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Jury Gets Instructions, Deliberations Underway


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In his final instructions Tuesday, Court of Queen's Bench Justice Frank Gerein told the seven-woman, five-man jury that they had heard much during the three-week long trial about the Anishinabe Nation of Turtle Island, Indian adoptions of white men, sovereignty of First Nations and immunity from Canadian laws -- but it doesn't matter.

"I tell you as a matter of law that nobody in this country -- whether aboriginal or otherwise -- enjoys immunity from the laws enacted by the Parliament of Canada," the judge said, adding each accused was prohibited from producing cannabis marijuana.

Central to the jury's deliberations is deciding what was in each accused's mind and whether or not he knew what they were growing.

On Aug. 21, 2005 an RCMP raid discovered more than 6,000 cannabis marijuana plants growing on the Pasqua First Nation near Fort Qu'Appelle. The bulk of the plants were in six large greenhouses and four smaller plots.

Lawrence Hubert Agecoutay, 52, Chester Fernand Girard, 59, Nelson Edward Northwood, 58, Jack Allan Northwood, 55, Joseph Clayton Agecoutay, 47, and Robert Stanley Agecoutay, 48, are charged with illegally producing marijuana between April 1 and Aug. 21, 2005 and possessing the drug for the purpose of trafficking.

Robert Agecoutay is charged with possessing a prohibited weapon (a sawed-off shotgun) while Girard faces an additional charge of forcible entry of a house.

In his closing arguments earlier this week, Crown prosecutor Darrell Blais suggested the men had come together to grow marijuana in the hopes of splitting a $3-million profit. He pointed to a document showing calculations and the names "Larry," "Chester" and "Us" to support that argument. He suggested the "Us" and the reference to the initials "N" "J" and "E" referred to brothers Nelson and Jack Northwood and another B.C. man named Ed, who isn't facing charges.

But the six defence lawyers argued the accused were motivated by altruism, not greed, with plans to grow "medicine."

Lawrence Agecoutay identified himself as the international, traditional, inherent and spiritual chief for the Turtle Island Indian Reserve -- a sovereign land not subject to the drug laws of Canada. The Regina man said he was instructed by the "Creator" to grow medicine to help his people with diabetes and cancer.

Through a Web site that advertised adoptions to the Anishinabe Nation, Lawrence Agecoutay met Chester Girard, who used his expertise to grow the plants. The Web site also brought Nelson Northwood from B.C. to be adopted by the Anishinabe Nation in hopes of dodging taxes, court heard.

Lawrence Agecoutay said they had a five-year plan to create a centre that would produce medicine, hemp clothes, and fuel. During the trial, the defence referred to the plants as "medicine" and "industrial hemp." But during his three-hour jury charge, Gerein said neither hemp nor marijuana for medicinal purpose can be legally grown without a permit. "There are no permits or licenses before you," the judge said.

Source: Leader-Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2008 Leader-Post
Contact: Regina Leader-Post
Website: Regina Leader-Post
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