Thursday, May 2, 2013

Marijuana possession an issue at Ft. Hood contest

Moot competition pits high school students

Ft. Hood – Apprehended by state authorities for possession of a small amount of marijuana - less than two grams - Juan Garcia entered a guilty plea in state court, and languished behind bars for 7 months on an immigration detainer.

He petitioned the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for his release on a writ of habeas corpus, but the government appealed the decision to the U.S. Supreme Court because of concerns for the safety of the public.

Mr. Garcia did not receive any renumeration for the controlled substance, therefore, his attorneys argued, he deserves to be set free while the U.S. Immigration Court decides his fate.

The weighty issue involved less than 2 grams of marijuana. High School students participating in the final round of the Law Day Moot Court Contest sponsored by the III Corps Judge Advocate General's Office at Ft. Hood argued the case before a panel of judges representing the high court – Coryell County District Attorney Dusty Boyd, Bell County District Attorney Henry Garza, U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Manske, Assistant District Attorney Anne Jackson and 264th State District Court Judge Martha Trudo.

As the argument unfolded, the judges asked provocative questions involving why the issue belonged before the nation's highest court, if it didn't really involve ineffectivity of counsel, or why a 6-month limit on a detainer involving a minor misdemeanor case should be observed in any case, as dictated by precedent in a previous holding.

Why should the government seek to keep Mr. Garcia behind bars?

The answer: Immigrants who arrived in the Mariel boat lift were released from immigration detainers following 6 months behind bars, and they soon presented a threat to the communities of South Florida.

The respondents argued that their client, Mr. Garcia, had been an illegal resident of the U.S. for many years, since he arrived in America at 8 years of age.

Is Juan Garcia a flight risk? No.

Why? His mother is elderly, in poor health, an invalid. What about the government's opinion? He might likely flee into a large city, where it would be difficult for ICE agents to apprehend him.

Why didn't Mr. Garcia defend himself against the charge of marijuana possession? Because it was the burden of the state to prove his culpability. It's a matter of the law - the due process clause of the Fifth Amendment.

He did not contest the charge; therefore, he removed any need for the state to prove its case against him, his advocates argued. 

In each case, the students quoted real case law they briefed for the appeal as advocates for either the petitioners, The People of the United States of American, or the respondent, Juan Garcia.

When the Court handed down its judgment, the students from Copperas Cove, who represented the government, had won. Mr. Garcia would remain in jail until his immigration case reached a final resolution.

Said Colonel Stuart Riesch, commanding officer of the III Corps Judge Advocate General's Office, “It's the second year we've done this, and we've had a fantastic response. Local attorneys want to get involved as mentors, tutors, coaches – on many levels and for all the right reasons.”

Law Day, May 1, was first proclaimed by President Dwight D. Eisenhower in honor of the rule of law and its importance in the lives of all Americans.

Click here to listen to an edited audio recording of the arguments presented by the students:

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