Catrina Coleman/West Coast Leaf
Joe Grumbine outside the Long Beach Courthouse with his grandchild Jojo
Joe Grumbine and Joe Byron, whose recent trial for operating a medical cannabis dispensary in Southern California attracted worldwide attention — make that horror and disbelief — for judicial and jury misconduct and prejudice, has been granted a new trial.
“This was a terrible, terrible trial,” said Long Beach Superior Court Judge Joan Comparet-Cassani, who granted the motion for a new trial.
“I read the transcript [of the previous trial]and I am appalled,” Judge Comparet-Cassani said on Friday, reports Cheri Sicard of The Human Solution, who attended the hearing along with Grumbine and other members of the group.
The judge also said she was “speechless” at the judicial and jury misconduct, adding that the misconduct started at the preliminary hearing and “continued throughout the trial.”
There were many instances when Judge Charles Sheldon (the judge in the original trial) would never rule on an objection and simply continue with the proceedings, according to Sicard, who attended the trial. “There were so many cases of this I just stopped counting,” Judge Comparet-Cassani said at Friday morning’s hearing.
On one occasion, Allison Margolin (a defense attorney for Grumbine) was in tears (due to the judge’s extreme rudeness, according to Nick Schou at OC Weekly) and Judge Sheldon would not give her time to compose herself before the jury came back. Judge Comparet-Cassani said this was “an abuse of discretion,” adding that Judge Sheldon’s treatment of Margolin sent a clear message to the jury “not to trust her.”
In many instances, sidebars and 402 hearings were denied, or if they had the hearings Judge Sheldon would let the jurors know what was discussed; Judge Comparet-Cassani said she was “speechless” when reviewing these.
She also stated that in reading the transcripts, it wasn’t until page 1,004 that attorney Margolin was finally able to get an objection sustained. “It was outrageous,” Sicard told Toke of the Town. “During the trial I kept a daily count of sustains to overrules.”
In addition to clear judicial misconduct, jury misconduct was also rife at the trial, and was ignored by Judge Sheldon.
“At least four jurors had read newspaper articles about the case during the trial, and Sheldon never told them on the record not to do that,” Sicard told me.
Judge Comparet-Cassani also was in disbelief that Judge Sheldon hadn’t allowed the defense time to prepare. He had originally disallowed a medical defense, the appeals court overturned that decision, and Sheldon insisted that they start the trial the next day, even though he had previously disallowed all the defense witnesses.
During the trial, defense attorney Chris Glew actually took the stand to testify. Judge Comparet-Cassani said she has never, ever heard of that, and that it is NOT allowed. She said she couldn’t understand how Judge Sheldon allowed it, or why the prosecutor didn’t object.
Glew’s turn on the witness stand had to do with a discovery issue to which the lead detective testified (also not allowed), and so Glew said “If he is going to testify, then so am I,” and had himself sworn in.
“We go back on May 8 with a new judge (today we saw Judge Arthur Jean, the first guy who gave the Joe the exorbitant bail — he may or may not be the judge at the new trial,” Sicard told Toke of the Town Friday afternoon. “Stay tuned, folks.”
Grumbine is currently looking for a new lawyer, or he may be going back with a public defender. Allison Margolin will continue to defend Grumbine’s codefendant, Joe Byron, according to Sicard.