Sunday, April 09, 2006

12,000 view web debate over Berkshire DA's prosecution of "school-zone" marijuana offenders

At a debate has emerged online over tactics used by Berkshire County District Attorney David F. Capeless in prosecuting first-time offenders accused of selling small amounts of marijuana. Scribbyworld is a journal of reportage, ideas, commentary and images created and moderated by Berkshire journalist (and former Berkshire Eagle editor) David Scribner. Two weeks ago, he posted a column, “Fanatical prosecutor pursues a personal vendetta,” recounting the arrest and conviction of 18-year-old Mitchell Lawrence of Otis, a Monument Mountain Regional High School student who, in the summer of 2004, sold a very small amount of pot to an undercover agent during a four-month sting operation in Great Barrington. In his trial last month, he was found guilty. Because he was charged with “dealing” drugs within a school zone, he was immediately sent to prison for two years under the minimum mandatory sentencing requirements of the school-zone law. Despite appeals from a grassroots organization, Concerned Citizens for Appropriate Justice, the district attorney had not to modified his policy of imposing minimum mandatory sentences on all school-zone drug offenses, regardless of circumstances. Opponents of his stance say it raises questions about the effectiveness of school zone laws and the fairness of minimum mandatory sentences. Aapparently, these issues struck a nerve. So far, says Scribner, more than 12,000 viewers have sought out the column, and 40 respondents have posted their comments. (EARLIER POST)


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