Jurors: We've Been Had

February 04, 2003

J.K. Dineen, SF Examiner,

All landscaper Charles Sackett really wanted to do was go home to Sebastopol and prune his roses. But the soft-spoken foreman of the jury that convicted marijuana advocate Ed Rosenthal last week said he couldn't sleep at night if he had. So he joined four jurors Tuesday in front of a bank of cameras to apologize to Rosenthal, and to blast the federal judge and prosecutors Sackett said misled the jury by not allowing the defense to raise issues of state and local medical marijuana laws. The federal government does not recognize state medical marijuana laws. "This has been hard on us because we're all working people, leading quiet middle class lives," said Sackett. "But we wanted to make a statement." Though they had been excused Friday, six of the 12 jurors sat in the courtroom's front row as Judge Charles Breyer ruled Rosenthal was not a flight risk and allowed him to remain free on $500,000 bail pending his June sentencing. Later, five jurors joined politicians and medical pot patients in a press conference that was part personal apology and part political rally. Joining Sackett in court were real estate broker Marney Craig, student Kimberly Sulsur, aviation technician Donald Withers, artist Pamela Klarkowski and a juror who left before the press conference began. Two more jurors were on board with a public statement, but could not attend Tuesday's event, according to Craig. "What really needs to happen here is he needs to have a new trial and he needs a jury that is allowed to hear all the evidence," said Craig, reading a public statement agreed to by the other jurors. While legal experts doubt the jurors' feelings of judicial betrayal will impact Rosenthal's ultimate fate, it may have contributed to Breyer's decision not to take him into custody Tuesday, Rosenthal said. "I'm really happy to be here today and would really like to thank the jury because both the jury and I were victims of a vicious persecution by an illegal government action," said Rosenthal. The press conference was bizarre even by the standards of San Francisco federal court, which is used to offbeat protests. Fire trucks chugged by with firefighters honking horns and pumping fists in support. Protesters held signs saying "Free the weed" and "Free Ed" and "We love you Ed." Pamela Klarkowski, a resident nurse, said she would never have voted to convict Rosenthal had she known he had been deputized to grow pot by the city of Oakland, one of many details involving medical marijuana the judge would not allow into the federal courtroom. District Attorney Terence Hallinan, a longtime supporter of medical pot, said he had never seen anything like Tuesday's press conference. "I don't know if ever before in history have the majority of jurors held a press conference to say they were misled and misunderstood what they were doing when they rendered a guilty verdict," said Hallinan. Meanwhile Rosenthal, who has written a half-dozen books on marijuana, is busy writing about his trial. "Writers have the last word, they always have," said Rosenthal. "Just look at the Bible."

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