A Washington, DC man was convicted of possessing drug paraphernalia discarded by the DC Circuit Court of Appeals — which, apart from the Supreme Court, is the highest court in our nation’s capital — after the court issued an opinion that the investigation would not survive in a dorm room or at a reggae festival, but is still legally responsible.
You have to prove that Bob Marley smoked weed.
Deandre Brooks was convicted of possessing paraphernalia after US park police discovered a grinder in his pocket. On the grinder was an image of Robert Nesta Marley, also known as Bob.
On January 28, Assistant Judge Roy W. McLeese recorded the facts as follows:
In a search of the arrest [for assaulting a police officer]One of the officers, a 12-year veteran charged with investigating narcotics and sex crimes, found in Mr Brooks’s pocket “a metal grinder bearing an image of Bob Marley commonly used for grinding marijuana.” Another officer, assigned to the Narcotics Unit and involved in more than 500 drug operations, testified that he had recovered grinders several times. That officer further explained that grinders are used to grind marijuana by people who smoke marijuana, and that when officers arrest people with grinders, there is usually green plant material in the grinders.
With stunning clarity, Judge McLeese explained why Brooks’ conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia should be reversed due to insufficient evidence:
[T]there was no evidence that anyone Mr. Brooks using the grinder saw [to process, prepare, or otherwise introduce into the human body a controlled substance]. There was also no evidence that Mr Brooks made any statements indicating that he intended to use the mill for drug-related purposes. Finally, there was also no evidence that Mr. Brooks possessed or used drugs, either at the time of the crime or at any other time. Rather, the United States argues that Mr. Brooks’ intent to use the mill for drug-related purposes can be inferred from three pieces of evidence: (1) the mill bore the likeness of Bob Marley; (2) one experienced officer testified that people who smoke marijuana often use grinders to grind marijuana, and (3) another experienced narcotics officer testified that he had recovered grinders several times.
By methodically deconstructing the government’s half-baked arguments to uphold Brooks’ conviction, the gist of the DC Court of Appeals ruling boils down to this:
In explaining the meaning of the first piece of evidence, the United States argues that “the court was undoubtedly aware” [that] Bob Marley is the late reggae superstar whose name is virtually synonymous with marijuana. We assume for present purposes that the court was aware of a common link between Bob Marley and marijuana. At trial, however, the United States did not adduce evidence that Bob Marley was generally associated with marijuana, did not ask the court for judicial notice of such an association, and in fact never explicitly implied that such an association existed.
An obvious seed of wisdom that can be drawn from Judge McLeese’s opinion in Brooks v. US: Never judge a grinder by its cover.
Photo by Dennis O’Regan/Getty Images