Prosecution Sanctioned in Medical Marijuana Trial Due to Illegal Evidence Destruction Day 1 of Dennis and Deborah Littles’ Pre-trial Motions

March 4, 2014

By Terrie Best – San Diego Americans for Safe Access Court Support Coordinator


Dennis and Deborah Little Featured on San Diego 6 - the CW

Dennis and Deborah Little featured on San Diego 6 – The CW

San Diego, CA – Dennis and Deborah Little were in court in Vista before Judge Richard Munroy with their Attorneys Lance Rogers and Nathan Shaman to take the prosecution to task using what Nathan Shaman referred  to as a Trombetta Motion.  The issue the defense raised in the motion is that when the Cross sworn DEA agents collected medical cannabis evidence against the Littles during a raid of their home and cannabis garden the agents promptly destroyed all but 8 pounds of the evidence and then claimed the Littles were in possession of a whopping 640 pounds of cannabis.

The statute the cross-sworn DEA agents violated, 11479, holds that samples must be taken from plant matter evidence before it can be lawfully destroyed.  In the absence of the samples, the defense maintained they can not mount a proper defense against either the possession for sale or cultivation charges levied against the Littles and therefore the charges must be dismissed.

Lance Rogers and Nathan Shaman both argued skillfully that physical evidence in medical cannabis cases is imperative to the defense since, unlike all other controlled substances, cannabis is legal in some instances and possessed amounts are imperative to prove legality in cases of medicinal use.  As the defense stated, “We must prove the amount was reasonable but don’t have the evidence available to prove it.”   Further, since Matt Stevens, the San Diego Sheriff Deputy and a cross-sworn DEA agent, testified at the preliminary hearing to finding 640 pounds of cannabis but did not have the skills to follow the 11479 rule of evidence collecting to protect it, he could not be relied upon at all.

In Judge Munroy’s initial comments, he said the courts found harm to the defense in the destruction of the evidence and that he must recognize that detriment.  He stopped short of dismissal put posed putting a weight cap (limiting the weight to 118 pounds) on what the prosecution could claim the Littles possessed and a further sanction of adding an instruction to the jury about the DEA’s non-compliance in evidence preservation.

The defense argued the weight cap should be set at 8 pounds – the amount which actually exists to this day as evidence – but the Judge denied that sensible request.  Judge Monroy said even though there were pictures and video of the plants and that pains were taken to measure them for the camera,  the footage was too dark to decipher and was of little help in estimating weight and amounts; leaving one wondering why the Judge chose 118 pounds as the cap.

Dennis and Deborah Little are who voters had in mind when we passed prop 215, 17 years ago in California.  They are both very ill and were growing medicine for personal use.  It is unconscionable that law enforcement would not only refuse to honor their status as medical cannabis patients but then would destroy evidence and grossly overestimate the amounts of cannabis they found in attempt to harm the Littles’ defense.  District Attorney Bonnie Dumains’ office is an example of how cruelly and unfairly medical cannabis patients such as the Littles are treated in investigations and in court. Her office routinely disregards patient status as exculpatory and now we see – and the courts point out – signs that her investigators blatantly and dishonestly misrepresent evidence against patients as well.

Please come to court in support of Dennis and Deborah Little.  Pre-trial proceedings begin again tomorrow, Wednesday, March 5, 2014 at 8:30AM in Dept 22 of the Vista Courthouse at 325 S. Melrose Dr., Vista, CA 92081.

Dennis and Deborah were legally cultivating medical marijuana for their own personal use. On October 18, 2012 members of Team 9 of the DEA’s Narcotics Task Force raided the Little’s home and property early in the morning. Rather than the large commercial growing operation they expected to find, the DEA agents found a garden of 29 marijuana plants. Deborah has suffered from HIV/AIDS for 20 years, has fought cancer, and has suffered from a number of other debilitating illnesses. Dennis has suffered from neuropathy and depression for years. The Littles began using medical marijuana as a last resort to treat their pain, particularly for Deborah who had suffered so gravely from the cocktail of medications she had to use to treat her HIV.

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