Friday, September 17, 2010
The Tragic Case of Michael Lapihuska
I want to inform my readers about the incredibly tragic and maddening case of Michael Lapihuska in Anniston, Alabama. Michael is pictured above facing the camera.
Michael is a former resident of Anniston, AL and a medical marijuana patient. In 2003 he was sentenced to a year in an Alabama prison for 5 grams of marijuana. It was his second possession offense, which automatically made it a felony. After Michael got out of prison he moved to California where he was able to become a legal medical marijuana patient. He uses marijuana to treat PTSD and clinical depression.
Last December Michael traveled back to Alabama to visit with family and friends. One evening while walking down the road he was stopped by a police officer and accused of hitch hiking. The cop demanded that he be allowed to search Michael. Michael complied. During the search the cop found one gram of marijuana in a prescription bottle. Michael explained that he was a medical marijuana patient registered in California and was home visiting. He showed the cop his card. Cop didn't care. Michael was arrested, jailed and is now facing 2-10 years in prison for using the medicine that his doctor recommended.
It will come as no surprise to any of you who read this blog that he is having major trouble with his attorney, court appointed, naturally. She wants him to take a plea deal that would sentence him to 1 year in jail (suspended) and 2 years supervised probation. Michael will not take that deal, because he uses marijuana as medicine, and that is his only medicine. He knows he will fail the first drug screen on probation. The way he sees it, he is going to prison either way so he might as well fight the charges. He has demanded a jury trial.
Even though he has told his attorney that he wants a jury trial from the very beginning, according to him, she has not returned one single phone call. She also hasn't returned my phone call offering help from ACC and medical marijuana lawyers in other states. This week she is out of town on vacation and did not leave anyone in her office in charge of Michael's case. Michael's trial is set for Thursday, Sept. 23.
It gets worse. Michael asked for a mental health evaluation. The psychiatrist who was tapped for that threatened to have Michael's bond revoked. See, Michael rides his bike everywhere he goes. They psychiatrist called Michael at 5 pm on a Friday afternoon and said for Michael to meet him at the Calhoun Co. Jail the following Monday at 8 am. Problem was that Michael was a few days away and could not make the appointment on such a short notice. It would have been impossible for him to get back on his bike within that time frame. He told the psychiatrist that and the psychiatrist threatened to have his bond revoked if he did not show up. That wound up not happening....but good grief when even the doctor who is supposed to be evaluating you threatens you with jail how fair will the psychological hearing be? And why was it being conducted at the jail?
Michael contacted me in the very early part of this year asking for help. Ever since then he has been at almost every ACC meeting. He is basically homeless sleeping wherever he finds himself at the end of a day of riding, or occasionally staying with friends if any are nearby. He also volunteers at soup kitchens along the way. I've come to know him pretty well over the course of the last few months and needless to say I am very concerned about his upcoming trial. He is not a criminal. He is a sick man who uses a natural plant on the recommendation of his physician. He in no way belongs in a dangerous, inhumane, disease ridden, overcrowded Alabama prison. It is NOT a crime to be sick. I fear for him at a jury trial because Michael has an illness that isn't readily apparent. You can't see mental illness like you can cancer. He doesn't look sick so I am not sure a jury will believe it.
We wanted to try and have his attorney use the Full Faith and Credit Clause of the US Constitution which states that states shall recognize the laws and professional licenses of other states. However, since the idiotic 'Defense of Marriage' act was passed a few years ago it can be invoked to get around the Full Faith clause. Even though Montana has set precedent using that clause to defend a very similar case there before they had a medical marijuana law.
We also thought there was a very good chance that we could get it thrown out on the grounds that it was an illegal search. Alabama code states that it is only illegal to hitch hike if one is standing in the road obstructing traffic flow. The police report does not state that he was doing that....only that he was hitch hiking. Therefore the cop had no right to stop him...much less search him.
But, seeing as how his attorney has shown zero concern for him we don't think she will try either of these possible remedies for his case.
The Anniston Star has been extremely helpful to us in getting the word out about Michael's case. They did an incredible article last month. Please go and read
Anniston Man Finds One States medicine is Another's Illicit Drug
Since the article three great LTE's have appeared in support of Michael. Please read them
Cast a vote for Compassion
Un-American to harass sick
Ashamed of Government
More are on the way from ACC members and we hope they will appear before Thursday. Please take a moment and write your own.
Here are the current plans for Michael's upcoming trial.
1. We are going to ask for a continuance, which should be granted, so that suitable representation can be found. If that happens the trial will not be next Thursday.
2. If the trial does happen next Thursday then every member of Alabamians for Compassionate Care and any other interested citizen who can make it plan to protest outside the courthouse. We will be handing out jury nullification information, medical marijuana information, and information about our medical marijuana bill in the Alabama House. We will also have signs calling for jury nullification and informing people that Michael is a registered medical marijuana patient in California, that he has harmed no one etc.
I need readers to do a couple of things.
1. Write a letter to the Anniston Star on Michael's behalf. Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org
Do it TODAY!
2. If this trial happens next week then I need you to plan to be there. Bring signs that say
"Jury Nullification for Michael Lapihuska"
"Michael Lapihuska is a PATIENT NOT a CRIMINAL"
"Support medical marijuana in Alabama"
"ACQUIT MICHAEL LAPIHUSKA"
The more people we have on hand to get jury nullification information into the hands of potential jurors the better. The more people we have attend the louder our message becomes and the bigger this case becomes.
Winning this case for Michael is much bigger than just helping one man. It would set precedent in Alabama for medical marijuana patients traveling through here. Our medical marijuana bill, which will come back before the house judiciary committee in March 2011 contains a reciprocity clause that would actually keep Michael and other medical marijuana patients out of Alabama courts and jails. It would honor medical marijuana patients from other states.
Please check back here and on our ACC Facebook page for updates about the trial next week. Please send this to everyone you know in Alabama who might be willing to attend or help in some other way. Please tell everyone you know who knows anything about jury nullification that we need their help with this case. And, if you know an attorney who would be willing to take this case for a reduced rate or pro bono then get them in contact with me ASAP. I can be reached at