Friday, June 10, 2005

Warrick v. Superior Court (Cal. Supreme Ct. - June 2, 2005)

Sometimes things just strike you as funny. Warrick is hanging out with a bunch of other people in an area well-known for drug sales and starts to run when the police approach his group. The police claim to see Warrick throw a baggie containing 42 pieces of rock cocaine to the ground, and accordingly charge him with possession of cocaine for sale. Warrick's defense is that someone else ditched the baggie, and that he was just in the area looking to score when he (along with everyone else) started to run, and that since the police were able to catch up with him but not anyone else, they put the blame on him and falsely said that they saw him ditch the rock. The Court of Appeal thought that Warrick's defense was utterly implausible, and on that basis, denied his Pitchess motion (for discovery of the police officers' personnel records).

This is the portion of Justice Kennard's opinion (on pages 12-13) that -- for some reason -- brought a smile to my face: "The Court of Appeal questioned why, if defendant was buying cocaine, he had so little cash. One could just as well question why, if defendant was selling 42 rocks of cocaine, he had only $2.75 in his pockets with which to make change for his customers." (emphasis in original)

Now, I admit that I'm no expert on the buying and selling of rock cocaine on the streets, having -- and I'm sure this will shock everyone -- never even contemplated doing so. And I'm also not advocating that the California Supreme Court be packed with a diverse group of Justices who can bring their experiences buying and selling crack on the mean streets of downtown Los Angeles to enlighten the Court's adjudication of disputes.

That said, let me say this, Justice Kennard: Crack dealers don't give change. They are not a 7-11. There is no "Take a penny, give a penny" jar. You pay your $20 and you get your rock. It's that simple. They don't say "Thank you for your business. That'll be $18.75, plus tax. Would you like paper or plastic?" You don't get money back, and -- unless you're a moron -- you don't conclude your transaction with a potentially heavily-armed crack dealer by saying: "Dude, where's my $2.75 in change?!" You pay your $20 and move on. Crack dealers do not compete on the basis of which one gives better coupons or green stamps or access to change. To put it in terms perhaps more understandable to the upper class: It's like a prix fixe meal. There's a set price. And no change.

So, in this case, a little more street savvy would perhaps have been beneficial. Anyway, the line was funny to read. Just proving that even people who wear black robes are sometimes worlds apart from the people they judge.