[UPDATED W/JUDGE'S LATEST ANTICS] Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine Trial: It's a Kangaroo Courtroom


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UPDATED, DEC. 7, 3 P.M.: The good news, if you can call it that, is that Judge Charles Sheldon, the 80-something judge in the trial of Joe Byron and Joe Grubmine, the former operators of a pair of Long Beach cannabis collectives as well as Garden Grove's Unit D dispensary, has taken down the screen preventing jurors from seeing the defendants' supporters in the audience. The bad news: Sheldon, according to observers, has continued to display clear signs of bias against the accused pot purveyors.

On Dec. 5, for example, Sheldon sustained all seven prosecutorial objections while overruling no less than 44 defense objections, sustaining only one. And yesterday, Sheldon berated defense attorney Christopher Glew for his repeated attempts to get supposedly "expert" prosecution witnesses about medical marijuana to provide any details about their knowledge or training.
For that display, Glew filed a motion for a mistrial but of course Sheldon denied it. Now, the lawyers are filing a motion with the criminal division's presiding judge to have Sheldon removed from the case. Neither Glew, who represents Grumbine, nor Allison Margolin, can discuss the case because of a gag order Sheldon ordered for the duration of the trial, which is expected to last at least one more week.

ORIGINAL POST, Dec. 2, 1 P.M.: There's a reason why the marijuana-selling trial of Joe Byron and Joe Grumbine, the former owners of a pair of Long Beach cannabis collectives, is unfolding in Long Beach Superior Court's Department K. The letter, as Judge Judith Meyer (who last month referred the case to Judge Charles Sheldon) once drew laughs for explaining, stands for that lovable bouncy rodent from Down Under: the kangaroo. 

As jokes go, it's not that funny, though: As the first week in Byron and Grumbine's trial in Sheldon's courtroom draws to a close today, it's becoming rapidly clear the robe-wearing octogenarian isn't exactly worried about appearing overwhelmingly biased against the two defendants.

First of all, Sheldon denied the two Joes their right to mention medical marijuana in their defense. This prevented their attorneys from sending subpoenas to witnesses who could testify they were following state law, which, in California, allows patients to smoke marijuana for medical reasons and to establish collectives to grow the plants. But thanks to a ruling last week by the California Court of Appeal, Sheldon was left with no choice but to allow such witnesses to testify.

On Monday, when confronted with this ruling, however, Sheldon refused a follow-up motion by the defense to delay the trial for a week so defense lawyers Alison Margolin and Christopher Glew could get ahold of those previously off-limits witnesses. No dice, ruled Sheldon, who insisted the trial start right away. It's been all downhill from there. According to court observers and the blog of the activist group The Human Solution, Sheldon has ruled against almost every defense objection, including ones in which prosecution witnesses were rambling onstage without answering any pending question, in which cases Sheldon simply instructs prosecutors to pose a question so that the witness can keep going.

Today, Sheldon went so far as to order a screen erected between the jury and the audience to prevent jurors (some of whom observers have already been noticed rolling their eyes at Sheldon) from seeing audience members, most of whom support the two defendants.

Supporters have been protesting the trial for weeks now, gathering every morning at 8 on the courthouse steps. The protests--and the trial itself--are scheduled to resume Monday morning.


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