Update: Brave Student Won’t Cop A Plea In Marijuana Case


Law Offices of David Sloane
Attorney David Sloane shared with Toke of the Town this photo of Zach Walker in the cage of the patrol car immediately following his arrest (taken by the patrol car camera system), telling us he finds the photo “particularly nauseating”

A college student in Texas who has elected to take his chances with a jury following his arrest for marijuana possession is now set for jury trial. Zachariah Walker, 23, has rejected the state’s final offer of 60 days in jail. No date has yet been set for the trial, but the court coordinator predicts it will be in Denton County Criminal Court Number 2 sometime in February 2013, according to Walker’s attorney.

Back on July 13, Walker, of Denton, Texas, was stopped for an alleged traffic violation by the University of North Texas Police Department. During a subsequent search of the vehicle, officers claimed they found about two grams of marijuana. Walker was immediately arrested and booked into the Denton County Jail; he was later released after posting $1,000 bond.
As previously reported on Toke of the Town, Walker already elected to reject the state’s October 10 plea bargain of 180 days in jail, probated for 18 months, and a $600 fine; or 70 days in jail without a probationary term or fine. A member of The University of North Texas student chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (UNT-NORML), Zach said if anybody is going to send him to jail for possession of marijuana, it is going to be a jury of his peers.

Law Offices of David Sloane
Zach’s final rejection of the state’s plea bargain offer

According to his attorney, Fort Worth lawyer David Sloane, this is a great case to put in front of a Texas jury and call attention to the rank absurdity of Texas’ marijuana laws.
“The state’s plea bargain offer was harsher in Zach’s case than you would normally see because he has a prior 2007 conviction for possession of marijuana,” Sloane, a member of NORML’s National Legislative Committee and on the local DFW-NORML Board of Directors, told Toke of the Town. “In that case he was initially placed on deferred adjudication community supervision and failed a court ordered drug test four months into it, testing positive for THC.
“The court adjudicated his guilt in that instance and sentenced him to 60 days in jail,” Sloane told us. “He was forced then to drop out of his classes. Walker will be facing the same judge in this case.”
Speaking publicly about this case with Walker’s permission, Sloane said “This guy has had enough. He has a ‘been-there-done-that’ attitude about probation. And even though a jury could send him to jail for up to 180 days, which Zach is prepared to do if it comes down to it, we don’t believe a reasonable and prudent jury would even remotely consider anything close to the 70 days the state has offered as his punishment for possessing two grams of marijuana.

Law Offices of David Sloane
Zachariah Walker is facing a Texas jail term for possessing two grams of marijuana 

“And they might even find him not guilty,” Sloane said. “Other than his occasional cannabis use this guy has never been accused of doing anything wrong or arguably illegal. He works, goes to school, and plays in a band on the weekends.
“He’s never hurt anyone,” Sloane said. “He’s a genuinely nice guy who’s had chaos heaped upon his life by a government that takes exception to his exercising his liberty to consume cannabis.
“Zach is willing to go down if he must, but it is going to be after a fight,” Sloane said. “He feels his back is against the wall on this and the State of Texas is leaving him with no choice but to fight.”
Sloane said he has staffed this case with other NORML attorneys in Texas and they have agreed to assist in Zac’s trial pro bono. Attorneys Jamie Spencer of Austin, Texas and Jamie Balagia of San Antonio, Texas have agreed to travel to Denton and help try this case.
“On jury trial settings, this particular court calls five cases set for trial at once,” Sloane told Toke of the Town. “Cases where the defendant is in custody awaiting trial, for obvious reasons, take priority. Following that, the court proceeds with the oldest case. It is not unusual to be number five and have all cases ahead of you settle in last-minute plea negotiations.

Law Offices of David Sloane
Attorney David Sloane: “I told him to have his affairs in order and to be prepared to go to jail”

“With a final announcement of ‘ready’ on both sides, the case is set for jury trial the following week,” Sloane said. “This will give us time for our NORML lawyers from San Antonio and Austin to clear their calendars for that week and get up here.”
Sloane shared with Toke of the Town a photo of Zach in the cage of the patrol car immediately following his arrest (taken by the patrol car camera system), telling us he finds the photo “particularly nauseating … that we have a government that will lock you in a cage for possessing a flower.”
We agree.
“In the final admonishments to Zach, I told him to have his affairs in order and to be prepared to go to jail because you never know what a jury will do,” Sloane told Toke of the Town. “He shared a detail about himself that I was unaware of: He told me he was born with a heart defect and had had his chest cracked open for surgeries three times before the age of 14.
“As he signed the form and handed it back, he said, ‘I’m no stranger to the notion of not knowing what tomorrow will bring,’ ” Sloane told us.