Via The Agitator comes this story…
Sheriff George H. Payne, Jr. destroyed 500 marijuana plants in a field… except that they weren’t marijuana plants — they were kenaf plants being grown for deer food. Now kenaf plants can have a wide range of leaf styles and some of them are similar to hemp. But anyone with any training (or access to the internet) can easily tell the difference. And you would think that it would be the reponsibility of the police to verify that something was illegal before destroying it, wouldn’t you?
Not according to a federal judge, who ruled that grower Marion Waltman wasn’t due any compensation for his lost crop.
Guirola determined that Payne was acting within his official capacity and within the scope of discretionary authority. Qualified immunity shields Payne from liability because his conduct was “objectively reasonable.”
“Virtually all of the law enforcement officers at the scene … mistakenly identified the kenaf crop as marijuana. Thus, it was not objectively unreasonable for Sheriff Payne to reach the same conclusions.”
Apparently if enough officers are stupid, then the standard for objectivity is lowered. Also, according to this judge, destruction based on assumption is a reasonable act for law enforcement.
Fortunately, Waltman’s lawyer plans to appeal.
Again, this isn’t just a silly/funny story about “oops, the police made a mistake.” This goes into the whole drug war notion that citizens don’t have rights — that the police are able to feel that they can go and destroy something without cause or special authority, and that there are no repercussions if they’re wrong.