09/22/13 Pat McCann

Atty Pat McCann, former director of Harris Co. Crim Lawyers Assoc re long term consequences of drug busts + Doug McVay report on FBI drug arrest numbers & Maria Sheler re CPS kidnapping of her 6 mo old baby Bree

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, September 22, 2013
Guest: 
Pat McCann
Organization: 
Attorney
Share

Comments

Transcript

Cultural Baggage / September 22, 2013

-----------------------

[music]

DEAN BECKER: Broadcasting on the Drug Truth Network, this is Cultural Baggage.

“It’s not only inhumane, it is really fundamentally Un-American.”

“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”
“No more! Drug War!” “No more! Drug War!”

DEAN BECKER: My Name is Dean Becker. I don’t condone or encourage the use of any drugs, legal or illegal. I report the unvarnished truth about the pharmaceutical, banking, prison and judicial nightmare that feeds on Eternal Drug War.

-----------------------

DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. We have our guest in studio, Mr. Pat McCann, former head of the Houston Criminal Lawyers Association as well as the Fort Bend Lawyers Association. He’s in studio.

He wants to talk about the long term implications of all these drug arrests that we’re doing in Texas and especially in Houston. With that I want to welcome Pat. How are you doing?

PAT McCANN: Doing great. Thanks for having me on the show.

DEAN BECKER: Ironically the situation as of a couple days ago the New York Times came out with and OPED much in the same regard and just today the Dallas Morning News as well as the Houston Chronicle broached this arena as well. Your thoughts on that? It’s started to move across the country.

PAT McCANN: I think that certainly on the federal side the realization that drugs are punished out of perhaps proportion to the crime that’s been a long journey trying to get past the racial disparity in sentencing between crack and powder cocaine guidelines. Attorney General Holder’s recent discussion about the draconian penalties especially for federal law for relatively minor crimes I’m hoping is going to have an impact on the national debate. Mostly because while certainly people can have different opinions on this the minor drug crimes that tend to flood our prison and jails can be treated in a different manner than they are now.

I think that makes better sense for everybody to bring it home. The Chronicle actually addressed this and pointed out that many, many people who cannot afford bond many of them are in for minor drug crimes are winding up with pleas and permanent marks on their record because they cannot afford the 30, 60 and 90 day stints that they are having to do while they are awaiting trial.

DEAN BECKER: The heck of it is we have a bill that was passed here in Texas (I think it was 2391) which said it’s no longer necessary to arrest or jail anybody for under 4 ounces of marijuana and also under check writing, graffiti and all kinds of other minor charges and yet ...I talked to the last 3 district attorneys here and they all told me it just creates too much paperwork but that seems like a bogus notion. Your thought?

PAT McCANN: I can tell you that there is nothing that creates more paperwork than trying to book someone into a jail, do a health and mental status inventory and then having to check them back out again. If that’s the reason that they are saying that that’s a problem then I would think they may be getting inaccurate data.

I think the real problem here is you have a cultural problem with law enforcement in that the willingness to write a ticket is not there. The need for stats such as arrests that they base their promotions and their grants on are there.

DEAN BECKER: I look at it like it’s a means whereby...and, again, I keep hearing that it’s all about the money. I don’t quite understand it but I’ve been told that for every prisoner they have they get money from the state and it helps to just stock the larder, if you will, for them. Your thought there, sir?

PAT McCANN: I think in terms of private prisons that’s probably true but the county taxpayer doesn’t want that. Putting more people in jail is actually a burden on Harris County taxpayer. It would certainly be more sensible to write tickets for most of the minor crimes. It would also save us the cost of litigation because the federal government and the Justice Department actually brought a lawsuit against the jail a few years back and thankfully Sheriff Garcia has largely worked out those overcrowding and civil rights problems. Those were largely brought about by a whole host of policies including failure to give bonds and arresting people for minor drug crimes.

DEAN BECKER: Which brings to mind another area that sticks in my crawl and that is the way I understand it in Austin, Travis County, people are granted PR bonds up in the 90% range whereas in Houston, Harris County, it’s more like 5%. I’ve heard that one of the reasonings behind that is that judges are elected here in Texas and their number one contributors are bail bondsmen and that’s why we don’t get the PR bonds. Your thoughts there, Pat McCann?

PAT McCANN: I think it’s a little more complicated than that. I think the elections are certainly a factor. I think if you are looking at PR bonds...where PR bonds are most useful are for non-violent felonies such as a drug possession case and misdemeanors where, again, there is no issue, for instance, domestic violence. Where there is a safety issue and a flight issue judges have legitimate concerns but overwhelmingly the surrounding counties use PR bonds at a higher rate than Harris County.

We talked about this in 2007, in 2008. In 2009 the Chronicle ran another series on it and they just ran another. This is fundamentally a problem with judges’ attitude about willingness to consider PR bonds. The misdemeanor county court judges granted about 10 to 12% of the time. In fairness the misdemeanor bonds are low enough that most working people can afford the bond.

The felonies, to try and be fair on this, there are repeat offenders and people who have histories of problems that the judges may validly consider but given the many thousands of folks that are sitting in jail even a reasonable uptick on the felony side for non-violent crimes and a greater use of it on the misdemeanor side would do a tremendous amount to alleviate jail overcrowding.

DEAN BECKER: I want to share with you. Last week I had a guest, a young lady, 21-years-old, who got caught with one gram of marijuana. She got arrested, taken to jail, held in jail. They wouldn’t grant her a PR bond. Sadly, she’s like most youngsters, she doesn’t know anybody’s phone numbers because they were in her cell phone so she couldn’t call anybody to bail out.

Eventually they came to her and said, “If you’ll admit you’re guilty we’ll let you go.”

She had to get out. Her dogs were starving – had no food or water and had been there for days – so she took the guilty plea. She got 7 months probation. She’s now required to go to some facility 3 times a week and admit she’s addicted to marijuana, pee in a bottle. In October she’s got to go to trial again for the pipe that they found with that one gram of cannabis. Your reaction there, Pat McCann.

PAT McCANN: This is part of why I wanted to talk tonight. One of the reasons that we have such a difficult time here in Texas with keeping folks in the taxpayer pool and keeping them in school and keeping them on productive job training is because they have permanent records for relatively minor things. One of the downfalls of minor probations or deferred adjudications is that people think that it can get off their records and it really doesn’t.

You can seal a deferred if the judge grants it. It’s discretionary. You can’t get rid of a probation period. The nondisclosure order which is what most people call sealing but legally it’s called nondisclosure order under the code actually takes a good deal of time to issue. You have to complete the term of community supervision first. All during that time you’ve got a pending case and a pending probation where no one’s is hiring you, no one is letting you rent, no one is allowing you to enlist and, for those of you who are unaware, drug problems prevent you from getting student loans to get your education.

DEAN BECKER: In certain circumstances prevent you from getting a professional license and on down the line to complicate life.

PAT McCANN: The collateral consequences of even minor cases (for instance, shoplifting or theft) are almost counterintuitive to most people. For instance everything in this state appears to have a licensing agency. Ironically for a state that is not that heavy on regulations even barber shops have to get a license. If you have a crime of moral turpitude such as a forgery or theft which can happen from a check or shoplifting case or you have a drug case it can result from you being denied licenses for all kinds of things from child care to nursing to EMTs to other things.

DEAN BECKER: I’ll tell you what, Pat, I wasn’t planning on doing this. Let’s see if I can make it happen. There is a...nope...I’ll have to check it out here in a little bit.

We have, in Texas, kind of lost our lead in so far as our incarceration rate. It now belongs to Louisiana pretty exclusively. What I was wanting to say is the national press is starting to talk about Texas as having made significant progress. We haven’t spent 1 billion dollars building more prisons – that kind of thing. Are we really that progressive?

PAT McCANN: If you’re comparing us to Louisiana and Mississippi – sure. If you’re comparing us to the rest of the country – no. There’s a tremendous amount of ground to cover still. I don’t want to minimize the fact that some positive changes have happened. Parole for non-violent offenders is getting better but the entire attitude of the system from incarceration to imprisonment has been no second chance, lock ‘em up and take away the things within both the state jails and the prison systems that would encourage drug treatment. Getting people off their addiction to either booze or some form of narcotic and giving them the mental health treatment they need to come back out and be productive in society.

You’re talking right now about 156,000 people in the Texas prison system and hundreds of thousands more on some form of community supervision. Those people now have permanent records and what you’ve done is not only not solved the problem for a large number of them...I’m not talking about the folks here who are such a danger that they needed to be moved away from the rest of us. I’m talking about the folks here who’s worst offense was essentially having a chemical problem or being caught with a substance such as marijuana that may not create dependency but is still considered illegal and is generally, as things go, not as harmful as cocaine or some would argue even booze.

DEAN BECKER: Right. I think that’s the fly in the ointment. We have this situation where we demonize people for the use of these select few products that have the potential to create great harm and yet we do have alcohol available in every store you drive by here in these United States. Statistically it is a big, big problem and we kind of ignore it. Your thought, Pat?

PAT McCANN: I think we are getting to a place where hopefully the folks who are fiscal conservatives and the folks who are social libertarians and the folks who are pro-family all can find common ground and this is that common ground. It makes no sense to take a young person and deny them the ability to be productive in society, to have a family and to contribute to the tax base by giving them a permanent record that prevents them from either having a second chance, getting treatment or being productive and being a proud member of society.

That’s where everybody can find common ground and most of that tends to be in minor and non-violent crimes and particularly minor drug crimes.

DEAN BECKER: Coming back to those editorials and opinion pieces in the papers. They talked about Eric Holder now saying that he wants to instruct his U.S. prosecutors (whatever they are called) to back up a bit, to reduce the level of ...to not prosecute on the full amount of drugs involved but to lower it as far as possible so that people will receive lesser sentences. This seems like a common sense approach to me. These people caught with a kilo are not drug kingpins necessarily. They’re just kind of middle men along the way and don’t necessarily need to be sentenced like they were cartel leaders or something. Your thought there? We’ve demonized too many people with very little evidence. Your thought?

PAT McCANN: I think that’s fair. I think the problem with the entire federal bureaucracy is there’s never been a top level official who has been willing to sit there and say we’ve gone too far until now. It is actually against the common practice of how drug investigations and drug prosecutions work on the federal side. You get the mules to roll on the middle men and then give them some benefit. If you don’t then you hammer them. If you get the middle men to roll on the larger people and if they don’t you hammer them with some large draconian sentence.

Leverage has been there for them. This will require a fundamental shift in their view and attitude.

DEAN BECKER: I think I figured out my glitch here. Let’s see if we can get this to play and get your response to it here in a minute.

-----------------------

DEAN BECKER: The following report produced by Doug McVay of Drug War Facts.

-----------------------

DOUG McVAY: The word for the day: Priorities.

The FBI recently released its Uniform Crime Report for 2012. They estimate that of the total 12,196,959 criminal arrests in the US that year, 1,552,432 were for drug violations. They further report that 82.2% of those, or 1,276,099 drug arrests, were for possession.

Taking an extremely conservative estimate of a couple of hours of police time per arrest, that means that more than 2.55 million hours of police time were wasted busting drug users in 2012.

Now consider this set of numbers. According to the FBI's new UCR, quote: "In the nation in 2012, 46.8 percent of violent crimes and 19.0 percent of property crimes were cleared by arrest or exceptional means." End quote.

In other words, law enforcement is unable to find anyone on whom to pin the blame for more than half of all violent crimes and more than 80% of all property crimes. Keep that thought in mind, then think about those 2.55+ million hours of police time spent processing drug users for the crime of using drugs, and ask yourself the question: Are these the priorities you want for law enforcement?

Here are the FBI's numbers regarding marijuana in 2012:

Marijuana arrests totaled 749,825 in 2012, down slightly from 2011's total of 757,969.

Marijuana possession accounted for 658,231 arrests - again slightly down from the 2011 total of 663,032.

Thing is, just looking at arrest figures from year to year doesn't tell you much. Examining data from several years can give us an idea of trends, see how things have changed over time.

For example, in 2001, we had 1,586,902 criminal drug arrests out of a total 13,699,254 arrests. Of the drug arrests. 19.4 percent were for sale or manufacture, while the remaining 80.6% were for possession. In 2012, as I noted earlier, the 1,552,432 criminal drug arrests were 17.8 percent sale or manufacture and the remaining 82.2 percent were for possession. Back in 2001, 9.7 percent of all drug arrests were for sale or manufacturing of heroin, cocaine, or their derivatives and 40.4 percent were for simple possession of marijuana. In 2012, only 6.1 percent of all drug arrests were for sale or manufacturing of heroin, cocaine, or their derivatives, and 42.4 percent were for simple possession of marijuana.

Again: Are these the priorities that we the people want for our law enforcement?

Knowledge is power. Get the facts.

For the Drug Truth Network, this is Doug McVay with Common Sense for Drug Policy and Drug War Facts.

-----------------------

DEAN BECKER: There was a lot of information there. I don’t think anybody could absorb all that at once but what I take from it is that we are squandering millions of law enforcement officers’ man time that they could be going after violent criminals, that they could be keeping us safer. Your thoughts there, Pat McCann?

PAT McCANN: I think there is a lot of that. I think there is also a (and not to go against the grain on this) but there is some counterargument, for instance, that if they are stopping people who may be driving impaired or some other thing that they are helping the public order.

If you could break down some of that I think you would have a clearer thing but assuming that half of those arrests are simple...you know, people who are not in charge of any piece of large machinery at that moment – then, yeah, I think it represents a significant bunch of hours that could be better spent.

DEAN BECKER: Well, Pat, we’ve got a couple minutes left. What am I leaving out? What did you want to bring to the show today?

PAT McCANN: One of the things I was hoping to bring up today and to reach out to your listeners with is the fact that the long term consequences of any drug arrest are something that I’m hoping in the next legislative session we can address in this way. In Texas...historically this place was founded on people coming here to get a second chance and start over. Jim Buoy did that. A whole host of Texas legends did that.

Those people couldn’t get a break today if they were coming here with any kind of criminal conviction. My goal here is to try to get some awareness of the fact that even a minor probation, for instance, can prevent you from becoming a teacher, can prevent you from becoming an insurance salesman, a police officer, a fireman, a nurse, a paramedic – anything that you think would be useful and contribute to society can be affected by these things.

So not only on the front end do we need to sit there and see perhaps some different policies towards enforcement such as pre-trial diversion but on the back end much, much more opportunities to get one’s record cleared – genuinely cleared of minor arrests and minor cases down the road - genuine applications for pardons available, genuine deferreds being sealed, genuine applications for expungement and juvenile sealing.

DEAN BECKER: I appreciate you coming in here. I wanted to alert the audience that this coming Sunday (he sent me an email this morning) hopefully joining us next week will be Mr. Grover Norquist which I think he’s already begun to speak up just like our Attorney General and many others with those big dog hats on are beginning to speak of that need for change.

30 seconds left...is there a website or something you’d like to close with?

PAT McCANN: There isn’t a website. What I’m hoping to do is sit there and get people motivated for the next legislative session and have genuine reform on second chances in Texas particularly those who have had a minor drug conviction. I hope to come back with you with some place for them to go and get a hold of their legislators.

I want to thank you for giving me a chance to speak on that and I hope all your listeners will sit there and write their state senators and state legislators about this issue.

DEAN BECKER: Once again, friends, we’ve had Pat McCann, former head of the Houston Criminal Lawyers Association. Thank you very much, Pat.

PAT McCANN: Thank you.

-----------------------

(Game show music)

DEAN BECKER: It’s time to play: Name That Drug by Its Side Effects.

Ventricular fibrillation, vasoconstriction, inhibition of the pump, increased concentration of calcium in sarcoplasm of cardiac cell, a positive inotropic effect that is caused by digitalis…

{{{ gong }}}

Time’s up!

The answer MEODMT, piedra, lovestone, Jamaican stone or chinese rock from Bufo alvarius, skin of the toad. The doctors say the safest and surest way is not to eat it or lick it and sure as hell not to smoke it, but simply to sniff it. Otherwise, you could wind up dead.

-----------------------

MARIA GREEN: My name is Maria Green and I’m the mom of Baby Bree who was taken from my custody last week on Friday because I am a state medical marijuana patient and caregiver in Michigan.

DEAN BECKER: Maria, tell us how this situation developed. Why did the authorities get involved?

MARIA GREEN: The CPS got involved because my ex-husband actually figured that this would make my life hard. He has known actually that I was a patient and caregiver for a couple of years now and never had a problem with it. In fact he offered to sell it for me.

One day he just decided to make a stink about this and he called CPS and told them that I was growing in the home and using marijuana around the children. It’s been a downward spiral ever since then.

DEAN BECKER: What has happened in the last few days?

MARIA GREEN: Last week the referee first made the determination for CPS to remove my baby girl who is almost 7-months now. We filed a review for that and a judge decided to hear that review yesterday. Even the judge didn’t want to uphold the law of Michigan to allow to return my baby to me. He ordered to keep my baby out of the home and we’re going to have to go through a trial to talk about the custody and whether or not there should be a more permanent arrangement or not.

DEAN BECKER: I heard some stories circulating that one of the main reasons, the rationale that they took Bree was that the value of the cannabis might entice robbers into the house and therefor endangering your daughter. Your thought there, please.

MARIA GREEN: That’s right. When we were in court last Friday (the day that the determination) was made we provided evidence that my husband and I are not even using cannabis right now. In the end the referee made a nice little speech, a good 5 or 10 minute speech about how having cannabis plants in your home makes it a target for armed gunmen to break in and steal and those people don’t care whether there is children in the home and that’s what caused the eminent danger which he rationalized as the reason to remove any children from the home.

My thoughts on that are really that if that’s the reasoning behind this then anybody can become a target of this. Everybody has some reason that their home might be targeted for breaking and entering whether it’s money or jewelry or electronics or they live in the ghetto or they live in a nicer home. There is so many different factors to this and it leaves nobody immune.

DEAN BECKER: This is, from my perspective, just another example of “Reefer Madness.”

MARIA GREEN: That’s absolutely right. I see daily people who have beer in their refrigerator that’s not locked away. The children can get into it. They don’t have their kids taken away and cigarettes. People refer to them as cancer sticks. Everybody knows that second-hand smoke causes cancer and, yet, people smoke cigarettes right next to their children every day. Their kids are not taken away from them.

The only difference here is this stigma and propaganda that has been circulated for years. We’re becoming more educated about this – the society is. Sanjay Gupta came out a couple weeks ago and did his CNN documentary about cannabis actually has medical benefits and he sees them now.

Some people are coming around but it’s not enough yet.

DEAN BECKER: No, it’s not. Now, Maria, is there a website where folks could learn more about this situation?

MARIA GREEN: Right now we have a Facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/freebabybree

-----------------------

DEAN BECKER: I want to thank Pat McCann for coming in – former head of the Houston Criminal Lawyers Association.

This is from today’s Houston Chronicle.

“According to a study by a former director of the Harris County pretrial program, reported by Chronicle reporter Lise Olsen, "In jail system, class defines fate" (Page A1, Monday), defendants who can't make bail typically end up with longer sentences when convicted and too often lose their jobs when they're stuck behind bars.”

[snip]

“The study showed that those unable to afford bail, regardless of age, ethnicity or skin color, were much less likely to receive dismissals or deferred prosecutions than those who could afford bail.”

This drug war has got to be brought to a halt. That’s really all there is to it. It makes no sense whatsoever.

As always I remind you that because of prohibition you don’t know what’s in that bag. Please, be careful.

-----------------------

DEAN BECKER: To the Drug Truth Network listeners around the world, this is Dean Becker for Cultural Baggage and the Unvarnished Truth.

Drug Truth Network archives are stored at the James A. Baker, III Institute for Policy Studies.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

Transcript provided by: Jo-D Harrison of www.DrugSense.org