presented expert
testimony from a California-based writer-researcher specializing in
marijuana and its cultivation, who said the amount recovered by police did
not exceed what could be used for personal consumption.

Foster is an inmate at the North Fork Correctional Facility in Sayre, a
Department of Corrections spokesman said.

Beasley previously said that a statute involving drug possession in a
child's presence requires Foster to serve at least half of that 20-year
term in custody. 
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Checked-by: Richard Lake