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What's Up in the 8th

So you want to be a municipal court judge, huh?  There are certainly some bennies:  the pay's not bad, a decent way north of 100 large annually, plus you don't have to pick up a bar tab for the next six years.  Then again, to get there you had to spend six months of evenings driving all over town and explaining to groups of ten or fifteen people why you'd make a good judge, or to fundraisers where you implore people to give you money, like some common mendicant.  And then you get elected, and the first week on the job, you get to do a bench trial of a speeding ticket, where the defendant gets up and announces that he is ""F. Hasan Bey, former Kenneth Torey Hasan, authorized representative of Kenneth Gary Hasan, not the person that was created by legislature," and objects when Officer Smith testifies, claiming that "Smith" is an English name, not an "American" name, and therefore, the officer has a "false identity."

That's as far as I got into the opinion in Cleveland v. Hasan, but I'm sure there's other good stuff there, certainly sufficient to convince that particular judge that the Cleveland Municipal Court having a mental health docket would be redundant.

A question that occurred to many of us in college:  just exactly what would it take to get completely wasted?  The answer provided by the victim in State v. Cedeno was marijuana, half a fifth of vodka, three shots of tequila, and a couple lines of cocaine, and Cedeno accordingly finds his argument that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for rape under the substantial incapacity section a tough sell.

The defendant in State v. Seldon fares better.  Seldon was stopped for a traffic violation (non-illuminated back license plate and traveling outside of marked lanes, like it matters), and the resultant search showed him to be in possession of 120 pills of Sudafed, antifreeze, automotive starting fluid, 27 boxes of matches, four bottles of iodine, and a bottle of brake parts cleaner.  If you're wondering what these may have in common, all of them are used in the production of methamphetamine; in fact, the only items missing are salt, acid, and hydrogen peroxide.  Seldon's testimony that he had an innocent purpose for possessing all these items failed to impress the jury, but he found a more receptive audience in the appellate panel.  The statute on assembly or possession of chemicals used to manufacture controlled substances requires not only the possession of one or more such chemicals, but the intent to manufacture the controlled substance.  The court cites a number of cases where that intent was shown:  the defendant possessed the actual equipment to manufacture meth, that he admitted that he intended to do so, that his prior acts showed his intent, that he completed some subsequent step beyond mere possession of the chemicals, or that he possessed quantities of the drug.  The panel doesn't say specifically that one of these, besides mere possession of the chemicals, must be shown, but it may as well have.

One can certainly argue whether this is the right call.  The panel emphasizes that none of the items possessed by Seldon were illegal in themselves, but that would always be true for this offense.  In fact, it would be equally true had Seldon possessed the three remaining ingredients -- salt, acid, and hydrogen peroxide -- necessary to make meth.  The court seems to rely in places on Seldon's explanations for why he had the items, even giving significance to the fact that he testified that he didn't know how to manufacture meth.  Besides the self-serving nature of the testimony, a sufficiency analysis tests only the state's evidence; the defense evidence is ignored.  Be that as it may, the upshot is that, at least in the 8th District, possession of one -- indeed, all -- of the chemicals necessary to make meth isn't sufficient, by itself, to get a conviction.

State v. Jones presents a tale of two cities; rather, two tales of one city.  Seven Cleveland vice detectives in three unmarked cars are on patrol, and come upon three males walking in the middle of the street.  One detective turns on his siren, the police testify that one of the males "appeared as if he was going to run," and so "the officers quickly exited their vehicles and, for officer safety, handcuffed the three men and conducted a quick pat-down search for weapons."  (The discerning reader, at least one who has a nodding acquaintance with the rudiments of the 4th Amendment, will note the complete absence of anything resembling justification for the police actions.)  The three were on their way to Jones' house, where he was preparing for a birthday party.  He got wind that his friends had been stopped, and went to see what was going on.

The versions of the police and of Jones and his family and friends sharply diverge from there.  According to the former, Jones ran up, screaming obscenities at the police, refused their entreaties to back away, and punched one of them in the face, whereupon the officers knocked him to the ground and, when he continued to resist, tasered him.  The version told by Jones and his group was that Jones approached the officers and did nothing more than ask them what was going on, whereupon he was tackled, punched, and tasered.

The disparity in these versions might have been resolved:  one of Jones' friends had a cell phone, and appeared to be videotaping the incident.  The police, believing the cell phone might contain evidence, managed to procure it, by a method which involved drawn guns and another tasering; alas, after taking the phone to the station, the police determined that it didn't contain anything after all.

The main issue on appeal is the attempt of the defense to utilize the fact that several of the officers had been previously sued for excessive force; the trial court's resolution, upheld by the panel, was to allow the defense to cross-examine the officers as to their general awareness that they could be sued, but not allow the defense to get into specifics.  In addition to damage to his left orbital and a closed head injury that he received in the fracas, Jones winds up with convictions for assaulting a police officer and resisting arrest.  I wasn't at the scene or at the trial, and I come at the issue with the jaundiced perspective of a criminal defense attorney, but I left it with the sneaking suspicion that Jones' method of assault was to repeatedly strike the police officers in their fists with his face.


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