According to attorney Rob Corry, voters have tried to make Denver "the most marijuana-friendly city on Earth," supporting a 2000 amendment to use cannabis medically, 2004 and 2006 measures to legalize it for adult use, and a 2008 edict to make enforcing pot regs the lowest law-enforcement priority. That's why Corry is defending Lacy Lee, who was charged with marijuana possession during a weed-legalization rally. The arrest and the angry confrontations that followed were caught on Denver Police video on view below.
Lee was slated to appear before a Denver judge on October 19 -- and the day before, Corry, who's representing her pro bono, wrote an open letter to Mayor John Hickenlooper, currently a gubernatorial candidate leading in the polls, asking him to direct the city attorney to drop the prosecution, which he deemed wasteful and contrary to the will of voters.
According to Corry, he received no response from Hickenlooper. Nonetheless, the proceeding was pushed back to December 10 because the court deemed it a low priority for a jury trial. At that point, Corry says, he'll participate in a motions hearing "to suppress even the stop of Ms. Lee," who was cited for toking from a joint handed to her on the 400 block of Court Street during a May 1 legalization march in downtown Denver. "I don't think the police had any basis to detain her in any way, because holding an object that looks like a joint isn't illegal. A lot of people smoke cigarettes that look like joints -- and thus, everything flowing from that stop, and the charges, should be dismissed."
At that hearing, "we're going to have three cops come in who presumably have better things to do," Corry continues. "There's real crime going on out there -- real crime that affects real victims."
Given that Lee's maximum penalty is a $100 fine, the city can't possibly recoup the cost for these idling officers -- the point Corry's making by demanding a jury trial. And the meter will keep running if his arguments are rejected at the motions hearing. Under that eventuality, the case will proceed to jury trial on January 11, with the officers again required to be present.
In the meantime, Corry has provided Westword with police video of the arrest and its aftermath. In the clip, officers can be heard discussing whether or not they saw Lee puff, then swooping in, pulling her away from the banner she was helping to carry, asking her if she understands her Miranda rights and then proceeding to cite her.
That's followed by footage of marijuana advocate Miguel Lopez, armed with a megaphone, who asks, "Why can't you guys just let us protest peacefully?" and points out that "this didn't happen during 4/20," when police allowed plenty of public weed smoking at Civic Center Park. Then, after leading a chant of "Unjust men/Unjust laws," Lopez accuses the officer filming the proceedings of laughing at him and fellow protesters expressing their displeasure. "How unprofessional," Lopez declares, as tensions among the marchers ratchet even higher.
In Corry's view, the entire situation could have, and should have, been avoided -- and the fact that Lee's still faced with a penalty is simply absurd. He quotes a judge at one hearing he attended as using the Latin phrase "de minimis non curat lex," which translates to, "The law does not concern itself with trifles."
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Here's the letter from Rob Corry to Mayor John Hickenlooper:
October 18, 2010
The Honorable John Hickenlooper Mayor, City and County of Denver 1437 Bannock Street Denver, CO 80202
Re: City and County of Denver v. Lacy Lee, Denver County Court Case No. 10GS207218
Dear Mayor Hickenlooper:
You preside as Mayor over what is possibly the most marijuana-friendly city on Earth. Denver's voters have voted four times, overwhelmingly, to medicalize (2000), legalize (2004 and 2006), and de-prioritize (2008) marijuana, more than voters in any other jurisdiction on the planet.
Despite this, your City still spends our money to criminally prosecute petty marijuana offenses. I represent (free of charge) Lacy Lee, an indigent young woman with no previous interaction with the criminal justice system. Lacy is the latest victim of the City's wasteful and expensive obsession with prosecuting marijuana cases. As a Denver resident myself, I agreed to take on Lacy's case pro bono to highlight the wastefulness of these prosecutions. Lacy was present at a First Amendment protest march against Marijuana Prohibition where there might have been marijuana present, although none was recovered by Denver Police. The City is still proceeding to trial without actual marijuana evidence.
Lacy's case is set for jury trial tomorrow, October 19, 2010 at 8:30 am in Denver County Courtroom 3G. This prosecution is brought in the name of our City by the Denver City Attorney, directly appointed by and answerable to you.
Mayor, please instruct your City Attorney to dismiss the case against Lacy Lee. This is your chance to conserve the resources of Denver's taxpayers.
Please call my office or cell phone at 720-629-7112 or email me at Robert.Corry@comcast.net with any questions or concerns, or if you need anything further.
Thank you very much for your time and consideration.
Robert J. Corry, Jr.
More from our Marijuana archives: "Marijuana legalization: Mason Tvert blasts John Hickenlooper and politicos who dodge issue."