Seedy prosecution

June 15, 1993

Carroll County prosecutors made a serious mistake when they decided to take to trial their most recent case against Pamela Snowhite Davis. They charged the Silver Run woman with possession and distribution of marijuana because she was openly giving away hemp seeds at her counterculture store in Westminster.

Her acquittal supports the view prevalent among many observers that members of Carroll's Narcotics Task Force are carrying out a vendetta against her. Bringing this weak case against Ms. Davis, who is now in jail on another weak case, diminished the stature of Carroll County's entire drug enforcement effort.

From the beginning, this was a questionable prosecution. There was never any evidence that Ms. Davis possessed marijuana, only that half the seeds taken from her and placed in a petri dish at a State Police crime lab germinated.

As Carroll County Circuit Court Judge Luke K. Burns Jr. pointed out, the fact that the seeds sprouted roots doesn't mean they were marijuana; they might as easily have produced marigolds if allowed to grow.

Lacking the hard evidence to win, Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III attempted to use innuendo to convict Ms. Davis. He introduced literature confiscated from her shop that advocated legalization of marijuana and gave instructions on how to grow marijuana, as well as copies of High Times magazine as evidence of her criminal intentions to promote illegal drug use. She also kept a fishbowl of presumed marijuana seeds, which she offered as "free samples" to customers.

Introducing literature to illustrate Ms. Davis' state of mind had been successful for prosecutors in convicting Ms. Davis of possession of marijuana and maintaining a common nuisance in another case two months ago, but the tactic failed this time.

Judge Burns, unlike his colleague, Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr., quickly dismissed mere possession of pro-marijuana literature as "having nothing to do with the case."

Mr. Walker inadvertently showed his hand during his closing argument. "She had no motive to tell the truth," he said of Ms. Davis. "If she did, she would have come in here and pleaded guilty."

Mr. Walker knows the state had to prove beyond a reasonable doubt Ms. Davis committed a crime. Being charged with a crime is not tantamount to conviction. In this case, prosecutors mistakenly thought it was.

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