Monday, September 25, 2023
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Ore. Man Can Defend Marijuana Conviction

(CN) - An Oregon man convicted of growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants on his mother's property will get the chance to prove that he took the rap for a Mexican drug cartel. The 9th Circuit overturned his conviction, saying he has a Sixth Amendment right to defend himself.

Andrew Stever was convicted of growing the pot plants on his mother's 400-acre property in Oregon. A federal judge twice ruled that Stever could not challenge his conviction by presenting evidence that the pot growing was actually done without his knowledge by a Mexican drug cartel.

Stever sought to introduce evidence in court, including government reports concerning Mexican drug cartels that were growing marijuana in the area without the knowledge of land owners. The federal judge blocked the reports, saying "the issue is not necessarily who planted the marijuana, but whether or not the defendant is guilty as charged."

The Portland-based appeals panel found that conclusion "illogical."

"Evidence is relevant if it has any tendency to make the existence of any fact that is of consequence to the determination of the action more probable or less probable then it would be without the evidence," Judge Marsha Berzon wrote (original emphasis).

The government should have allowed its reports on the cartel activity to be presented to the jury so that it could decide what part, if any, that activity played in the pot growing on Stever's mother's property, the panel ruled.

"We hold that Stever was denied his Sixth Amendment right to make a defense," Berzon concluded.

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