Dispatches from the Creation Wars

An Outrageous Conviction

Balko has the story at the Reason blog:

Tampa’s Mark O’Hara was released from prison this week. He was serving a 25-year sentence for possession of 58 Vicodin tablets. Prosecutors acknowledge he wasn’t selling the drug. They acknowledge that he had a prescription for it. At his trial, two doctors testified they’d been treating O’Hara since the early 1990s for pain related to gout and an automobile accident.

But prosecutors inexplicably brought drug trafficking charges anyway, because as the article explains, “Under the law, simply possessing the quantity of pills he had constitutes trafficking.”

It gets worse:

Prosecutors then argued–and the trial court agreed–that the jury was not allowed to consider the fact that O’Hara had a prescription because Florida statutes governing painkillers don’t allow for a “prescription defense,” as if that rather crucial fact were some mere technicality those ACLU-types are always using to get criminals off the hook.

This is absolutely stunning. How in the world could a judge – any judge – possibly make such a ruling? If it’s legal to prescribe that many pills and he has a prescription for that many pills, by no possible stretch of even the most authoritarian imagination could that not matter in a drug trafficking case. And on top of that, 25 freaking years! Unbelievable.

My brother, who is in constant pain after 12 major operations (8 on his knees, 3 on his back), has a prescription for 90 vicodin sitting in his medicine cabinet right now. Under this tortured reasoning, he’s a drug trafficker. The appellate court threw out this verdict, as they should, but apparently the prosecutors are actually thinking about trying him again. Just stunning.