REGISTER VIEWPOINT: Courtroom pot theater

Let's hope the marijuana missing from the storage shed in Norwalk leads to some fundamental questions about how evidence is handled
Sandusky Register Staff
May 24, 2010

Let's hope the marijuana missing from the storage shed in Norwalk leads to some fundamental questions about how evidence is handled and presented to a jury.

In Huron County, to be sure, but it wouldn't hurt to ask these questions everywhere.

The trouble started when the jury in the case of a Toledo man busted on drug charges was taken to see four garbage bags full of ganja, stored in a shed. Ordinarily, physical evidence is presented in court, but this weed had started to rot, and it was judged unsafe to bring the stuff and its noxious fumes into the courtroom.

So the court officers, the lawyers, the jury and the defendant all trooped out to the storage locker and saw four giant garbage bags full of what police are fond of describing in official reports as "leafy vegetable matter."

Having thus satisfied the demands of evidence, the lock went back on and everyone went away. The next time deputies went to check on the bags, 100 pounds of the 165-pound haul was missing -- apparently, the part that wasn't too far gone to use.

The defendant's lawyer says his guy didn't do it -- in fact, counsel says, it hurts his case that the stuff is missing.

Nonetheless, we wonder at the wisdom of storing the weed, and showing it off, in such a cavalier fashion. Wouldn't a photo of the bags, appropriately attested to by lawmen, have served the purpose? In a world where juries are shown computer "reconstructions" of offenses in an apparent contest to see who can sway the jury with the prettiest picture, how much is evidence and how much is theater?

We understand the rules against destroying evidence and the right to be confronted by one's accuser -- the accuser in this case being, for all practical purposes, four garbage bags -- but at some point, practicality has to enter into the matter.

Or at least, better locks.