Prosecutor's 'Diatribe' About Marijuana Ruins Case
ED WHITE, Associated Press
DETROIT (AP) — The evidence seemed solid in a marijuana case, but a "personal diatribe" against Michigan's medical marijuana law by an Upper Peninsula prosecutor spoiled the conviction, the state appeals court said.
In a 3-0 decision, the court granted a new trial to Paul Heminger, who was convicted of growing nearly two dozen pot plants in Alger County.
During her closing argument, Alger County prosecutor Karen Bahrman criticized the medical marijuana law and attacked the credibility of a local group, the Alger Hemp Coalition, which she said has a "vision for the country where everybody can walk around stoned."
"They do nothing to support the government services they want, and have nothing but criticism for the government services they don't want," Bahrman told the jury. "We're trespassers and tramplers of their rights right up until they need us to protect them from the violence that they attract to the community."
Heminger had a medical marijuana card, but there was evidence that he was growing an excessive amount, possibly to sell or use, the appeals court said.
Nonetheless, his right to a fair trial last year was violated by the prosecutor's "unfounded, irrelevant and inflammatory statements," the court said in an opinion released Friday.
"The prosecutor's closing argument was clearly and thoroughly improper," the court said. "The prosecutor embarks on a political commentary, and a personal diatribe discrediting the (law) as a whole. ... She calls the act 'meaningless,' and suggests that those suffering from chronic pain are simply cheating the system."
Bahrman defended her remarks when reached for comment Sunday. She said she was surprised by the decision and might ask the Michigan Supreme Court to look at the case.
"It's the first time I've been reversed in 30 years," Bahrman said.
Heminger was sentenced to six months in jail.
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