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Krieger vows to appeal pot conviction

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Cannabis crusader Grant Krieger is vowing to continue his compassion club
despite being convicted of trafficking after an unparalleled, compelling
courtroom scene.

"I have no choice but to," Krieger said in an interview Thursday, one day
after his conviction. "The people I help would have to go into the street
for this (marijuana). Nobody should have to go into the street for this,
especially when you're ill."

Krieger, who lives on a disability pension, has permission from the federal
government to use the illicit weed to treat his own multiple sclerosis.
Krieger said he plans to appeal the conviction.

Local legal experts say the ending of the trial was unprecedented in

"It's most unusual," said Alain Hepner, a high-profile criminal lawyer.
"It's seldom that we'll see a jury so rebellious against a judge. . . . It's
a reflection of the jury's compassion for the individual and the jury's
confusion with the state of the law in Canada."

Court of Queen's Bench Justice Paul Chrumka directed the jury to find the
49-year-old Calgarian guilty of possessing marijuana for the purpose of

Courtroom observers thought the process would take a few minutes, but after
seven hours the jury was still deadlocked. At that point, a man and woman
asked if they could be excused because they couldn't vote against their
conscience. The man wept while explaining his predicament.

Chrumka ordered them to return to deliberations and render a guilty verdict,
which they did 21/2 hours later.

Chrumka then sentenced Krieger to one day in jail, which he won't have to
serve -- he spent 16 days in the Remand Centre in 1999 when he was arrested
on the charge. Chrumka said the father of three had broken the law but did
so on compassionate grounds, to supply marijuana to other sufferers whose
symptoms are alleviated by taking the drug.

The federal government had promised to address the issue of decriminalizing
marijuana for certain circumstances, but the session of parliament ended
without a new law.

"It's a confusing situation," Hepner said. "It's confusing for the public.
It's confusing for individual jurors who have their own views on the matter
and it's confusing because of the sympathy for Krieger's situation."

Balfour Der, who spent a decade as a Crown prosecutor before becoming a
defence counsel 13 years ago, said the two jurors probably felt they had no
other choice but to ask to be relieved of their duty.

"It would be about the only way they could voice their opposition, short of
acquitting the man," he said.

Der, who wrote a popular textbook about criminal jury trials, added he had
never seen a jury react that way in Calgary.

Chris Levy, an expert on legal history, said the judge's directive was
uncommon, but the jurors' reaction to it was extraordinary.

"The jury's reaction was extremely unusual, at least in anything remotely
resembling modern times," said the faculty of law professor at the
University of Calgary.

"The instruction given by the judge is certainly unusual now, although it
was something that was much more common 20 to 30 years ago."

Krieger's lawyer, Adriano Iovinelli, was surprised by what transpired in the

"I've never seen a jury being that defiant in relation to a direction from
the court," he said Thursday.

"They were obviously battling with what the law says and what their hearts
said. . . . Having a jury member break down and cry, that was a very
difficult situation to be in."

Local pot users were critical of the judge.

"I thought it was ridiculous," said Dave Lee, a 22-year-old store clerk.

"Two of the jury members said they couldn't make the decision and then they
were forced to go back in. It takes away a lot of the strength of the legal
system, forcing people into a decision. It's their role as a jury to make a

John, who didn't give his last name, agreed.

"If the judge is telling the jury how to react to the case, it's kind of
biased," said the 22-year-old homebuilder.

"The jury is spending 91/2 hours deliberating, so they're trying to find him
not guilty, and that should be the verdict."

Both the Crown and the defence have 30 days to file notice of appeal
regarding either the conviction or the sentence.

Pubdate: Friday, December 5, 2003
Source: Calgary Herald (CN AB)
Contact: letters@theherald.canwest.com
Website: http://www.canada.com/calgary/calgaryherald/
Author: Scott Crowson