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Search flaws lead to dismissal of Seneca pot cases

The ruling puts an end to a case against the leader of a Native American church branch, who sasy the marijuana is a sacrament used for healing.
Scotta Callister

Blue Mountain Eagle

Published on April 10, 2015 2:44PM

Last changed on April 14, 2015 2:34PM

CANYON CITY – Three controversial marijuana cases were dismissed last week after the Grant County Circuit Court judge tossed out evidence from a search last June in Seneca.

In his April 9 order, Judge William D. Cramer Jr. said the search was illegal because neither person on the property at the time had authority to grant consent.

The ruling brought an end to the state’s prosecution against Joy Maxine Graves, Raymond Martin, and a third man, Kenny Walters, who fled at the start of the case.

Attorneys for Graves and Martin successfully challenged the warrantless search. In a hearing earlier this month, they argued that Grant County Sheriff Glenn Palmer and a deputy didn’t get clear permission to enter the property for the search, and that they entered without knowing whether Martin and Walters had the authority let them in.

In a letter supporting his decision, Cramer said law enforcement video presented in the motion hearing did not show Martin consenting to the search.

“At one point, Sheriff Palmer engages him in conversation, asks if there is a gate, goes to the gate, opens it and steps through the gate onto the property,” Cramer wrote. “At this point, no permission to enter or search has been given.”

Cramer also addressed the issue of authority to consent, and he found the officers did not establish that authority before the search. He found that Palmer provided no basis for his conclusion that Walters and Martin were living on the property.

The judge said the crux of the issue came down to whether law enforcement must determine the person’s authority before entering the property, or if they can rely on facts established during or after the search. He said the case law that addresses that issue indicates it must be established first, or the basis for the search is insufficient.

In this case, Graves, the property owner, was not at the site at the time. Cramer held that the officers didn’t “sufficiently inquire and establish” whether the two men were living on the property and had authority.

Cramer wrote that interviews and statements suggest the officers had information to establish probable cause for a warrant, but “that cannot justify a warrantless search.”

“Relying on a third party’s consent should be approached with caution,” he said in closing.

In response to the decision, Deputy District Attorney Matt Ipson filed a motion to dismiss all three marijuana cases late Thursday, and Cramer issued that judgment the same day.

Ipson said that without the evidence from the search, there was no basis to continue the prosecution.

He also said he has no intention of appealing Cramer’s ruling on the search evidence.

“I understand and respect Judge Cramer’s ruling,” Ipson said. “It’s time to move on.”

Supporters of Graves called it a victory for the right to use cannabis for medicinal and health benefits. In an Internet post, Mindi Griffiths said that even as they awaited the official dismissal by the court, “celebrations have already begun.”

Robert Raschio, attorney for Martin, said his client is pleased to have the case end.

“Being charged with a crime for exercising his sincerely held religious beliefs was excruciating for him,” Raschio said. “The court made a decision applying the law around search and seizure, and protected all of our rights to be free of unwanted government intrusion unless a warrant is obtained first, as required by the Constitution.”

The case arose as the legal landscape for marijuana took a significant shift in Oregon, with voters last fall approving a measure to make recreational marijuana legal, expanding on an already robust medical marijuana program.

In this case, however, recreational use was not an issue. Defense attorneys contended the marijuana was a religious sacrament, and Graves testified early on that she is the leader of a branch of a Native American church that uses cannabis in healing rites.


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