Crusade in Tatters

June 07, 1994

Maryland's Court of Special Appeals has left in tatters the Carroll County Narcotics Task Force's case against Pamela Snowhite Davis, the self-proclaimed "marijuana mama." She has been acquitted of her sole felony conviction. The court's ruling also casts considerable doubt on whether the remaining two misdemeanor convictions will survive further judicial review.

It is time for Carroll authorities to halt their witch hunt against Ms. Davis, who now lives in Baltimore but has already spent 56 days in prison on these questionable convictions. Ms. Davis runs a counter-culture clothing store in Baltimore; she previously ran one in Westminster.

Maryland's second highest appeals court said that the case against Ms. Davis was impaired because Carroll Circuit Court Judge Raymond E. Beck Sr. refused to determine whether Ms. Davis was eligible to have a public defender. The public defender's office had told her she owned too many assets to qualify for a lawyer at taxpayer expense, but the law also requires a judge to review that determination.

The appeals court pointed out that when Ms. Davis appeared before Circuit Court Judge Francis Arnold on separate marijuana possession charges (of which she was acquitted), Judge Arnold followed the proper procedures.

By failing to determine whether Ms. Davis could have a public defender, Judge Beck, in effect, left her without legal representation. As a result, she missed the deadline for filing routine pretrial motions, including one to exclude evidence that had been seized during her arrest. Her lawyer filed that motion when the trial began, but Judge Beck ruled it was too late.

In sending the two misdemeanors back to the trial court, the appeals court said the suppression hearing Ms. Davis never got should be held first. If she prevails and certain evidence is inadmissible, prosecutors will have to retry her from scratch. using whatever evidence remains. If Ms. Davis loses at the suppression hearing, the appeals court ruled it will rehear the case and consider points that were raised in her first appeal but which the court never addressed.

The ruling makes efforts to send Ms. Davis back to jail extremely dubious. Carroll State's Attorney Thomas E. Hickman should cut his losses. Further pursuit of Ms. Davis will reinforce the impression that this prosecution was a mean-spirited effort to crush an outspoken marijuana advocate.

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