DRUG WAR STORIES

By Julian Heicklen

FADE Protest, Uniontown, PA, April 19, 2002

MMM, Philadelphia, PA, May 4, 2002

The war on drugs is immoral. It has destroyed the precious freedoms that Americans once held dear. Here are some examples.

1. Patrick Dorismond (Reported by Dan Sullivan)

Patrick Dorismond was a 26-year-old security guard and father of two when he and a friend stepped out of the Wakamba Bar on Manhattan's Eighth Avenue on March 16, 2000. Dorismond apparently felt insulted after a stranger asked him where he could find marijuana. A dispute reportedly erupted. When the would-be pot buyer yelled for help, one of his associates stepped forward and allegedly shot Dorismond fatally in the chest.

Of course, the supposed drug buyers really were undercover NYPD officers. Their effort to entrap an innocent, unarmed man in a narcotics sting operation caused his violent, untimely death. Dorismond was killed for saying no to drugs.

2. Mario Paz (Reported by Dan Sullivan)

Armed with a search warrant and overwhelming firepower, a SWAT team raided Paz's Compton, California home August 9, 1999. The police lethally shot the retired grandfather twice in the back, then interrogated his widow ­clad in a towel, panties and handcuffs ­ and four other residents of Paz's home. Officials neither found drugs on Paz's property, nor filed charges against his survivors. Mario Paz's fatal mistake was that he occasionally received mail for Marcos Beltran Lizarraga, a former neighbor suspected of drug dealing.

3. Charlene Lewis (Reported by herself)

Charlene Lewis of Hebron has a 16-year-old son who attends a Wicomico County school. In mid-May 2000 her son, along with one of his friends, was brought down to the office to be questioned concerning a drug issue. Her son and his locker were searched. In her son's locker was his friend's book bag. Both boys' bags were searched. Her son's book bag had nothing; his friend's had some Parmesan cheese in it. The officer told her son he "hit gold," and if her son would admit to doing other drug crimes he would drop the charges of suspicion of crack cocaine. Her son admitted to nothing His case was turned over to the Department of Juvenile Justice, he was suspended for five days and ordered to receive five weeks of drug counseling. Ms Lewis immediately had her son drug-tested through the health department. His test result was negative.

4. Cheryl Sanders (Reporter forgotten)

Cheryl Sanders of Long Beach, CA, was driving in Sulphur, LA, when she was stopped by police officers. They told her she had been speeding. Instead of giving Sanders a ticket, they handcuffed her and took her to a local jail, where she was made to disrobe and submit to a search. No drugs were found on her or in her car, nor did she have a criminal record. "You're free to go now," a policeman told Sanders. "But we're keeping your car." She hired an attorney to get her car back. She had to sell her car to pay her legal costs of $7000.

5. Joseph McNamara (Reported by himself)

During his 15 years as police chief of San Jose, Calif., Joseph McNamara felt the pressure firsthand. One day he saw a proposed budget that included no funds for police equipment. When McNamara questioned this, his boss, the city manager, replied half in jest, "You guys seized $4 million last year. I expect you to do better this year." With such perverse incentives in place, McNamara believes many of the nation's police agencies have become addicted to asset forfeiture, with serious consequences for our system of law. "When cops are put under pressure to produce revenue, bad things happen," he says.

6. Noel Lujan (Reporter forgotten)

Noel Lujan, who was given a sedative during labor, lost custody of her newborn son and other children for three months when the baby failed a drug test. Child welfare officials say they only learned later that the barbiturate found in Noel Lujan's son was prescribed by a doctor. In the meantime Lujan, 25, could not feed her child without supervision, and contends she lost her job because of absences to attend a required drug treatment program.

7. Sherry Hearn (Reported by Nat Hentoff)

Sherry Hearn was voted Teacher of the Year at Windsor Forest High School in Savannah, Ga., where she had taught social studies and constitutional law there for 27 years. As at many schools in the nation, Windsor Forest students are occasionally subject without warning to dragnet raids by the police, who herd the students into the hallways and use dogs to sniff the students, their purses and their book bags. Metal detectors are used to scan students' bodies. The students are locked into the building for two to three hours while the police perform the search.

Contrary to the specific words of the Fourth Amendment to the Bill of Rights, the searches are conducted without any particular information that any student has used or is using drugs. All of them are suspected of possessing drugs or weapons unless a police dog or metal detector exonerates them.

During one of these police sweeps on her school, a student asked her why she was so angry at the raid. "Because I believe in the Constitution," she said. A policeman overheard her, reported her to the principal, and said she should be watched during the next lockdown. At the next dragnet search, the police also searched the teachers' cars in the parking lot in violation of a school policy that teachers' cars could not be searched without the consent of their owners. Hearn was not asked for her consent.

A police dog found that morning half of a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette in an ashtray in her car. It was still warm. Sherry Hearn had been in the school the entire morning. That night, a caller on the county's Silent Witness line said that the cigarette had been planted in the car. He did not give his identity. The cigarette was never produced as evidence because, a police officer said, it had "crumbled" during the search and no residue was kept.

According to school policy, Hearn was told she had to take a drug test within two hours of being informed that an illegal substance had been found in her car. She had no record at all of previous drug use, and the principal, Linda Herman, later testified that the teacher had not exhibited on the day of the search, or on any other day, the characteristic behavior that would have given rise to a "reasonable suspicion" that the marijuana cigarette was hers.

On that day, however, Hearn was given her Miranda warnings and was ordered to take a urine test in two hours. She wanted to contact her lawyer before taking the test, but he was unavailable that day. Not having legal advice, she refused. The next day, having spoken to her attorney, she underwent a urinalysis, and it proved negative for marijuana or any other controlled substance. (The active ingredients in marijuana can be found in the body of a casual user for up to 30 days, and up to a year in the body of a chronic user.)

No criminal charges were ever filed against Sherry Hearn, but she was fired in the spring of 1996 for not having taken the urine test within the two hours set forth in the school's policy. She has had great difficulty getting a teaching job since losing her job, and has lost her appeals to the Georgia State Board of Education and in the lower federal courts.

Sherry Hearn's last chance to get back to teaching constitutional law to students rests with the United States Supreme Court.

8. Conclusion

We are engaged in a struggle for the soul of America. The issue is not marijuana. Marijuana is the messenger, not the message. The issue is whether we are going to live in freedom or under tyranny. I say choose freedom. The Lighted Marijuana weed is the torch of freedom.