Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Martez Mitchell conviction shows what is wrong with federal criminal law

Former Tyner High School football star Martez Mitchell recently was convicted in federal court in Chattanooga for, according to The Chattanoogan, "drug trafficking and using a gun in connection with drug trafficking." He faces five years for each charge, and the sentences, according to federal law, must run consecutively.

While I doubt that most people will give this a second look, I read the article all the way through because I was curious about the second charge. Did he actually point a gun at someone during a drug trade? Was he uttering threats while waving a gun?

It turns out that the gun was in the house where he lived, and police and federal agents never demonstrated in court that he used the gun to facilitate the selling of marijuana. In other words, "using a gun in connection with drug trafficking," is one of those legal technicalities that the feds use when they want to pile up years in prison on someone.

I will put it another way: the law lies. It is one thing if a person uses a gun to threaten someone else with death in order to make that person hand over money or property or to do something else; it is quite another when the presence of a gun in another room is used as "proof" of "using a gun."

Unfortunately, federal law is full of such technicalities that empower federal prosecutors but undermine the Rule of Law. For example, if Joe were to sell a small amount of marijuana to an undercover officer, and Joe also had an unloaded gun locked in the trunk of his car nearby, the same "using a gun" charge also would be applied to him.

That is correct. Under federal law, one does not have to use a gun to be charged with using a gun. Just another example of how the government turns the law into a lie.

I also would like to say that the jurors should be ashamed of themselves for going along with such a bogus charge in the first place. I'm sure that Judge Curtis Collier explained how the law worked, but jurors did not have to listen to him, and they certainly did not have to listen to prosecutors.

As I see it, a "judge" who goes along with this kind of charade is not a judge at all, but rather is nothing more than a shill for bad federal rules. I don't know much about Collier, but this case does not give me any confidence in his dedication to justice.


Anonymous said...

Furtherance, which is the KEY term here, is not met simply by having a gun in proximity to drugs. He admitted to having a firearm to "protect his money and dope" in an interrogation, which is the view of the jury that it constituted furtherance. Who are you to determine what happened behind closed doors then state the jury should be ashamed. This desicion was based on many factors and guided by our laws and CONSTITUTION. There was enough evidence presented to doubt the character and integrity of the defendant, and to uphold the testimony of the law enforcement officers who testified. The gun being present at the time of the search and seizure couldn't be more irrelevant. You are correct though, that the government does not have to prove the gun was used or fired. It comes down to whether it "furthered" or advanced his ability to traffic drugs. In this case, having admitted to having the gun for protection of his money and dope constituted furtherance. Had he not made that statement and the gun was simply there, without any proveable tie to the drugs, he would have been cleared of that charge.

Bob from Buffalo said...

Had he not made that statement and the gun was simply there, without any proveable tie to the drugs, he would have been cleared of that charge.

If only that were true.

Jerri Lynn Ward said...

Guided by our constitution? That's a laugh. Where in the constitution is the federal government given the authority to wage the "war on drugs?"

William L. Anderson said...

Exactly, Jerri. Furthermore, having a gun in proximity is not the same as using it during an exchange or even having the gun facilitate the exchanges.

Please explain how these laws are constitutional in the first place, 8:57. It is one thing to use a gun to facilitate a crime, i.e., armed robbery. It is quite another in this situation, yet you try to tell us that they are one and the same. I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Wow. Troll alert. He "made a statement during an interrogation" means that the FBI form 302 was used. That form is the equivalent of a license to lie. The 302 is a form to summarize an interview. It contains only what the officer wants to put on the form, nothing more. And the officer gets to read the 302 from the stand as if it were the defendant's actual words. Having actually witnessed an interview then later reading the 302, I was stunned to see how fictional the "summary" of the interview was. 302's have been roundly criticized by the defense bar for this type of abusive practice. And having also witnessed this particular judge, Curtis Collier is a nothing but a lapdog for the prosecution. He is very smart, seldom rules in favor of the defense, and uses very clever rulings to keep it that way. If anyone is ever able to make traction with the way the FBI uses 302's, the credibility of the feds will be shot.

John Smith said...

I was actually a memeber of this jury and it is offensive, atrocious, and disgraceful for you to state that we should be ashamed. This decision wasn't taken lightly. We followed the law as it is written, and as it was presented to us to the absolute best of our ability. How can you judge a collective decision standing alone withough knowledge of the intricate details we were given!? You sir, are out of line. If you think for a second that I feel good for convicting someone, you couldn't be more wrong. This was based on facts, rather than emotions. If you have a problem with the law, then thats fine, but don't you dare question or discredit the integrety of our decision.

Anonymous said...

I gave the jury the benefit of the doubt until I read that he had a permit for that glock. Under that logic every license gun owner will face extra time behind bars merely for owning a license, and the handgun the license permits you to have.

Nullifier said...

@John Smith,

As a member of a jury you are a trier of fact as well as of law. Maybe you didn't know that, maybe you don't care. But as triers of fact AND law, you all collectively (as you put it, most appropriately I might add)failed in your duty to uphold justice. As Jerri Lynn Ward pointed out, there is no authority for the US Government to prosecute a "war on drugs". You failed in your duty to invalidate an unconstitutional law. It is because of the well meaning dumb asses such as yourself that this country finds itself in the condition it's in.

Anonymous said...

I dunno. I probably would have voted the same way on the marijuana conviction though I really don't care about weed one way or another. However I would have dropped the weapon charge cause he was a licensed gun owner and it was merely in his home.

William L. Anderson said...

Sorry, John, I am not backing off. There is such a thing as jury nullification, and juries do not have to accept unjust laws, and in this case, the law was applied unjustly.

First, the "using a firearm" charge is just stuff that the feds use to pile on charges. He did not use the firearm to harm anyone; it was a legal technicality, period.

Second, what jurors did was to kowtow to the worst that federal prosecutors have to offer. Given the huge amount of misconduct that federal prosecutors (and state prosecutors, too) commit -- and get away with scot-free -- there needs to be some skepticism every time a federal prosecutor steps into the room.

These are people who face no sanctions at all for lying, and I cannot imagine a federal prosecutor in this case not telling at least one lie. You should not have been so trusting of people who would throw their grandmothers into prison on trumped-up charges if they thought it would enhance their careers.

I will say it again; you should be ashamed for acting like a sheep instead of an American citizen. Once upon a time, Americans understood their rights, but no more.

liberranter said...

@ "John Smith:"

You've actually performed a(n unintentional) public service by verifying just how correct the opinion of the regular readers here is of the average juror. We thank you for confirming that the average juror today is an ignorant, semi-literate, ovine creature incapable of understanding even the most rudimentary concepts of constitutional law or of holding anything remotely resembling an independent, critical thought. The silver lining surrounding the dark cloud of nonsensical drivel from the likes of you is that it will continue to result in miscarriages of justice so egregious, and on such a massive scale as to prompt true judicial reform. Along with this, we can only pray for the implementation of measures to ensure that creatures like you will never have an opportunity to jeopardize the freedoms of others by serving on juries.

Again, thank you.

brittany said...

I totally agree with this article. As I set and watched the case I observed 2 jurors falling asleep during trial. Their votes shouldnt count. This was a very unfair trial and something should be done about this maddness. That prosecutor was dead wrong for that information he provided. It was clear that there was some tampering with evidence with this case. There was a picture of Martez's gun on the kicthen chair and another picture of the same gun on the bed. So how can you all be postively sure without a reasonable doubt that he was guilty? The federal government picked up Martez July 5,2011, which was 9 months after state charge him with possesion of marijuana for resale and unlawfull carrying a weapon on Oct 15, 2010. BUT, they decided to add on a "furtherance" charge to make him look worse. All 12 of the jurors should be ashame of themselves. Martez has no prior charges, and was going to cadas to help him with his addition to marijuana. He was getting help! I feel that you all never gave him a chance. Now he is stripped away from his 3 year old son whom he loves dearly.
This was a clear case of injustice.

brittany said...

John Smith you are very well out of line! As a juror you should have warned the judge of the sleepy jurors and demanded their vote not to count. Martez is not the person who Chris Poole (the prosecutor) made him out to be. He had no right to show pictures that were 3 years old to the juror. He was argueing irrelevant points and tried to win over the juror by telling them to use their common sense in deciding on the case. Common sense would have been asking why the guns were moved in three different pictures,common sense would have asked why would he have his gun on his bed while in the kitchen playing poker, but most of all common sense would have ask why wait 9 months after the bust to add on a furtherance charge. This is an outrage.Count two show have read NOT GUILTY. Now where are you all common sense? Maybe common sense is not that common!! Or were you all just trying to get the case over and done with,being that you all deliberated roughly 6 hours? Martez has no prior convictions, and loving father, and acting singer in his church choir. He was attending Cadas to get help for drug and alcohol and been testing negative since July. He was making a complete turn around from his mistake until you 12 jurors sent his life downhill for a 'furtherance' charge. You all are WRONG...wrong wrong wrong!

Anonymous said...

The jury was used in this case to convict an innocent a man 5 years for having his gun in a separate room from a .855 grams of weed located in another room, no drug deal was going on.three people testified on Martez behalf ,all stories added up,pictures TOLD the whole trial! Same black glock in kitchen, was than photographed on bed, odd,the defendant and other parties Present were detained so they didnt move the glock! CASEY ANTHONY WALKS AWAY FREE AND MITCHELL IS FACING TEN YEARS WITH NO PRIORS, LAWS ARE BACKWARDS.THE JURY DIDN'T CATCH ON WHEN AGENT SAID " HE ASSUMED MITCHEL MEANT HE WAS USING THE GUN TO PROTECT DRUGS DUE TO HWY 58 robbery rates" .. he stated that obviously the jury didn't see the truth. Instead they were blinded by man made twisted laws,they actually took 9 hours to come back with a guilty plea! And i too witnessed the only african American woman sleeping,just ashame,i just sat in didn't know the defence and i could tell that pictures we're off,i hope the best for mitchell,if he had a lawyer this would have been thrown out of court.

William L. Anderson said...

This is one more example of how the Drug War really has turned the concept of law on its head. Once upon a time, criminal law was based upon actual harm done by one person to another, or harm to the other person's legal property.

Today, federal criminal law is nothing more than a set of rules in which people like Al Gore and Obama and George W. Bush, all of whom used illegal drugs when they were younger, now say that use of drugs is bad and anyone caught with these substances should go to prison. All concept of harm is thrown out the window.

This man was convicted on a LEGAL TECHNICALITY, to use the words of people who don't like the Bill of Rights. Did he actually use the gun when supposedly committing this "crime"? No. Instead, jurors just took an unjust law and then claimed that they HAD to convict.

Why? Because Americans today think of themselves as a bunch of sheep who are supposed to obey their federal overlords. Don't question anything. Just obey.

Anonymous said...

Brittany he doesn't have an addiction to drugs he has an addiction to selling drugs. If he was a mere user he wouldn't need the gun for protection of his money and dope.

The drug trade is not a victimless crime. Most estimates put the deaths in Mexico at a minimum of 35,000 as a direct result of cartel fighting. If we do away with the laws in place now the US will be no better.

Mr. Smith you are correct in your findings from that trial and your post. Most of the people in America appreciate your decision and points of view. You however have to learn that no matter how hard you try you will never be able to change the narrow minds of the few who post here.

liberranter said...

Anon 9:27, you made the following statement:

[t]he drug trade is not a victimless crime. Most estimates put the deaths in Mexico at a minimum of 35,000 as a direct result of cartel fighting. If we do away with the laws in place now the US will be no better.

For you and every other slow learner out there, let me repeat:

The ONLY reason the conditions you state above exist and the ONLY reason that there have been victims is BECAUSE OF THE PROHIBITION OF (SOME) DRUGS, which shuts off avenues of legal recourse for dispute resolution that are prevalent in every other free market for "legal" (read: state-sanctioned) goods or services. If the producers and consumers of drugs that are currently out of favor with the Reigning Elite were allowed to buy and sell freely, as with any other freely traded good or service on the open market, THE VIOLENCE WOULD CEASE IMMEDIATELY and the criminal cartels everyone so demonizes would cease to exist, as the production and distribution of these out-of-favor drugs would become legal and mainstream, with prices and profits declining to the point that they would no longer entice the criminal element. In short, KEEPING DRUGS ILLEGAL IS WHAT CAUSES THE VIOLENCE TO CONTINUE AND ESCALATE.

Would problems still remain if these drugs were legalized? Of course. There would still be a market for addictive and potentially dangerous substances, but this always has been and always will be the case, regardless of the legality of the product. (At least a legal product could be manufactured safely, under a process of established quality control, and in doses that are not potentially lethal to consumers).

Fortunately for you and the rest of the Prohibitionist crowd, the Reigning Establishment isn't about to do the sensible thing and legalize these drugs. After all, the violence and destruction resulting from their policies simply justifies more power grabs on their part, allowing them to steal more money from you and destroy what few (probably unvalued) freedoms you still have.

Apologies to all for the bold letters. Sometimes that's the only way in print get people to sit up and take notice when you need to belabor the obvious.

Anonymous said...

Anon,Dec.22 9:27 pm. This is for you, you can hash it any way you want to, but these jurors did not do their job, When you have a prosecutor, that only wants to win guilty or Innocent, does not matter to them, Lie and withhold evidence, The jurors have a job, to listen and sort through ALL evidence, But they listen to the prosecutor and think, oh they could not be wrong, But if it was you are your love one, would you not want them to lay it all on the line, If you get a fair trial, and they find you guilty fine, but do not with hold evidence. And you can say with out a shadow of doubt he is guilty, But when they have the in gun in different places, they should have caught it.If they can lay down at night with a clear conscieous, And know they were not influenced by anyone or anything only evidence, Then all is well.

Anonymous said...

"The ONLY reason the conditions you state above exist and the ONLY reason that there have been victims is BECAUSE OF THE PROHIBITION OF (SOME) DRUGS". "Would problems still remain if these drugs were legalized? Of course". So why make a few legal, so you can partake in public.

"Violence and destruction resulting from their policies"; jail time is not the result of policies it is the result of poor personal choices. Personal choice to commit these acts is something you trolls choose to ignore.

Anonymous said...

"KEEPING DRUGS ILLEGAL IS WHAT CAUSES THE VIOLENCE TO CONTINUE AND ESCALATE", not a legitimate point. The cause of criminal violence is not drugs but criminals. To believe otherwise is to expect every drug dealer in America to give up and apply for a job at McDonald's or Wal Mart the day legalization occurs.

Rob said...

Anonymous at 10:22 PM on 12/23/11:

"So why make a few legal, so you can partake in public."

I, for one, don't understand your point here. Can you please clarify?

"jail time is not the result of policies it is the result of poor personal choices. Personal choice to commit these acts is something you trolls choose to ignore."

I, for one, am not intimidated by being called a "troll".

Now then, how is jail time not the result of policies? A person does not put himself in jail by committing what some consider to be a "crime" - he is put there by others. For someone harping on personal choice and responsibility, you fail to be consistent about it. Your view seems to be that those not in government are responsible for their actions, but those in government are not. Explain to me just how that follows logically.

Rob said...

Anonymous at 10:39 PM on 12/23/11:

"'KEEPING DRUGS ILLEGAL IS WHAT CAUSES THE VIOLENCE TO CONTINUE AND ESCALATE', not a legitimate point. The cause of criminal violence is not drugs but criminals. To believe otherwise is to expect every drug dealer in America to give up and apply for a job at McDonald's or Wal Mart the day legalization occurs."

If drug dealing were legal, would you still consider drug dealers to be "criminals"? Why or why not?

liberranter said...

Rob, I wouldn't waste any more of your precious time and energy trying to argue logically with Anonymous. He/she clearly doesn't grasp simple concepts of cause and effect.

"Speak not in the ears of a fool: for he will despise the wisdom of thy words." - Proverbs 23:9 (KJV)

William L. Anderson said...

It is interesting to read the comments of the drug prohibitionists, as the very same comments were made about repealing alcohol Prohibition. You might recall that Al Capone and other mafiosi got rich by the alcohol trade.

Does anyone today see drivers of beer trucks shooting at each other? No. It wasn't the alcohol, it was the prohibition.

Anonymous said...

Very well said Mr Anderson, Thanks for all you do, And Merry Christmas....

brittany said...

@ Anonymous let me clarify Martez had marijuana NOT dope.. how can you be so sure that he was protecting his marijuana?? This man had a family to care for and protect? He had that gun to protect his family from break ins. He had a gun license and the gun was in his home! He was not charged with making drug transactions while carrying a gun! That is a huge difference. Him being addicted to weed had nothing to do with the mere fact that his gun was in his home. So, you mean to tell me that having drugs in your home along with weed is a justifiable cause to come to the conclusion that he was protecting his weed with his gun??? Why couldn't he be protecting his tv's, games, or FAMILY?? The feds are dirty, they tried to justify their actions by tacking on that FURTHERANCE charge 9 months after state picked him up for unlawful carrying of a weapon. You clearly have no idea how the prosecutor had each and every one of you all fooled. As for John Smith, you didn't take into consideration of why Martez gun was moved in three different pictures. You have no credibility in what you are trying to say right now because your actions as a juror was unjust! Did any of you twelve trolls asked why this evidence was tampered with? Perhaps you are not familiar with tampering with the tampering with evidence laws, as you weren't with protection laws.

brittany said...

Might I add, the prosecutor assumed Martez was addicted to selling drugs. Did they ever arrest him for selling drugs, as a matter of fact, did they ever arrest him for selling drugs while having a gun??? NO. During trial the prosecutor stated that Martez sold approx. 30-50 pounds of marijuana, BUT how much money did they find when they arrested him. Roughly seven hundred right?? Correct me if I'm wrong but seven hundred dollars is NOT equivalent to selling 30-50 pounds of marijuana.I believe the street credit would be anywhere between $36,000-$60,000, be that as it may, IF they really had a case on Martez they would have got him when they said he sold all those pounds..700 dollars?? You have got to be kidding me!! Are the feds that desperate in work that they have to tack on unjust charges to get a guilty plea?