Marijuana activist's conviction voided

June 03, 1994|By Darren M. Allen | Darren M. Allen,Sun Staff Writer

The state's second-highest court gave marijuana-rights activist Pamela Snowhite Davis her first legal victory in two years yesterday, as it threw out a felony conviction that kept her in prison 56 days last year.

The opinion by a three-judge panel of the Court of Special Appeals said Carroll County prosecutors failed to present sufficient evidence to find Ms. Davis guilty of maintaining a common nuisance at her 1993 drug trial. She had been charged with four offenses after police found less than an ounce of marijuana in a raid.

"This is a pretty good victory for the people and a pretty good victory for the Constitution," Ms. Davis said yesterday from Marijuana Mama's Baltimore Hemporium, the clothing shop she opened in April on West Read Street in Baltimore.

In its decision, the court also awarded Ms. Davis a pre-trial suppression hearing on the remaining misdemeanor drug charges of which she was convicted.

If a Carroll Circuit judge rules that Carroll narcotics officers improperly raided Terrapin Station, Ms. Davis' 54-acre farm near Westminster, the marijuana possession and paraphernalia PTC convictions will be vacated. If a judge rules that the raid was proper, the appellate court invited her to appeal the convictions.

The court ordered the suppression hearing because Carroll Circuit Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. failed to determine whether Ms. Davis was eligible for a court-appointed attorney. She told him she would represent herself because she did not qualify for the service of the public defender.

"The court must conduct its own inquiry as to whether" Ms. Davis qualified for such services, the opinion said. "The necessity for this independent court evaluation stems from the judiciary's role as the ultimate protector of the rights awarded under the Constitution."

Judge Beck and the two other Carroll Circuit judges all, at various times, ruled that Ms. Davis was not entitled to a pre-trial suppression hearing because she had not asked for one within 30 days of her arraignment.

Assistant State's Attorney Barton F. Walker III said he "was disappointed" with yesterday's ruling.

Ms. Davis, a previously unknown Westminster businesswoman, became an outspoken advocate of marijuana rights after the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force entered her life two years ago.

She has since left Carroll County -- which she has called evil -- for Mount Vernon in Baltimore.

In May 1992 task force officers, carrying a search warrant and wearing United Parcel Service uniforms, delivered a package addressed to Terrapin Station. When a woman signed for the parcel, which contained 1.5 ounces of marijuana, the bogus UPS men marched inside. They seized magazines, business records and, from a bedroom night stand, about three-quarters of an ounce of marijuana.

Ms. Davis' son Kif climbed up on the roof and ate the marijuana the task force had delivered.

The raid led to Ms. Davis' conviction. Judge Beck, citing her "lack of remorse," imposed a two-year prison term, one of the harshest sentences ever in the county for that amount of marijuana.

Ms. Davis served 56 days before an Anne Arundel Circuit judge freed her on an appeal bond last year.

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