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More MS news articles for December 2003

Pot jury convicts on urging of judge

Krieger verdict delivered after protests

Thursday, December 4, 2003
Daryl Slade
Calgary Herald

A Calgary jury took nine and a half hours Wednesday before following a judge's directive to convict renowned pot crusader Grant Krieger of possessing marijuana for the purpose of trafficking.

Court of Queen's bench Justice Paul Chrumka instructed the jury of seven women and five men to find Krieger guilty of the offence. However, two jurors refused for several hours, telling the judge they couldn't go against their conscience.

Both jurors asked to be dismissed after they were brought in to court individually and given a copy of their oath to read.

A male juror told the judge, "I believe I could not live with myself if I was part of the conviction of this man."

But the judge refused, ordering them to continue deliberations and return with a guilty verdict.

They finally did, two hours later.

"He (the judge) took it right out of the hands of the jury," Krieger, 49, said outside court.

"He told them to come back with a guilty verdict and it still took them nine and a half hours. That tells me the jury didn't want to bring back a guilty verdict."

Chrumka told jurors that based on Krieger's admission he had grown and provided the marijuana to others, they had no choice but to come back with a guilty verdict.

After the verdict, Chrumka took into consideration that while Krieger broke the law, he did so on compassionate grounds to supply marijuana to others who had illnesses such as multiple sclerosis, AIDS, cancer and Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, or ALS.

He sentenced Krieger to one day in jail without having to actually go to jail.

Krieger, who was diagnosed with MS in 1978 and has not been able to work since 1991, has been living on a $840 a month pension.

University of Calgary law professor Chris Levy said Chrumka's directive, while unusual, was within his right.

"Can they be forced to convict?" said Levy. "At the end of the day, the judge can keep them as long as he wants to, but if they come back a hung jury or say not guilty, the judge has to accept the verdict.

"It's an unusually strong way of doing it. . . . It does take away from the jury to say, 'I don't believe the Crown witnesses.' "

Levy said it is difficult to criminally charge jurors for violating their oath to return a proper verdict based on the evidence, but added "we are all entitled to believe or not believe."

Outside court, defence lawyer Adriano Iovinelli cited three problems he had with the handling of the case, which dates back to August 1999 when police found 29 marijuana plants at Krieger's home on Bowness Road N.W.

Iovinelli said the judge may have had a misapprehension of what the admitted facts between the Crown and defence were or that the agreed facts may have been miscommunicated by him or prosecutor Scott Couper or he would have directed his instructions to the jury differently.

"My other concern is that two jury members were brought in and questioned why they were not able to follow his instructions," said Iovinelli.

"One juror broke down."

A female juror, while asking to be dismissed, told the judge, "To me, it is that I feel whatever he did -- trafficking, spreading something -- was more to help others. I took the instruction, but it would not come from my heart. I feel this man is not a guilty man."

Chrumka had earlier ruled out the defence argument of necessity in that the recipients of Krieger's trafficking required the drug for medical reasons and did not put it to the jury.

Krieger had won an exemption under the marijuana medical access regulations to be able to grow and possess the drug for his own personal use, but could not supply anyone else, in particular those who did not have exemptions.

Couper noted legislation has changed since 1999 and that people with exemptions may now have a third-party supply them for medical purposes.

He had not sought a jail term, but asked for a conditional sentence to be served in the community with some conditions.

"Mr. Krieger would have to obtain a licence from Health Canada to have a third-party grow operation," said Couper.

"That option didn't exist in 1999."

Couper told the judge there has been a source of marijuana being made by the government since July this year.

Krieger, the father of three grown children who were in court supporting him, told the judge he takes marijuana daily in a butter form to alleviate pain which affects his entire body.

Several other people in wheelchairs were in court to support him.

Krieger takes no other medication, and now avoids prescriptions drugs he says will not help him.

The judge ordered a scale for weighing drugs returned to Krieger. Iovinelli and Couper will work out an agreement on other grow equipment to be returned.

Copyright © 2003, Calgary Herald