Rainbow

Rainbow

Monday, April 19, 2010

62 acres, pruning shears and 1,500 marijuana plants - when is circumstantial evidence enough to convict?

This isn't exactly a case about "farming" in the "legal" sense, but I found the recent decision of the B.C. Court of Appeal in R. v. Rong of interest because it involves a rural "rental" property.  Rong was convicted at trial of production and possession of marijuana for trafficking and appealed on the basis that the circumstantial evidence against him was not sufficient to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.  The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal, and the following excerpts from the judgment say it all:
There was a trail leading from the residence to the field. A garden hose and electrical extension cord ran from the house and connected to the watering and fertilizing system in the field which was manually operated. Partially full bottles of fertilizer were found in the basement of the house similar to empty bottles found in the field. An unopened new garden hose was found beside buckets in the field and a package of new unopened anvil pruning shears were found in the kitchen of the residence along with a pair of gardening gloves similar to a pair found in the field. Garden shears, an axe and pruning clippers were found on the main floor of the house near a fireplace. More pruning shears and a gas-powered generator were found in the basement. Three of the four bedrooms upstairs in the two-storey house had clothing and mattresses on the floor. The house appeared lived in as a temporary residence and there was food in the fridge and freezer and toiletries in the bathroom. There was no garden or crops other than marijuana on the property. [...]
In my view, despite these arguments, the evidence amply supports an obvious connection between the residence and the field of marijuana cultivation. The power and water lines linking the house and the field, the pruning shears, gloves and fertilizer in both locations and the absence of any agricultural or other activity on the property other than marijuana cultivation lead irresistibly to the conclusion that the residence was occupied by persons engaged in intensive cultivation of the field of marijuana. The sparse furnishing of the residence and mattresses on the floor in the bedrooms strongly support the inference that the persons residing on the premises were only there to work in the field, and the appellant was clearly residing there when the search warrant was executed. His personal effects were found in one of the bedrooms and he appeared to be just getting out of bed. He was also observed on the property on an earlier occasion, in circumstances indicating both some familiarity with the property and a measure of control with respect to the dogs on the property.
Read the decision at: R. v. Rong.