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Pot Case Ends in Mistrial

Defendant claimed medical necessity
By Darrell Glover
Seattle Post Intelligencer, January 3, 1997

A mistrial was declared yesterday after a majority of King County Superior Court jurors voted to acquit a Seattle man who said he grew and used marijuana as a medical necessity to alleviate his pain from a motorcycle accident.

The 8-4 deadlock came at a time when the federal government is threatening to crack down on physicians and others in Arizona and California who prescribe marijuana for medical uses.

In Seattle all seven women and one man on the jury agreed with the medical necessity defense, while four men voted to convict Martin Martinez of growing marijuana. State law allows medical necessity as a defense.

When the jury announced it was deadlocked, Judge John Durrah declared a mistrial. Prosecutors said they did not know if they would retry Martinez. Martinez was charged with one count each of manufacturing marijuana after police found a growing operation in his home in February.

Martinez said, "I'm very proud and glad to be part of this movement." (to legalize marijuana for medicinal purposes). "Seventy five percent of the people are in favor of the use of marijuana and that goes along with the 8-4 vote."

Martinez testified that he used marijuana to alleviate pain in his eyes and head and to help him speak, drink, eat, and breathe more easily. He suffered head and internal injuries when his motorcycle was struck head-on in September 1986. He spent nearly three months in the hospital and underwent 11 operations.

Martinez said painkilling drugs didn't do as much to alleviate his pain and relax his muscles as marijuana did.

Allison Chinn, Martinez's attorney, said she was happy with the hung jury. "My gut instinct is the prosecutor won't retry it," Chinn said.

Don Donohoe, spokesman for the King County prosecutor's office, said the case is being reviewed and a decision would be made later on whether to retry Martinez.

After listening to three days of testimony, a day and a half in deliberations the jury reached its verdict on Buckey and declared itself deadlocked on Martinez. Carrie Balkema, jury forewoman, said the defense effectively showed that Martinez's use of marijuana was a medical necessity. She said the jury worked hard and "honestly approached" the issue before becoming deadlocked. I'm frustrated we couldn't reach a verdict, said Barbara Benning, one of the jurors. Benning, of Bellevue, said none of the men who rejected the medical necessity defense would budge. He (Martinez) wasn't selling it, Benning said, "He was using it for his own pain and suffering. What's wrong with that? Sam Agresta, one of the jurors who rejected Martinez's medical necessity argument, said defense attorneys did not offer enough proof that the defendant actually needed marijuana to cope with pain. "He could have tried other things" (legal drugs), Argresta said. "He hasn't tried anything else the past few years. We didn't know what kind of pain he has," Argresta added, "I believe he has pain but I don't know how much."
"With a few of us, our beliefs were that somebody was doing something against the law," Argresta said, "On the other hand, we're supposed to give leniency."

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