06/15/14 Russell Webb

Russell Webb, Houston attorney re justice system in Houston, Kim Ogg Cand for DA of Houston, Mason Tvert of Marijuana Policy Project efforts in Texas, Boston report on butane explosion

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, June 15, 2014
Guest: 
Russell Webb
Organization: 
Attorney
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / June 15, 2014

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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.

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DEAN BECKER: My friends we got a great show lined up for you. Here we have with us in studio Mr. Russell Webb - a man with 25 years of experience working for justice herein Harris County. I was hoping to ...we’ll bring him on in just a minute.

I’ve got an interview I conducted here recently and I’d like to share it with you now.

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KIM OGG: I’m Kim Ogg. I’m a native Houstonian, practiced law here in town for 28 years and I’m running for Harris County District Attorney as a Democratic nominee.

DEAN BECKER: Kim, I know you are out of town at the moment but you, perhaps, had a chance to see some of the stories breaking of late indicating we’ve had last year 20,000 crimes that were just not investigated in our fair city. Your response to that, please.

KIM OGG: As a tax payer in Houston I am appalled. I’m upset that our district attorney has failed to investigate the perpetrator, a homicide sergeant, none of the supervisors have been investigated. Instead we’ve learned that she secretly sent the investigation out to a firmly Republican DA in Montgomery County who represented the union prior to being the DA and he terminated the investigation and said no criminal conduct had been found.

That was the investigator who failed to investigate 24 murders – mostly minority victims. The 20,000 uninvestigated cases is just an across the board total was discovered by a Sam Houston criminologist doing a study of the department.

DEAN BECKER: What does this say, though, about equality of justice? What is your thought there?

KIM OGG: It’s pretty clear that any of us who completely fail to do our job would likely be terminated and, further, if that job involved delivering services to the public we’d likely be investigated, possibly arrested and prosecuted so what it reveals is the same double standard in prosecution that we’ve been seeing here in Harris County.

DEAN BECKER: You mentioned the imbalance there – how the minority there is not being “supported” if you will in wanting to investigate these crimes. On a prior visit to our show we talked about the 20,000 unnecessary arrests that go on each year in our fair county as well. Your thought there, please.

KIM OGG: The justice is just not being equally handed out. We disproportionately focus law enforcement and prosecution for drug crimes in minority communities. At the same time we’re seeing a disproportionate level of service not being given to those same communities even when their children are being murdered.

With 24 uninvestigated cases by HPD Homicide just one detective we can see a real disparity in who is being helped by this justice system and this DA and who is being ignored and basically the poor, minority communities are being ignored.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, so true. We’re going to have to bring you back for a longer visit sometime. I’m hoping to sponsor a debate with your opponent, Devone Anderson but thus far they have indicated they are unwilling to come on the show.

Is there a website where folks could learn more about your efforts?

KIM OGG: I’d love to invite people to http://www.kimoggforda.com/ Please take a look at the platform. I want to be the DA for all people and we’ll have equal justice under a new administration.

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DEAN BECKER: Once again that was Kim Ogg, the Democratic candidate running for district attorney here in Harris County. We do have with us in studio Mr. Russell Webb. I made a mistake. He has been fighting for justice here for 40 years.

How are you doing, Russell?

RUSSELL WEBB: I’m fine. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: I’m good. If you would, please, kind of summarize your career for our listeners.

RUSSELL WEBB: I went to Sam Houston State University and I majored in Criminal Justice. I graduated in ’73 with a 4 year degree in Criminal Justice.

In 1973 I went to work for the Texas Department of Corrections - currently known as TDCJID, Institutional Division. I worked as a prison guard for three years in that organization and I quit because I wasn’t cut out to be a prison guard.

After one year sacking groceries I became a parole officer in Dallas, south Dallas. I worked as a district parole officer for 3 years in south Dallas. After 3 years I got promoted to be a hearing officer and I was a parole hearing officer conducting revocation hearings. These are the hearings that inmates or parolees get before their parole is revoked- if, in fact, it gets revoked. It’s the due process here.

Following that I went to law school. I just decided 13 years out of college I could do what these lawyers were doing sitting across from me. I went to law school. I had a difficult time getting in but I got in and I went to Thurgood Marshall. I graduated with honors in 1988. I also worked at the district attorney’s office in the grand jury as a paid intern for about one year.

DEAN BECKER: We were talking in the coffee room. You wanted to go to work as a prosecutor, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: I actually did. They didn’t like my views on the question of what can we do about the exclusionary rule. My response was I thought it was a pretty good idea and that pretty much sealed me as not being a district attorney.

DEAN BECKER: Let’s talk about we heard Kim Ogg. She’s running for DA. Devone Anderson, her opponent, the current DA...I invited her. She was supposed to come on this show the week after Kim had first come on this show and the morning after Kim was here they called to tell me they weren’t coming on.

I guess it kind of ties in to my whole framework that there is nobody on this planet who can really defend this policy of drug war. Your response, Russell Webb?

RUSSELL WEBB: One of the things that bugs me and my favorite pet peeve is more so than the war on drugs is the way they treat marijuana users. The legislature passed a law allowing for summons to be issued on these Class B, small cases like marijuana cases and the current district attorney and her predecessors have all refused to accept cases by summons from the law enforcement agencies. That’s just the beginning of my rant...

DEAN BECKER: Russ, let me dig into that one thought just a bit and that is they’ve refused to accept summonses - in other words, they’ll take the old law...

RUSSELL WEBB: They’ll accept the high school senior going to jail to be booked in, put into orange and bailed out but they won’t accept a summons, a ticket basically.

DEAN BECKER: OK and by refusing to accept the summons does that then force the police department to use the other method - the arrest and incarceration?

RUSSELL WEBB: Put them in jail. Everybody that gets any kind of Class B misdemeanor goes to jail.

DEAN BECKER: Now you have a great observation, if you will, about marijuana and the associated evil therein. It’s a fairly long rant. Touch on a couple points contained, please.

RUSSELL WEBB: Like I said I’ve been doing this for almost 40 years – well past 40 years. I went to high school in El Paso, Texas in 1968, I was in Burges High School in El Paso. Every evening on the news they would show some kid up in front of the judge being arraigned on a marijuana charge. It might have been a seed in the bottom of the car. There were high school kids going to prison from all counties in Texas every week.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, for just ...

RUSSELL WEBB: And that’s back when it was a felony. Now in their wisdom they reduced it to a misdemeanor and I think they took care of the...I say they - the “powers that be” took care of the terrible consequences of these kids from the ‘60s going to jail with felonies for having marijuana on them.

I don’t know where to start here...

DEAN BECKER: Russ, let me just jump in here. I was around in the ‘60s. I mentioned to you out there in the coffee room that I was busted 13 times and every time it was for being drunk but they found drugs in my pocket. I guess what happened to me is I was never charged for drunkenness, never. It was always for the seeds or the roach or whatever that I happened to have on me.

In a way it is a good thing that I grew up in the ‘60s because with my record I probably couldn’t get a job these days. Your thought there?

RUSSELL WEBB: Well that is true and that’s what happens to all the people who get arrested for marijuana. There is a severe set of consequences for a conviction for pot possession. Let me tell you pot possession cases are a lot. There are a lot of pot cases in Harris County – misdemeanor, under 2 ounces - a lot of teenagers, a lot of high school kids, college kids. That’s usually who gets caught with the marijuana.

The consequences of a conviction are high – denial of student loans, denial of renting an apartment, getting fired from your job, not being able to get a job. What we are faced with as lawyers, what I’m faced with and I have 3 or 4 pot cases on my caseload right now is you don’t want to just have a trial and risk a high school kid getting a conviction for marijuana. What happens is you put them on deferred unless you’ve got an ironclad case you’ve got to put them on deferred. In almost every single case (I would say 75% of my cases) I see issues where I can file a motion to suppress that evidence.

Usually the only way to get the hearing on a motion to suppress evidence is have it disposited. What that means is they’ll give you a motion to suppress evidence but if a judge decides it’s not suppressible you plead.

The fact of the matter is that usually involves having to go to a treatment center, pee in a cup, claim your addiction to marijuana – all that good stuff, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: Drug testing is part of probation. In Harris County drug testing is part of being on bond. People who are on bail for any offence are subject to drug test. One of my problems is the drug testing industry. We’ve had problems in Harris County with drug testing not being accurate. Quite often people go to court and the judge says, “Give him a drug test.”

You go pee in a cup, instant results. If it shows positive go to jail. The judge will revoke your bail. That happens on felony cases. It can happen on misdemeanor cases.

There is a lot of pre-trial drug testing going on and there is no real due process. It’s judge gets a print out that says you are positive – you go to jail. You don’t get a hearing.

DEAN BECKER: I wanted to bring up something. You mentioned a lot of the drug testing facilities have been found to be deficient. We have had certainly another situation and that is our own crime labs have been found to be falling down on the job. They have failed to do tests. They’ve done test incorrectly. They’ve had people faking tests. Just every way you can think of it has been construed. Your response?

RUSSELL WEBB: I don’t know about the certified labs but I know the problem in Harris County was in the pre-trial testing. They were having polluted samples. They weren’t following protocols. They weren’t preserving the samples and connecting them up with the names. A lot of innocent people went to jail because the wrong sample got tested.

DEAN BECKER: It’s a huge problem. This drug war has kind of become ingrained into our society even though there are so many increasing numbers of people these days who are seeing it for its failure and calling for change.

Let’s come back to your observations here. You point out you can cure an addiction but you can’t get over an addiction...

RUSSELL WEBB: Wait...you can cure an addiction, you can’t get over a conviction.

DEAN BECKER: Alright. That point is so profound when you think of the tens of thousands of times that fails for people to have a decent and productive life.

RUSSELL WEBB: I agree.

DEAN BECKER: What would you like to relay to those out there listening who may or may be currently facing the justice system here in Harris County?

RUSSELL WEBB: I always jokingly – not necessarily jokingly – but I always tell people my pre-arrest advice (people I meet, I give them some free legal advice) rule number one of my pre-arrest advice is don’t do it but if the police think you did it don’t admit to it. Don’t consent to searches. That’s a big problem because I see a lot of cases, I read the police report and I see searches that are consented to or I see searches that are done without warrants, without reasonable suspicion, without probable cause.

DEAN BECKER: They have this way of I guess intimidating mostly young kids or, hell, anybody I suppose...the way they word it, “You wouldn’t mind if I took a look in your trunk...” or all that kind of verbiage, right?

RUSSELL WEBB: That’s correct. A lot of people are just detained and interviewed without reasonable suspicion of any kind of crime at all. I do have a motion to suppress coming up where that is the case.

A couple of kids sitting there doing nothing and approached by a police officers. The end result, put against the wall and frisked and out comes the marijuana.

DEAN BECKER: Well, sure. There are so many people who use marijuana and, from my perspective, a lot of people’s perspective it is because they find marijuana to be a much safer intoxicant than alcohol and yet ...

This brings to mind. I’ve been in situations where police pull over a carload of kids. They find a bag of weed under the car seat and every person in the car gets charged with possession. How the hell can that be?

RUSSELL WEBB: it gets sorted out in court but it happens. Being in the location is really not enough for a conviction but ...you take a ride...whenever somebody gets arrested for something they take a ride and that ride is downtown for booking into the county jail and the whole process. A lot of these cases get dismissed – these kind of cases you are describing at least for most of the people in the car but that’s not necessarily the way that it is. If they can prove some kind of affirmative link from anybody in the car to the illegal substance they proceed.

DEAN BECKER: If I dare say that ensures more money for the bail bonds man and more money for the defense attorneys. Does it not?

RUSSELL WEBB: You know as far as defense attorneys go I rant constantly against the war on drugs, against the thousands of marijuana arrests that occur every year and I shouldn’t be doing that because that “beans in my pot.” If everybody is getting arrested for marijuana cases that’s money for me but the truth is I would rather see the justice than all the cases.

DEAN BECKER: I’m with you, my friend. We got a couple minutes left. First off, do you have a website where folks can learn more about the work you do?

RUSSELL WEBB: http://www.lawyerwebb.com/ My phone number is 713 CALL WEBb – just dial the letters.

DEAN BECKER: That’s pretty handy. I’m an old guy. Since I quit drinking 28 years ago I still have a joint in my pocket once in a while but I haven’t had any problems. Alcohol becomes a major component or factor in a lot of arrests. Does it not?

RUSSELL WEBB: I also have a lot of “driving while intoxicated” cases so that’s where I see alcohol involved. We see a lot of police officers stopping people when leaving bars. They sit up on bars late at night. If you are leaving the bar that’s probable cause. Alcohol on your breath is probable cause for intoxication.

One thing leads to the other. You get arrested for some alcohol-related thing and there’s marijuana in the car or in your pocket – you got a double whammy. Some people even get charged with a felony for bringing marijuana into the jail in their back pocket while they are handcuffed.

DEAN BECKER: Oh my. Alright, Russell, I’ll tell you what. One more time please share your website with the listeners and I’ve got a couple other segments I’ve got to put forward.

RUSSELL WEBB: http://www.lawyerwebb.com/ 713 CALL WEBb

DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking with Mr. Russell Webb. I’ll be back in a few moments but we’ve got a couple of segments to share with you right now.

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(Game show music)

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

[creaking mattress sounds]

Dizziness, nausea, chest pain, numbness, tingling, ringing in your ears, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath with pain spreading to arm and shoulders, loss of vision, painful penis...

Time’s up: The answer – from Pfizer, Inc. Viagra for erectile dysfunction.

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DEAN BECKER: We’ve been speaking to this gentleman for nearly a decade now. He’s done great work up in Colorado and is now working around this country. He’s with the Marijuana Policy Project, co-author of the “Marijuana is safer so why are we driving people to drink?!” With that I want to welcome Mr. Mason Tvert.

How are you doing?

MASON TVERT: I’m doing great. Thanks for having me.

DEAN BECKER: There is so much news breaking around the country, various states and even the federal government is potentially reconsidering their stance in regards to marijuana. Your thoughts, sir?

MASON TVERT: More Americans are for recognizing that marijuana is not as scary and horrible as they were once led to believe. In fact, it is less harmful than alcohol and it really should not be viewed as a problem if an adult wants to use it responsibly. As more and more people recognize this there is more and more support for treating it that way and allowing it adults to use it.

DEAN BECKER: What are your thoughts? What are the big breaking stories as of this point and time?

MASON TVERT: We’ve seen a lot of developments at the federal and state levels this year. We’ve seen states passing medical marijuana laws like Illinois, Minnesota. We’ve also seen the federal government starting to reexamine its position.

Just recently congress, the House of Representatives, decided to approve an amendment that would prohibit the Justice Department from spending any federal funding on interfering on any state medical marijuana laws. While that measure may or may not end up having a real world impact it actually is a huge symbolic value and really demonstrates that things are starting to change.

DEAN BECKER: I’ve been talking to a few folks that work in and around Washington, D.C. and many of these politicians were swayed simply by the fact that the reports from Dr. Gupta about the children with Dravet and how it is an obvious benefit and they just felt that they could not go against allowing for medical marijuana. Your thought there?

MASON TVERT: Sanjay Gupta’s very prominent “coming out” in support of medical marijuana as well as his acknowledgement that he had been lied to by the DEA had a major impact on the debate surrounding medical marijuana. It has really forced a lot people including a lot of elected officials to rethink this issue and to question whether they might have the information wrong as well.

We’re going to continue to see more and more of these folks like Dr. Gupta coming out and talking about this and as that continues to happen we will continue to see more and more flexibility and changes of opinion among elected officials.

DEAN BECKER: I’m here in Texas where we have little hope of anything happening in the next year or three and yet even here in Texas politicians are beginning to crack the door open a little bit, to begin to talk about it even our Governor Perry.

MASON TVERT: Our organization plans on investing quite a bit in Texas over the next several years and so we now have staff on the ground as well as a lobbyist who is working with legislators to try to get some legislation moving. A potentially “decriminalization” measure to reduce penalties for possession. Medical marijuana is always something that we are trying to move forward and we really have a goal of passing a law regulating marijuana like alcohol in 2019.

DEAN BECKER: There are these conundrums, these situations where some of the states are going to allow for oil and some are going to deny edibles. There are just these various approaches being taken. Tell us what you think of that situation.

MASON TVERT: We’re going to see different states approaching marijuana policy in different ways much like we see different states handling alcohol very differently. In some states you can only buy hard alcohol at package stores that are operated by the state and in some states you can go into Costco and buy a giant 4-pack box of Jack Daniels bottles. Some states allow the sales of grain alcohol and other they don’t. There are still dry counties in states around the country and it’s really something that each state and also localities are going to be addressing. Not every state is the same but we hope to see much like alcohol states learning from each other and really adopting the policies that best reflect what the voters in those states want.

DEAN BECKER: Mason, once again, I do appreciate your time. I know you good folks at the Marijuana Policy Project are working on our behalf. If folks would like to learn more about the work you do please point them in the right direction.

MASON TVERT: Anyone who is interested in finding out more about the Marijuana Policy Project our website is http://marijuanapolicy.org

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[power outage sounds]

Dean Becker: Pulling the plug on the prison industrial complex. Drugtruth dot net.

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DEBORAH TAKAHAR: It is cheap and highly explosive and tonight a Denver man is talking about the night he nearly died trying to extract hash oil from marijuana. FOX31 Denver Boris Sanchez with the man’s message that could save your life.

BORIS SANCHEZ: Deb, as you said it is a cheap way to make a very potent form of hash oil that could be deadly and more Coloradans are doing it what one survivor calls the worst decision of his life.

We should warn you that some of these images in the story may be unsettling.

After watching several instructional videos like this one on YouTube Wayne Winkler decided to try extracting THC in his own kitchen.

WAYNE WINKLER: The worst decision in my life.

BORIS SANCHEZ: Mixing butane and marijuana to make a solid, high concentration of THC known as butane honey oil. Wayne unknowingly was filling his home with flammable vapor and as he held the bowl of the mixture...

WAYNE WINKLER: I saw this little trace ignite right from the stove and immediately it jumped right into the bowl and an explosion not just a fire but an explosion went off all around me.

BORIS SANCHEZ: He went into shock watching the skin melt right off his hands.

WAYNE WINKLER: That’s when I really got scared. I said, “Please, God, help me.”

BORIS SANCHEZ: Wayne woke up at the University of Colorado’s burn unit where he faced a slow and painful recovery.

WAYNE WINKLER: Can I die?! I just can’t deal with this pain.

GORDON LINDBERG: It’s not safe. It just isn’t safe.

BORIS SANCHEZ: Dr. Gordon Lindberg, the medical director of the burn unit, says Wayne’s story is becoming too familiar while the number of patients coming to the burn unit for this kind of accident is on pace to triple the number admitted all of last year.

GORDON LINDBERG: It’s surprising we haven’t had more injuries.

WAYNE WINKLER: It should have killed me.

BORIS SANCHEZ: Now out of rehab one year and one-half after the incident...

WAYNE WINKLER: I’m glad I made it through and I don’t want anybody to ever make the wrong decision.

BORIS SANCHEZ: Wayne Winkler has a message he wants you to hear.

WAYNE WINKLER: Just don’t do it. Don’t do it.

BORIS SANCHEZ: After having to deal with the burn Wayne says the most painful part was putting his family through the entire ordeal.

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DEAN BECKER: Alright, that’s about it. The only way to prevent such stuff from happening is to legalize.

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

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

This show produced at the Pacifica Studios of KPFT Houston.

Tap dancing… on the edge… of an abyss.

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