Judges mull cutting jail time Marijuana activist apologizes to court

October 26, 1993|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Staff Writer

Westminster marijuana rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis went to court yesterday and did what Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck has wanted her to do all along -- she apologized.

And even though it wasn't in front of Judge Beck -- who on Oct. 14 refused to reduce a five-year sentence for a felony conviction involving less than an ounce of marijuana -- she tearfully expressed remorse.

"I would like first to assure this panel that I take full responsibility for my words and my actions both before, during and after being charged, convicted and sentenced for these offenses," said Ms. Davis, reading a statement to a panel of three Carroll judges hearing her request for a lighter sentence.

"I am sorry that my beliefs have shocked and offended the senses of the conservative members of this community. . . . I am sorry that my actions have cost taxpayers money that could have been used for more appropriate community needs. None of this was my intent or purpose."

Davis, a 48-year-old Westminster businesswoman turned marijuana activist, was convicted this year by a Carroll jury of maintaining a common nuisance and possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia.

Judge Beck imposed a five-year sentence, but suspended three years of the prison time.

Daniel F. Goldstein, Davis' Baltimore attorney, argued yesterday that his client's sentence was unfair when compared with other drug sentences imposed in Carroll County. He also said Judge Beck may have inappropriately considered some of Davis' out-of-court statements to the press when he imposed his sentence.

"The plea here today is a simple one. We ask that Ms. Davis be treated the same as others," Mr. Goldstein said. "The record is bereft of lawful reasons why she should have been subjected to different treatment."

He made essentially the same argument during the hearing at which Judge Beck denied Davis' request for a shorter sentence. At that hearing, Mr. Goldstein presented statistics that he said showed his client's sentence to be among the longest the judge had imposed in the drug cases he had heard between June 1991 and June 30.

Judge Beck twice interrupted Mr. Goldstein, saying the sentences given in other cases were irrelevant to Davis' case. He said that when he reconsiders a sentence, he looks for clues from the defendant's behavior, comments and expressions of -- or lack of -- remorse.

Davis was under no legal obligation to speak to Judge Beck at that hearing, and, according to Mr. Goldstein, the judge was not supposed to use her silence against her.

"What I am interested in is what Ms. Davis may or may not have to say to me. I have not heard from Ms. Davis. I think the sentence is fair," the judge said from the bench that morning.

Yesterday, Davis addressed her silence in court that day: "I would also like to take this opportunity to apologize to Judge Beck if my choice of words [at sentencing], followed by my silence Oct. 14 was reason for the imposition and reimposition of the sentence that is under review."

As he did at the sentence-reduction hearing before Judge Beck, Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III argued to keep the sentence intact.

"The modification of this sentence is not in the interest of justice. It is not in the interest of society. It is not in the interest of our children," he said. Davis was convicted of operating a "den of iniquity," and was "unwilling to change her behavior," the prosecutor said.

Davis had served nearly two months at the Correctional Institute for Women in Jessup before an Anne Arundel County judge freed her on bail pending an appeal of her conviction. That court has set a hearing the second week in January.

Davis was arrested in May 1992 after Carroll Narcotics Task Force officers raided her farm and found less than an ounce of marijuana in a night stand.

The panel of judges -- Carroll Circuit Judges Francis M. Arnold and Luke K. Burns Jr. and Carroll District Judge Donald M. Smith -- will render their decision within 30 days. They can increase, decrease or leave unchanged Judge Beck's sentence.

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