Baltimore prosecutor files petition to erase pot convictions

AP NEWS | 7/27/2016 | Staff
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BALTIMORE (AP) — Baltimore’s top prosecutor has filed a rarely used legal petition intended to vacate 3,778 convictions for possession of marijuana, arguing an extraordinary legal strategy is necessary to “right an extraordinary wrong.”

In a highly unusual “Maryland v Maryland” filing in state court, State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby used a petition called “writ of error coram nobis” that allows a court to reopen cases when substantial error is found that wasn’t apparent in initial judgments. The petition, if granted, could wipe out thousands of pot possession convictions.

Mosby - Arguments - Opportunity - Justice - Disparities

Mosby’s arguments are based on what she paints as an opportunity to achieve retroactive justice by acknowledging racial disparities in how pot possession cases over years were policed and prosecuted in Baltimore, a city under a federal oversight program due to discriminatory and unconstitutional policing.

“The sordid history of marijuana prohibition lies in ethnic and racial bigotry,” she writes in the filing, which notes that racial disparities in possession arrests continue to exist in majority-black Baltimore even after Maryland’s 2014 decriminalization of amounts less than 10 grams.

Mosby - Actions - Part - Shift - Way

Mosby’s actions are part of an ongoing national shift with the way criminal justice functions regarding marijuana, which is allowed for some form of medical use in most U.S. states even as it remains illegal under federal law. Simple pot possession is a crime prosecutors in some other American cities including New York, Philadelphia and St. Louis won’t pursue.

Her court petition comes the same week she announced her office will no longer prosecute any cannabis possession cases, regardless of the quantity or an individual’s criminal record. She argued that limited resources were needed to address more significant crimes in a U.S. city grappling with chronically high violent crime rates and no shortage of dangerous drug syndicates.

Mosby - Moves - Week - Kind - Stunt

Some have dismissed Mosby’s moves this week as a kind of stunt, arguing that...
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