Monday, January 25, 2010

BEAT BYTE: Seeds and Stems overturn Columbia man's pot conviction

COLUMBIA, 1/24/10  (Beat Byte) -- Distinguishing between seeds, stems, and leaves, a Missouri appeals court last week threw out a Columbia man's 6-year prison sentence for possession of marijuana in excess of 35 grams. 
For the majority, Western District Court of Appeals justice and former Columbia attorney Mark Pfeiffer wrote that a jury in 2008 erred when it found Columbia resident David Carl McClain guilty of possessing 38.3 grams of marijuana -- a class C felony. 
The reason: "the State's expert witness admitted that the substance he weighed included stems and seeds," which aren't controlled under Missouri's anti-drug laws.  Also admitting that he didn't know the weight of the stems and seeds, the State's expert couldn't ascertain whether or not McClain possessed the felonious quantity -- over 35 grams.  If the seeds and stems weighed 4 grams, for instance, McClain would have been guilty of possessing 34.3 grams of marijuana -- a misdemeanor.
" is clear that, when the State's criminalist testified that the substance weighed 38.30 grams, he was including the weight of the controlled substance and the weight of some non-controlled substances," the 3-justice panel wrote.  "We, therefore, reverse the trial court's judgment convicting McClain of the class C felony of possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana and enter judgment against McClain on the class A misdemeanor of possession of marijuana."
Columbia police arrested McClain -- a chronic offender with a string of petty crimes -- in 2007 near Garth and the Business Loop.  And though he got off lightly on this latest scuffle,  McClain may never learn.  Paroled just six months after his September 2008 conviction, he was arrested in November for allegedly possessing 63 Ecstasy pills, another felony.   
REALTOR BLASTS:  Boone County storm water proposal
COLUMBIA, 1/24/10  (Beat Byte) --  "Bad for taxpayers, bad for land owners, bad for business, bad for job creation, bad for freedom.  It is also bad because it will not solve the water runoff problem."
That's how Columbia realtor John Pekkala characterized a proposed Boone County stormwater ordinance designed to tackle illegal discharge, inspection protocols, and long term stormwater management.   The ordinance would join other recent stormwater control mandates, including so-called "stream buffers" designed to keep development from encroaching on streams.   
"These proposed storm water regulations would result in property sale proceeds going way down for many Boone County Property owners.  It is a taking of property value," Pekkala told Boone County commissioners at their January 12 meeting.  "Thousands of of dollars per acre will be stolen from Boone County taxpayers," he emphasized.
Calling on Commissioners to reject "a land grab" designed by "unelected bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.," Pekkala said Boone County already has a "vast countywide storm water system," that includes ditches and other runoff canals.
He also demanded to know what county government itself was doing to reduce runoff.
"Where is the county's storm water garden?  Does the jail have rain barrels?"  Pekkala asked.  "I implore the Commission to rethink and not pass the current proposal take care of what you already have control of first.  The County Commission does not work for the EPA.  They work for us." 
MU SURGEONS:  Team with NFL to treat bad knees
COLUMBIA, 1/24/10  (Beat Byte) --  With a $120,000 grant from National Football League Charities, Mizzou orthopedic surgeons are developing a faster, easier way to diagnose tears in the meniscus -- a crescent shaped knee cartilage about one million people in the United States injure every year.   
Current diagnostic techniques involve hospital visits and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).  But James Cook, the William and Kathryn Allen Distinguished Professor in Orthopedic Surgery, and his team in the Comparative Orthopedic Laboratory have developed a method for on-the-field diagnosis using a new ultrasound technique.
Meniscal tears can mean the end for pro football players, especially if mis-diagnosed.  "The nature and extent of the injury is nearly impossible to determine until the MRI and arthroscopy procedures are performed, leaving the player, coach and medical personnel uncertain of whether the player can or should continue to play," Cook said. 
This year, NFL Charities donated about $1.5 million to 11 different organizations pursuing sports-related medical research.
COLUMBIA COLLEGE:  Joins Major League Baseball to train Umpires
COLUMBIA, 1/24/10  (Beat Byte) --  Major League Baseball (MLB) and Columbia College are teaming up to offer a Certificate of Professional Officiating, or Umpiring, at the MLB Umpire Camp.   The new program involves online coursework in sports officiating, and a week-long training program at the annual MLB Umpire Camp in Compton, California.
"Major League Baseball is pleased that its Umpire Camps can provide an educational outlet for the students of Columbia College who have interest in umpiring as a profession," said Jimmie Lee Solomon, MLB's Executive Vice President, Baseball Operations.
"The certificate is a new and exciting concept for Columbia College," said Dr. Terry Smith, the school's Executive Vice President and Dean for Academic Affairs. "We are thrilled to partner with such a prestigious organization and together hope to produce a large cohort of highly-skilled baseball umpires for our communities."
CITY JUDGE:  Takes mercy on MU student journalist
COLUMBIA, 1/24/10  (Beat Byte) -- A Columbia municipal judge suspended a sentence for an MU photojournalist charged with disorderly conduct at a fire in September.  In his January 12 order, Judge Robert Aulgur placed Andrew Worrall, an MU photojournalism student and Maneater staff writer and photographer, on two years of temporary probation.   
Worrall, a trained volunteer firefighter taking photographs at the time, refused an assistant fire chief's order to move away from the fire, which nearly destroyed a mobile home at Colonial Village Trailer Court on Rangeline Road, fire captain Larry Curtis testified.
Worrall testified that he told the assistant fire chief he "had the right to be there."
In addtion to suspending the sentence, Judge Aulgur refrained from entering a final order convicting Worrall of violating a city ordinance against refusing or neglecting to obey an order from a fire chief at a fire. 
"If he [Worrall] doesn’t have any violations, which I don’t think he will, then the case is dismissed," Columbia attorney Russell Still told the Student Press Law Center News.  Still represented Worrall pro-bono as a referral attorney for the Student Press Law Center (SPLC), an organization dedicated to improving conditions for student journalists based in Arlington, Virginia. 
"If journalists have the perception that their access is being unnecessarily restricted by law enforcement on the scene, the right response is to object once, then comply and have the conversation later with the officer’s superiors," Adam Goldstein, attorney advocate of the Student Press Law Center, told SPLC news.     

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