Warrant challenge delays marijuana activist's trial

Windsor Star

Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2008
 
The trial of a marijuana-legalization activist known as Daweedking was adjourned Tuesday to give a police officer time to find notes indicating the reliability of his informants.
 

Miller is seeking proof of the informants' accuracy, implying police can allege whatever they want in search warrants if they don't have to back up their claims in court.

"We want to look at the validity of the warrant," Miller said.

 Windsor police Const. Mauro Hernandez did not answer specific questions regarding his informants to avoid identifying them. He said one of the informants provided information for a total of five "successful" search warrants, while the other provided three.

Though Hernandez said the two informants proved reliable, he said that without checking his notes he could not know if the drugs found always closely matched what the sources predicted.

Hernandez noted that the raid on the Pritchards' home was successful, turning up 26 marijuana plants, equipment, some currency, and a Queensmen motorcycle club vest.

Assistant Crown attorney Nicole Lamphier said police often don't keep files on informants and that requiring them to provide proof for every search warrant would be difficult.

"I absolutely refuse to believe that there is not some way that information can be accessed," Rogin said.

The trial has been scheduled for Dec 1st 2008

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Cannabis activist, Daweedking, invokes constitution

 

Craig Pearson

The Windsor Star


Monday, February 11, 2008

A lawyer for a marijuana-legalization advocate known as Daweedking is one step closer to what may become a legal first in Canada -- requiring police to provide proof that informants they use to obtain search warrants are reliable.

Defence lawyer Frank Miller launched a constitutional challenge Monday against the search warrant police used to raid the home of his clients, Fred Pritchard, 40, and his wife Renee Pritchard, 44, in order to seize marijuana plants and drug paraphernalia.

The Pritchards are charged with cultivating marijuana and possession for the purpose of trafficking marijuana. Fred Pritchard has in the past acted as a marijuana activist, using the moniker Daweedking as he provided cannabis to members of his Marijuana Compassion Club of Windsor.

The pot club has been closed since since May 6, 2005, when police raided the couple's Albert Street home and seized 26 plants, as well as lights and other equipment from the basement.

Miller is challenging the claims made by police to get a search warrant. He said the search warrant for the Pritchards' home was based on information provided by two informants, who allege that the accused had 50 to 80 three-foot-high marijuana plants in their basement.

He noted the warrant was strikingly similar to one issued against another client of his -- though police in that case ended up finding 180 three-foot- high plants and 261 one-inch-high seedlings.

"It could be anybody in the city of Windsor making up this song and dance," Miller said in court. "Our position is that nobody was down there."

Miller said it would be "grossly unfair" if the accused could not question police about how they came up with search warrant information.

"The issue of reliability is something that is typically accepted on the face of it," Miller said outside court. He is arguing that search warrants containing similar information to one another are suspicious. "It would suggest very strongly that these people aren't going in (to the locations they claim they are) at all.

"This isn't just one constable. I've found it with other Windsor drug officers."

Superior Court Justice Steve Rogin asked Windsor police Const. Mauro Hernandez to gather information he has obtained over the years from the two informants who provided the information that police cited to get the Pritchards' search warrant.

 

Rogin has yet to rule whether the prosecution must provide proof -- without identifying any sources -- that the informants they use are reliable.

Assistant Crown attorney Nicole Lamphier argued that informants merely estimate what they see, and that police use standard wording "templates" in applying for search warrants.

Furthermore, she said, the defence should not be allowed to question police about their past dealings with an informant on two grounds: that it's not relevant, and that it might disclose the identity of the source.

"The smallest details can identify the informant," said Lamphier, noting that comparing several instances in which one informant provided information could provide hints about the informant's identity and place that person in jeopardy.

"A pattern may emerge. In this small town, this pattern could identify the informant."

© The Windsor Star 2008

 
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