08/17/14 Russell M. Webb

Russell M. Webb, Houston Attorney addresses failing of criminal justice system + NBC reports on warrior cops and unanimous endorsement of weed laws by Texas sheriffs, Norm Stamper speaks in support of my book "To End The War On Drugs" in Wash DC & "This Is What Happens When You Call The Cops"

Program: 
Cultural Baggage Radio Show
Date: 
Sunday, August 17, 2014
Guest: 
Russell M. Webb
Organization: 
Criminal Defense Attorney
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Transcript

Cultural Baggage / August 17, 2014

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DEAN BECKER: I am Dean Becker your host. Our goal for this program is to expose the fraud, misdirection and the liars who support the drug war, empowers our terrorist enemies, enriches barbarous cartels and gives reason for existence for tens of thousands of violent US gangs who profit by selling contaminated drugs to our children. This is Cultural Baggage.

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DEAN BECKER: Welcome to this edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m so glad you could be with us. We have a great show lined up for you. We have in studio a man with a lot of experience in the Houston, Harris County area. He is a defense attorney who has seen the unwinding or the wilting of this drug war I should say. With that I want to welcome our guest, Mr. Russell M. Webb.

How are you doing, Russell?

RUSSELL WEBB: Alright. How are you?

DEAN BECKER: I’m well, sir. I do appreciate you being with us. This has been a year of transition in many ways across the United States and even some indication of some changes forthcoming here in Houston, Texas as well. Your thought there, sir?

RUSSELL WEBB: I agree with you. I am starting to see the evil marijuana laws start to kind of melt around the country and it is going to be kind of difficult for some states and some jurisdictions to remain steadfast against it when the rest of the country is decriminalizing it.

DEAN BECKER: Right.

RUSSELL WEBB: I was down at the courthouse the other day. I go down two or three times per week and every time I go into a misdemeanor court I pick up the docket and just count the number of marijuana cases on the docket (less than 2 ounces). It’s usually about 20 to 30% on any docket on any one of the 15 county criminal courts. That’s a lot of people who are just standing around the courthouse waiting to have their marijuana case disposed.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah and I interviewed Kim Ogg. She is the Democratic candidate running for district attorney here and she wants to do no jail, no bail, no record whereas people under 4 ounces of weed would not be arrested, wouldn’t have to go to jail. They would pick up trash on the bayou and their record would be erased. I even heard our current district attorney, the Republican, Devonne Anderson, is thinking, “Yeah, me too. We are thinking along those same lines.”

What have you heard in that regard, Russell?

RUSSELL WEBB: I’m like you I think I heard the Republicans kind of coming up with it after Kim started talking about that idea. We talked about the fact that the Republican district attorney has been opposed to summons and summons have been a way to get these little misdemeanor pot cases in to court without hauling them down to jail but she has been steadfastly against summons. I’m curious as to why she is suddenly changing her tune.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah, I wonder if anything will come of this. I know for some reason Houston tends to vote Republican. I do not know why but it seems that even that understanding or that leaning is perhaps changing. I’m hearing some thoughts in that regard. Your thought?

RUSSELL WEBB: I’d like to see it change. I don’t consider myself a Democrat or a Republican but I’m a lot more left leaning than most Republicans.

DEAN BECKER: I think about the rationale for drug war has lost much of its luster. I’m wondering when one of these politicians will have the courage to speak boldly and the reasons that we need to change. I’ve got my 30 second spiel, “We are empowering terrorists, cartels, and gangs and we’ve never stopped even one determined child from getting their hands on drugs. What do we think we are doing?”

RUSSELL WEBB: We haven’t learned our lesson from when alcohol suffered the same prohibition. My theory is it needs to be managed. If people are going to use drugs they are going to use drugs. Making it illegal and throwing people in jail for their bad habits is not the way to handle it.

DEAN BECKER: No, it is not. Earlier this week there was a little session at the Pachyderm Club that featured Clay Conrad. He wrote a book about jury nullification as well as my friend, the founder of Oaksterdam University, Richard Lee. I’ve got a little segment here about jury nullification that I want share with you, Russell, and get your thoughts when we come back.

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DEAN BECKER: Recently Richard Lee, the founder of Oaksterdam University and one of the first dispensary owners in California, came to Houston to speak to the Pachyderm Club about jury nullification.

RICHARD LEE: How many people here would convict Rosa Parks for illegally sitting on the front of the bus? Well, would you do it if the judge told you that you had to, that it didn’t matter if you think the law is unjust. The reality is you wouldn’t ever get to be on the jury in the first place.

There is three big ways that the courts have greatly reduced juror’s independence or immunity or ability to provide a check and balance on the laws as Clay talked about, as the political system was designed to do.

The first way that jurors are controlled is by screening and stacking them. Long before you get to the courtroom if you are a juror you will be asked to answer about 100 questions on a questionnaire – especially if it is a high profile case. If it’s like a big medical marijuana case or some other case you will get 100 questions which will ask if you have ever donated to any legalization organization, are you a member of any political organization that is involved with this issue, do you have any friends or family who use medical marijuana...things like that. That will be the first way that they will screen the jury and stack the jury to get rid of anybody who is strongly opposed to an unjust law.

The next big way that the trials are controlled is through limiting or restricting what defendants can say during a trial. There are very strict rules on what defendants can say. For instance, in my case, as a medical marijuana provider if I was brought into federal court the judge would say that you can’t say you had a permit from the city or the state. It is against federal law and therefor you cannot even mention the fact that you had a permit and you were allowed to do it under state or city law.

What happens if you say, “Well, that’s my only defense?”

They reply that basically you don’t get a trial then. You get gagged and they can appoint a public defender to basically sit in and it will be a mock trial. It will be a kangaroo court.

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DEAN BECKER: Once again you are listening to Cultural Baggage on Pacifica Radio, KPFT and the Drug Truth Network. We have in studio Mr. Russell M. Webb who is a Houston attorney.

Russell, that was part of a discussion about jury nullification. What are your thoughts on how that works or doesn’t work here?

RUSSELL WEBB: I kind of avoid going down to the federal section as much as possible. I enjoy practicing state law so that’s been my experience. Basically it’s one of those mystery subjects. You can’t sit up and start questioning a jury panel about things that are obviously orientated towards jury nullification. You just have to find out what their leanings are.

I ask questions like, “Who reads the Houston Press?”

DEAN BECKER: That’s the liberal paper here in town...

RUSSELL WEBB: Yeah, that’s a liberal kind of paper. But I also ask them, “Whose favorite TV show is FOX News?”

I can tell you that I was astounded that out of a panel of 65 people only about 4 people raised their hands and said they were FOX News watchers. You just have to find their leanings through other questions.

DEAN BECKER: I find a lot of people believe in ending the drug war they are just afraid to say it out loud to their friends or at work. It’s just a secret that they keep. Don’t you think?

RUSSELL WEBB: I agree.

DEAN BECKER: We have in Houston 1,000 marijuana misdemeanor arrests every month in this city alone...33 people per day – it kind of backs up what you are saying about the dockets.

RUSSELL WEBB: Right, absolutely. I’ve been doing this docket counting thing every time I walk into a misdemeanor court. I just pick it up and look at it. There is a lot of government expense in arresting, prosecuting, supervising somebody on probation – all that cost money. Even though they collect a little supervision fee it doesn’t pay for what the government spends “managing potheads” basically.

DEAN BECKER: Yeah...the big “threat” of potheads.

There’s been that big situation up in Ferguson. I guess it is a suburb of St. Louis where maybe a black man stole some cigars...I don’t know the truth of that. I don’t think it merits what they have done. Even NBC is kind of challenging that logic. I want to get your thoughts about that situation and the militarization of the police force.

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DEAN BECKER: The following segment courtesy of NBC.

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ANCHOR: As we watch these events unfold this week many couldn’t help but think that it was a military force – not a police force – that was on the ground in Ferguson. Attorney General Eric Holder said he was deeply concerned about the deployment of military equipment and vehicles and the Senate Armed Services Committee said it will look at how local police departments are using this equipment.

We get more on this tonight from NBC’s Tom Castello.

TOM COSTELLO: It’s not just Ferguson, Missouri where police have deployed armored vehicles and assault weapons. Across the country law enforcement has beefed up their arsenals – much of it “hand me down” surplus equipment from the military.

Police in Ft. Meyers, Florida are among the many departments that now have a mine-resistant armored vehicle or MRAV.

FT. MEYERS POLICEMAN: It can sustain handgun, rifle, all the way up to rocket-propelled grenades on this vehicle.

TOM COSTELLO: Most cities pay very little if anything for the equipment and more than 600 MRAVs are now in use nationwide. There are also HUMVs, machine guns, camouflage, helicopters and planes and that is feeding the concern that America’s police forces are thinking of themselves not as cops but as soldiers.

FEMALE: The police being trained, for example, to think of the communities that they are serving as battlegrounds, to think of the people that they are supposed to be protecting and serving as war time enemies.

TOM COSTELLO: YouTube is full of police recruiting videos showing practice SWAT raids but while violent crime is down 53% since 1990 police insist that they face well-armed criminals from the Boston bombing suspects to mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and movie theatres.

MALE: This is the type of equipment that we feel like we need at times in situations to make sure we are going home to our families at night.

TOM COSTELLO: To combat drug gangs 23 years ago congress ordered the military to send its surplus gear to police. The program then accelerated from 9/11 and two wars but the pentagon insists it has no say in how the equipment is used.

MALE: It is up to law enforcement agencies to speak to how and what they gain through this system.

TOM COSTELLO: The question tonight is how do military equipment and tactics affect the police mission to serve and protect.

Tom Costello, NBC News, Washington.

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DEAN BECKER: We have Mr. Russell M. Webb in studio who is a Houston attorney. I want to get his thoughts in regards to that NBC report.

RUSSELL WEBB: Well, I don’t know where to start but I’ve been watching this over the last 40 years that I’ve been in criminal justice and I agree with it. There is a good book called, “Rise of the Warrior Cop.” I’ve been reading it. I haven’t finished it yet. That’s a good book to read if you want to know how that evolved.

Another thing I’m believing is that police mentality has changed. Like they said it’s “Us vs. Them. We are in a war zone.” That’s a mentality that’s been fostered by the concept of a “war” on drugs. It’s not really a war on drugs it’s a war against citizens who use drugs. The type of tactics that they are using are way....They are not fighting drug gangs. They are raiding people’s houses with battering rams and exploding grenades. They have killed innocent people going to the wrong house with storm trooper-type weapons.

It’s a mentality.

DEAN BECKER: It is, indeed. You hear the stories...the first thing they do is shoot the dog, threaten the kids. I had a report I did a couple weeks back about baby Bou Bou. They threw a flash bang grenade into his crib. It exploded on his chest and his face. It is definitely overkill.

RUSSELL WEBB: It is. I hate to say one of my favorite shows is “The First 48.” I love police work and that is true police work – going out and finding killers – but when they arrest them they still go in there with armored personnel carriers, battering rams, flash bang grenades.

Funny that you mentioned dogs but killing dogs is a regular occurrence in these type of operations. There has been a lot of dogs killed because of these type of tactics.

DEAN BECKER: Once again we are speaking with Mr. Russell M. Webb.

Russell, we’ve got a couple minutes left. I want to let you tell folks about the kind of cases that you are involved with and how you see things playing out or perhaps changing here in Houston.

RUSSELL WEBB: I do criminal defense and as part of criminal defense I end up representing a lot of possessors of marijuana, alleged possessors of marijuana. At any given time I have several of those cases on my docket. I represent everything from murder down to almost traffic tickets.

DEAN BECKER: I think about there are a lot of attorneys who get this. I think there are even prosecutors who understand the failure of this drug war and yet they still work to earn their paychecks.

We have a similar situation with the sheriffs. I have a little report here, again from NBC that I want to share with you and get your thoughts before we head out.

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ANCHOR: In a lot of states right now legalizing marijuana but some of Texas’s top cops are saying, “Not here.” A north Texas sheriff is leading that charge.

Our Denton reporter, Brian Stot, is live with more.

BRIAN STOT: I just got a chance to read the Denton Country Sheriff’s report that present to state lawmakers in Austin on behalf of the State Sheriff’s Association. It is 30 pages long but simply from the title you can pretty much tell what their position is. It’s called, “Texas Sheriffs Say No to Marijuana.”

WILL TRAVIS: All 254 sheriffs signed off on that.

BRIAN STOT: The months of experience Sheriff Will Travis has put in with marijuana.

WILL TRAVIS: So many people have come forward saying this is just not a good path we need to be going down.

BRIAN STOT: He points to opposition by groups like the American Medical Association to smoking pot as a medicine especially when there are other drug options and so much research still needed. A large portion of the report points to findings from Colorado and the group Rocky Mountain Highdale which shows an increase in marijuana-related fatalities there and the sheriff says most problematic an increase in pot use.

WILL TRAVIS: We are basically doing it for our youth. Our sheriff association is doing this for our youth. They don’t have a voice.

DFW NORML: He’s not out working with the people that we are working with.

WILL TRAVIS: Pro-marijuana advocates feel the sheriff have loss the overall positives of the once taboo drug that is rapidly gaining acceptance in the US – especially the medical benefits seen by many.

DFW NORML: He is not seeing these kids who are having 300 seizures per month that are being able to reduce down to 1 or 2 per week. The policy is not good for our state. It is not good for our economy.

BRIAN STOT: But Travis disagrees and he says that no matter to changing opinions elsewhere law enforcement here are standing firm.

WILL TRAVIS: We don’t want it here at all.

BRIAN STOT: Members of DFW NORML say they are preparing their own report for state legislators also outlining the marijuana topic and their take on it and refuting some of the sheriff’s claims. Both sides say that they are looking very closely at Colorado as statistics come out based on the state’s first year of legal recreational marijuana.

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DEAN BECKER: OK. Again from NBC talking about 254 Texas sheriffs voting unanimously to continue doing what they have been doing. Your response, Russell Webb?

RUSSELL WEBB: My response is there is a lot of serious crimes out there. In Houston we’ve had a lot of serious crimes go uninvestigated while police are out there arresting thousands of marijuana users every month and serious cases go uninvestigated. Every time you use your resources for something like that that’s what is going to happen – serious cases go uninvestigated.

DEAN BECKER: Kim Ogg was saying that burglary of a habitation gets like 10% of the money that is used to go after the marijuana cases and that rape gets like .1%. It’s ridiculous, isn’t it?

RUSSELL WEBB: It is. I agree with that.

DEAN BECKER: Well we are going to have to wrap it up. Please share your website. Tell folks how they can get in touch.

RUSSELL WEBB: I am Russell M. Webb. My phone number is 713CallWebb – just dial the letters. I have a website at http://www.lawyerwebb.com/

I do criminal defense and help people get out of prison on parole.

DEAN BECKER: I thank you so much for what you do.

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(Game show music)

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

Constipation, diarrhea, dizziness, drowsiness, itching, hair loss, sweating, swelling, thirst, vertigo, inflammation of the lung, kidney disease, congestive heart failure and headaches.

(Gong)

Time’s up!

The answer: Aleve, for headaches.

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DEAN BECKER: This was recorded a couple weeks back at the Cannon House Office Building in Washington, D.C.

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DEAN BECKER: A gentleman who used to be the police chief in Seattle – Norm Stamper, will you come up here and share a few thoughts with us, please?

[applause]

NORM STAMPER: I very much appreciate the opportunity to support you, Dean, and your effort to end the mindless, senseless, insane drug war.

I met Dean in 2005 in Long Beach. I knew of him. I think we probably talked before that but it was a DPA, Drug Policy Alliance meeting in Long Beach and Dean had set up a camera and had a steady stream of notables from drug policy reform. Some from Hollywood, others from academia, others from organizational or institutional life but a steady stream of people for 2 or 3 days capturing perspectives, points of view and impressions about the drug war.

In the process he heard many personal stories and for me that is what this is ultimately about. It’s that 5 a.m. raid that terrorizes an American family that often results in injury if not death to utterly innocent people. Some caught in the crossfire including police officers from time to time.

He is recognized for as long I suspect as long as he has been an adult if not prior to that that the drug war has caused more problems than it has solved and that prohibition is, in fact, the source of crime and violence. It is also the source – I’m sad to say – of institutional corruption.

The list of advantages to the drug war is very short – in fact it has no entries – and the list of ills is very long. So as has been justified to us today it is time for us to end it. Avery long stride in that direction is this book and the work that you have done, Dean. I congratulate you and I thank you.

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DEAN BECKER: The following was recorded at Hempfest in Seattle courtesy of Drug Truth Network reporter, Doug McVay.

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DOUG McVAY: Let's hear now from US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher.

At this point we are paying...the federal government is paying farmers not to grow crops. That’s stupid. It is especially stupid if those farmers could be growing hemp and they wouldn’t have to have federal funding. That’s really stupid.

You know what’s really stupid also? Borrowing money. Every third dollar we spend in Washington is borrowed. What’s really stupid is borrowing money from China in order to subsidize farmers who could be earning an honest living growing hemp.

That’s number one. Is that really stupid? It’s really stupid.

Putting someone in jail for smoking a weed is stupid. Spending limited law enforcement dollars we could put into our courts, into our jails, into our prisons...spending the time and our police and our judges and our jails on people for smoking a weed is really, really stupid.

[applause]

Let me say that borrowing the money from China in order to take our limited time of our police and judges and prisons in order to put our own people in jail is really, really stupid. Arresting someone for smoking a weed at a time when basically a lot of people are advocating this to help that person. All we’re doing, of course, is putting someone in a cage and giving that person a criminal record that will follow them for the rest of their life. That is really, really stupid.

Having the federal government involved in criminal justice is really stupid. The fact is our founding fathers set up our constitution and said that the federal government isn’t going to involved in criminal justice at all because the federal government should just be defending the nation and doing those things that count for the nation as a whole but criminal justice and other issues were supposed to be left for the states. Having the federal government come in and say that we are going to arrest someone for smoking a weed is stupid.

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[music]

Criminals get so embolden – Rip you off thinking you’re holdin.

Can’t tell the policeman what you know – got no recourse to the law.

Bad guys duct tape and beat you – they’re just lookin for that easy score.

They will rob, rape and kill ya cuz we go no recourse to the law.

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DEAN BECKER: Thank you for joining us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I’m glad you could be with us but I really want you to do something about this. You know the truth. You’ve been hearing me say this for coming up on 13 years and most of you haven’t done a damn thing. I’m urging you to do something to stand for truth, justice, logic, reality, please.

Thank you for being with us on this edition of Cultural Baggage. I want to thank Russell Webb for being with us as well.
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