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2016 Youth Fair Mock Trial Problem
"Blunt Talk: Clearing the Haze around D.C.'s Marijuana Laws"

Property of the D.C. Bar


De Shawn Cooper is an 18 year old senior at Obama High School in the District of Columbia. Because of his knowledge and skill with computers, he was awarded a full scholarship to attend a well-known college here on the east coast. He lives with his mother and father who hold managerial jobs with the federal government.

Although De Shawn is known as a "Romeo" around school because of all of the young ladies who try to get close to him, the real love of his life is his grandmother, Mary Roundtree, who helped raise him when his mother was seriously ill for a long period of time several years ago. At least twice a week, De Shawn drops by to visit and check on his grandmother, who lives alone in a first floor garden apartment that is subsidized by the federal government. De Shawn also knows several of the teenagers who live in the complex and frequently after he visits his grandmother, he will spend some time hanging out with them in the courtyard that is outside of his grandmother's apartment.

On January 2, 2016, De Shawn's parents celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary by going on a two-week vacation to the Caribbean. De Shawn was to stay with his grandmother during that time. On that same day Metropolitan Police Department Officer Michael Wilson began an operation to reduce the sale of marijuana to teenagers in the complex. From a second story vacant apartment, he began making observations with the use of binoculars.

On January 5, 2016, De Shawn took off his winter jacket while riding the Metro because the car was hot. He was not really paying attention when he reached his station and he had to run out of the subway car before the door closed. Unfortunately, he ran out of the car without his jacket, which he never saw again. Because his parents were on vacation and he did not want to bother his grandmother for money, De Shawn immediately went to a nearby used clothing store to buy an inexpensive jacket that he could wear until his parents returned. The only jacket that was available was a size "large" that was red in color and had very heavy lining in it. De Shawn was a medium size and he hated the color red but he only needed the jacket until his parents came home and it was inexpensive, so he bought it.

On January 10, 2016, De Shawn was out in the courtyard where his grandmother lived and he was hanging out with several of the teenagers he knew. Because it was cold, he wore the coat that he had obtained from the used clothing store. His friend Tony, age 21, turned to De Shawn and said, "Hey, De Shawn, do you have any of that weed that I know that you like to smoke? I wouldn't mind getting high later."

De Shawn had recently started smoking marijuana because he liked the way that it relaxed him. He had also tried smoking synthetic marijuana, or known by his friends as "Scooby Doo." He responded "Look man, I've got a little bit with me but I didn't get any marijuana for free. If you want some, you have to give me a portion of what I paid. I paid $20.00 for what I have, give me $10.00 and I will share it with you." By the way, I smoked something recently called Scooby Doo. Have you ever tried it? Tony said nothing but gave De Shawn a ten dollar bill. De Shawn then reached into the right pocket of the jacket and gave Tony one of the two bags of marijuana that he was carrying. Tony immediately began to roll a joint and proceeded to smoke it in the courtyard, which is considered public space.

All of this activity was being observed by Officer Michael Wilson, who immediately called Officer Carlotta Lopez, who was parked in an unmarked vehicle down the street. Officer Lopez ran to the courtyard and placed Tony and De Shawn under arrest. While searching De Shawn, she found the bag of marijuana in the right pocket of the jacket. She then unzipped a pocket that was located in the left chest area of the jacket that had a lot of padding, and she removed a large baggie filled with what later turned out to be "synthetic marijuana."De Shawn immediately yelled "I did not know that there was anything in that breast pocket! That jacket is not really mine! I just got that jacket from a used clothing store. That stuff must have belonged to whoever owned the jacket before me."

De Shawn was taken to the local precinct where he was booked upon charges of possession of marijuana, distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a dangerous drug. He spent the night in jail and was taken to court and held without bond pending trial. Tony was not charged with possession of marijuana because he is 21. However, Tony was charged with consumption of marijuana on public space.

When De Shawn returned to his grandmother's home, she was so mad that she almost took her leather belt to him."Did you know, young man, that if you are found guilty of possession with intent to distribute a dangerous drug, the authorities can try to have me evicted from this apartment?And if you are found guilty of distribution of a dangerous drug, you are going to lose that scholarship. Oh how could you do this?" De Shawn was so embarrassed and ashamed that he did not respond to his grandmother.

For purposes of the trial against DeShawn Cooper, the following laws apply:

Marijuana Statute

1. It is unlawful for anyone under the age of 21 to possess marijuana.

2. It is unlawful for anyone to distribute marijuana for a profit.

Punishable by no more than one year in jail.

Possession with Intent to Distribute a Dangerous Drug Statute

1. A dangerous drug is defined as a drug that is not approved for health purposes and poses a significant threat of mental or physical harm if ingested, smoked or taken by needle.

2. Possession with intent to distribute means to knowingly possess an amount of drugs such that the defendant had the specific intent to distribute the drugs.

Punishable by no more than five (5) years' incarceration

The Court should also read the reasonable doubt instruction and any other instruction it deems appropriate.

The jury will decide the following issues:

1. Did De Shawn possess marijuana?

2. Did De Shawn distribute marijuana to Tony for a profit?

3. Is marijuana a dangerous drug for purposes of the PWID statute? (One of the officers will testify generally as to marijuana and the dangers that it poses.)

4. Is synthetic marijuana a "dangerous drug" for purposes of the PWID statute? (One of the officers will testify generally as to synthetic marijuana and the dangers that it poses.)

5. Did De Shawn possess synthetic marijuana?

6. Did he knowingly possess synthetic marijuana with the intent to distribute it?

WITNESS SCRIPT: DE SHAWN COOPER

1. My name is De Shawn Cooper. I am 18 year old senior at Obama High School. I was awarded a full scholarship to attend a well-known college here on the east coast because of my knowledge and skills with computers.

2. I live with my parents but my grandmother Mary Roundtree helped raise me when my mother was seriously ill several years ago.I love her very much and I visit my grandmother at least twice a week. She lives at the Spring Garden Apartments in a first floor apartment that is subsidized by the federal government.

3. When my parents went away on a two week vacation to the Caribbean to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, I went to stay with my grandmother. I usually hang out in the courtyard of the complex because I know some of the teenagers and young adults that live there.

4. On January 5, 2016, I took off my winter jacket when I was riding on Metro because the car was hot. I was not paying attention when I reached my station because I had to run out of the subway car before the door closed. Unfortunately, I left my jacket on the metro car.

5. I did not want to bother my grandmother for money to buy another jacket so I went to a nearby used clothing store to buy an inexpensive jacket that I could wear until my parents returned from vacation. The only jacket was a size "large," with a very heavy lining and it was the color red. I am a size medium and I hate the color red but I needed a jacket until my parents got home.

6. I recently started smoking marijuana because I liked the way it relaxes me.I also tried smoking synthetic marijuana, known as Scooby Do. On January 10, 2016, I was hanging out with some people I know in the courtyard of the Spring Garden Apartments. One of my friends, Tony Simmons, asked me if I had some weed. I told him that I didn't get the marijuana for free and if he wanted some he would have to give me a portion of what I paid. Since I paid $20.00, I asked him to give me $10.00 then I would share it with him.

7. Tony gave me a $10.00 bill and then I reached into the right pocket of my jacket and gave him one of the two bags of marijuana I had. All of a sudden a DC Metropolitan Police officer ran up on us and arrested me and Tony.

8. The Officer started searching me and found the other bag of marijuana I had. Then she unzipped a pocket that was located in the left chest area of the jacket that had a lot of padding and I removed a large baggie filled with what later turned out to be synthetic marijuana.

9. I did not know that there was anything in that pocket of the jacket. I did not know that synthetic marijuana was in there. That stuff must have been in the pocket when I bought it from the used clothing store.

10. I was arrested and booked on charges of possession of marijuana, distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a dangerous drug. I spent the night in jail and was taken to court without bond pending trial. I did not know my having marijuana or synthetic marijuana would potentially make me lose my scholarship or get my grandmother evicted from her apartment.

WITNESS SCRIPT: OFFICER CARLOTTA LOPEZ

1. My name is Officer Carlotta Lopez and I am a police officer with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD").

2. On January 2, 2016, the MPD began a police operation to reduce the sale of marijuana to teenagers at the Spring Garden Apartments complex. A fellow Officer Michael Wilson was in charge of the observations of the operation.

3. On January 10, 2016, I was positioned in an unmarked vehicle down the street from the complex. I received a call from Officer Wilson that a marijuana deal had just occurred in the courtyard of the complex between two young men.

4. I ran to the courtyard and I placed De Shawn Cooper and Tony Simmons under arrest. When I searched De Shawn, I found a bag of marijuana in the right pocket of the jacket Mr. Cooper was wearing.

5. I then unzipped a pocket that was located in the left chest area of the jacket that had a lot of padding and I removed a large baggie filled with what later turned out to be "synthetic marijuana" which is known as Scooby Do on the street.

6. Mr. Cooper was taken to the local precinct and booked on charges of possession of marijuana, distribution of marijuana and possession with intent to distribute a dangerous drug.

WITNESS SCRIPT: OFFICER MICHAEL WILSON

1. My name is Officer Michael Wilson and I am a police officer with the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department ("MPD").

2. On January 2, 2016, I began a police operation to reduce the sale of marijuana to teenagers at the Spring Garden Apartments complex.

3. I began making observations at the complex from a second story vacant apartment. I used binoculars to watch and observe the activity at the complex.

4. On January 10, 2016, I observed De Shawn Cooper hanging out in the courtyard of the complex and talking to Tony Simmons. I had seen Mr. Cooper hanging out in the courtyard over several of the previous days.

5. After De Shawn Cooper and Tony Simmons talked for a few minutes, I observed Mr. Simmons hand Mr. Cooper a $10.00 bill. Mr. Cooper then reached into the right pocket of his jacket and gave Tony one bag of marijuana.

6. I immediately called Officer Carlotta Lopez.

WITNESS SCRIPT: TONY SIMMONS

1. My name is Tony Simmons. I am 21 years old and I live at the Spring Garden Apartments.

2. On January 10, 2016, I was hanging out with my friend De Shawn Cooper in the courtyard of the apartment complex when I asked him if he had any weed that I could have.

3. De Shawn told me that he had a little marijuana but because he paid for it, he would not give me any and I had to pay for it.

4. De Shawn told me I had to give him $10.00 and then he would share the marijuana with me.I gave him a $10.00 bill and then De Shawn reached into the right pocket of his jacket and gave me one bag of marijuana.

5. I immediately began rolling a joint and started to smoke it in the courtyard. All of a sudden a D.C. Metropolitan Police Officer ran up on us and arrested me and De Shawn.

6. I was charged with consumption of marijuana on public space.