Monday, a young woman named Casey Anthony was freed from a jail cell. She was the subject of the most controversial homicide trial since O.J. Simpson was accused of murdering his ex-wife Nicole Brown. TV talking heads dissected the case day and night: Caylee Anthony, a toddler, was last seen on June 16, 2008, and wasn’t reported missing until a month later. The child’s remains were found that December.
Casey was charged with killing her daughter and the death penalty was sought. During the trial, we learned Casey had searched “chloroform” on the internet and there was chloroform found in Casey’s car trunk, where experts also detected the chemical signs of human decomposition. Similar bags and duct tape from the crime scene were found in Casey’s possession. Casey was caught in lies about a nanny who’d supposedly been taking care of Caylee during her disappearance and multiple lies about another babysitter, about working at and reporting the disappearance of Caylee to employees at Universal Studios, and about speaking to Caylee by telephone on the day she was reported missing.
A majority of Americans found the defense’s explanations unconvincing. The idea that a mother would react as she did, that a child could go missing a month without report, that all the circumstantial evidence was mere coincidence, and that all the lies the mother told were just panic, not premeditation, was too much to accept. However, twelve Americans on a jury were convinced, finding Casey Anthony not guilty on all of the homicide charges. She was convicted of four counts of lying to police, but her time served awaiting trial fulfilled that sentence and she walked out of jail a free woman this week.
It’s a good thing Casey Anthony wasn’t caught growing or selling marijuana or she’d still be in prison today.
Dr. Mollie Fry is another mother, though her children are grown and have their own children. She and her husband, attorney Dale Schafer, were convicted in a federal court of growing medical marijuana in California. Fry & Schafer had worked with local law enforcement in their small town of Cool to ensure they were legitimate medical marijuana providers in accordance with state law. Fry is a breast cancer survivor and Schafer suffers chronic pain from hemophilia; both use cannabis medically under state law and dedicated their time and expertise to organize and help other legal patients acquire their medicine. By all accounts, Fry & Schafer were the model of legitimate medical practice the people of California approved of with Prop 215 in 1996.
The federal government didn’t agree, as it steadfastly maintains that cannabis has no accepted medical use in America and anyone who grows it is a felon deserving of prison. In 2001 the DEA raided their property and seized 34 pot plants. Both were stripped of their professional licenses, unable to provide for themselves and their family. However, no prosecutions came until after the 2005 Raich Supreme Court decision that gave the feds the green light to prosecute medical marijuana cases.
During the trial, the key prosecution witness was an informant who got almost four years knocked off his prison term for cooperating, an informant who had a lengthy criminal record and was, ironically, serving time for cultivation of about 900 marijuana plants. Another prosecution witness (an informant with a robbery record) testified to buying cannabis from Dr. Fry and her daughter on a day when the pair had an iron-clad alibi: Dr. Fry was by her daughter’s side at the hospital following the birth of her newest grandchild.
While Casey Anthony was convicted of lying to police to avoid prison, police and prosecution lied to put Fry & Schafer in prison. The county sheriff who had been telling Fry & Schafer their medical marijuana grow was perfectly legal under state law was actually working with DEA to entrap them. He had counted the plants from 1999 and 2000 on Fry & Schafer’s invitation and the prosecution added those to the 34 seized in the 2001 raid to make a count of plants greater than 100, in order to trip the federal mandatory minimum sentence of five years in prison.
In Casey Anthony’s trial, her defense was allowed to enter all manner of theories to explain Caylee’s death. Caylee accidentally drowned in the pool, they explained. Casey was a sexual abuse survivor and her abuser was coercing her to keep the child’s death a secret. Any theory was open for exploration.
However, in the case of Fry & Schafer, they were forbidden from offering their compliance with the state’s medical marijuana law as a defense. The assurances by local law enforcement that they were in compliance with the law could not be uttered. They could not even mention their own medical conditions that led to their own personal use of cannabis as medicine. The only question to the jury was whether these grandparents, a doctor and a lawyer, were criminals who manufactured drugs, and the only possible answer was “yes”.
Casey Anthony walks free today. Dr. Mollie Fry is two months into a five year federal prison sentence, she and her husband bankrupted from court costs, lawyer fees, and appeals. Upon release in 2016, they’ll be approaching age 60 with a felony record and forbidden to work in the professions they’ve worked all their lives. (For more information on the Dr. Fry case and to make a donation or purchase a t-shirt to help support the family, please visit FreeDocFry.com) Caylee Anthony is dead, her killer unpunished, while two fifty-something grandparents are punished for following a state law in order to help severely ill people.
Another young mother, Patricia Spottedcrow, lives in Oklahoma. She has four children, aged 9, 4, 3, and 1, none of which have ever gone missing or turned up dead. By all accounts, Spottedcrow is a caring mother. Nevertheless, she was between jobs when she sold two small bags of marijuana – one for $20 and another for $11 – to an undercover informant. She is now behind bars, serving a decade in prison without her children while Casey Anthony walks free from prison without her child.
Patricia and Mollie are just a couple of the mothers I’ve profiled on this blog who’ve seen their families broken apart while they serve prison sentences for selling cannabis to other adults who willingly purchase it. Whether it was ounces provided under state law for medical purposes or grams sold illegally under state law for personal purposes, these two women will spend more time in prison than Casey Anthony did for four convictions of lying to police during an investigation of her disappeared and murdered child.
I guess those of you who feel that little Caylee Anthony deserved some justice should have hoped they had found cannabis and not chloroform in her car’s trunk.
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