Dave Herrick Denied 215 Defense, Supporters Rally at Courthouse
Carrying signs and chanting, a group of about thirty medical cannabis supporters showed up for a rally at the Orange County Central Courthouse in Santa Ana on Thursday morning, May 7. Their signs read, "Arrest the pain, not the patient," "Don't let me die in jail," "Honor Proposition 215," "Patients are not criminals," and "Free Marvin and Dave."
Marvin Chavez and Dave Herrick were both in court on Thursday on charges related to their volunteer work with the Orange County Patient / Doctor / Nurse Support Group.
Both Chavez and Herrick are being charged by DA Carl Armbrust with "selling" cannabis. The cannabis was always given for free to patients with confirmed doctor recommendations, and they only asked for a $20 donation to help keep the co-op running. Patients received their medicine whether they made a donation or not.
Chavez has been in jail for the past month. He suffers from Ankylosing Spondylitis, a painful degenerative spinal condition, and has been denied his back brace and any pain medication in jail. Herrick, a former police officer, has been in jail for a year. He suffers from chronic back pain due to a dislocated disc, and has been allowed only four Tylenol a week. Another volunteer, Jack Shacter, who has painful detached retinas, is facing similar charges in Westminster court. He is out on bail and was at the rally.
Supporters packed Judge Charles Margines' courtroom for Marvin Chavez's case, spilling into the hallway when the seats were filled. Judge Margines continued his case, which is still in the preliminary phase, until May 22, after defense attorneys Jon Alexander and Robert Kennedy were informed that new evidence will be submitted by the prosecution.
Outside the courtroom, Alexander and Kennedy, who are working pro bono, told supporters the DA was charging almost $200 for copies of the new evidence. Those gathered instantly offered whatever each could afford, and managed to raise the evidence fee.
Supporters then made their way up to Judge William Froeberg's courtroom for Dave Herrick's hearing. Judge Froeberg made supporters take off all of their pro-medical cannabis buttons in the courtroom and the hallway, and crutches and canes were confiscated by bailiffs because they could possibly be used as weapons by the sick and disabled people observing the trial.
District Attorney Carl Armbrust made unsubstantiated statements such as, "marijuana causes cancer," and he tried to quote the rebuttal to the argument against Proposition 215 from the 1996 Voter Guide as if it were law.
Gasps were heard throughout the courtroom when Judge Froeberg denied Herrick a Proposition 215 or medical necessity defense, and sarcastically asked Public Defender Sharon Petrosino, "Does he think he's Mother Theresa?"
Froeberg said giving away medical cannabis to sick patients to help prolong and increase the quality of their lives was not averting a greater evil, even though one of the key witnesses, a cancer patient, rapidly deteriorated and died after cannabis provided by the co-op was no longer available. Petrosino said she has no witnesses to call after being denied any medical defense, and can only use the prosecution's witnesses in the case. Jury selection began Thursday afternoon. The trial begins Monday, May 11, and is expected to be over by the end of next week.
The Orange County Central Courthouse is located at 700 Civic Center Drive West, in Santa Ana. Dave's trial is in Division 36, 10th floor. Marvin's is in Division 313, 3rd floor, on May 22.
Jack Shacter's next hearing is on May 26 at the West Orange County Municipal Courthouse, located at 8141 - 13th St., Division 17, in Westminster.
All cases are at 8:30 am. We would like as many people as possible to be present in court for support.