Into the Frying Pan

It has been a while since my last post, and many things have happened. I finished my Community and Work Experience class this week where I worked as an intern with The Rutland Open Door Mission. This nonprofit organization includes a long-term shelter for homeless veterans, an overnight shelter, a soup kitchen, and a thrift store that provides 80% of their funds. Part of my responsibility was to help them start a Facebook page, check it out, and help spread the word about this incredible organization.

The November 15th status conference was well attended, the group gathering looked like they were ready for a Saturday afternoon at the Met instead of a hearing in district court. Serious and respectful, these friends from our community know my family and they have appreciated the care and dedication our mom has shown in hard times.

The Friends of Sue Thayer arrived at the courthouse at 2PM and their number surprised everyone.  Officer Steve who mans the metal detector asked me to be sure not to give him the bum’s rush at 3PM, but the law need not worry about my mother’s friends, they behave with decorum. Although sixty of us occupied every seat in the courtroom, you could have heard a pin drop.  We were a live audience, observing our judicial system at work first hand, not the high drama of TV shows, but the daily grind of Rutland District Court.

The question on everyone’s mind: How will the court address evidence; which parts of our life story will be allowed at her trial? Judge DiMauro made clear that our case is “trial ready,” so in light of the Vermont Supreme Court ruling the next step is for Peter Neary to file a motion in limine by December 27th to suppress my doctor’s testimony and all evidence concerning our family history. It is a mystery to me how the State’s prosecutors can say this critical testimony is irrelevant when our lives, Tristan’s and mine, explain the sole reason why my mother acted as she did.

We will have our jury drawing February 23rd, and a trial a week later.

Since 2007, the State’s Attorney’s office has prosecuted my mother as though she caused great harm to the community. Our community showed up at court because they know that is not true.

When first seated in Rutland District Court, Judge Zonay quickly decided that the facts of our case were too sensitive for the jury to hear, even though we had a jury drawn and a trial date less than two weeks away. It has been frustrating for my mother to be indicted and come so close to putting our story on the record, only to have that opportunity blocked by the State. Chief Justice Reiber’s fear that my mother would be represented as a common drug possessor without the ability to defend herself as the loving and devoted mother she is seems destined to come true.

Left to right: State's Attorney Marc Brierre, Judge Thomas Zonay, Deputy State's Attorney Peter Neary

Apparently, it is impossible for the state to picture this with compassion:

A family of five, dad is a manufacturer’s representative and on the road much of the time, mom has the household and three children, the youngest child is on a life-long track for renal failure and transplantation, the middle girl is just off to college far away, and the oldest is 22, and nearly dead with leukemia. That is where my family was eight years ago, when suddenly August 1st, my brother awoke without vision in the center of his right eye. He almost died before my mom could drive him to hospital – an hour and forty-five minutes away.  The illness was a double whammy for the family because when I was young I had a near death experience and miraculous intervention ending with life-saving treatment at Fletcher Allen Hospital. Now I am 22 and I have received a long-awaited kidney transplant, my brother has died, but my sister will graduate with honors from Cornell in 2011.

Do the State’s Attorneys really believe that my mother is a felon? My mother is an honorable woman. The fact that she was always there for us, guardian for my brother and me, deserves respect.

People believe there will be justice for my mother. Her priorities were informed by experience, and she, without endangering anyone, took care of her children with the dignity that everyone would hope to have. No one can take away from her the fact that she did the right thing for my brother, and for me.

A small amount of black market marijuana, of unknown quality, safety, or origin is not a viable option for the State to hold out to patients. The terminally ill do not have time to wait for the legislature to figure out if more than two plants is too many. I hate to contemplate Tristan, or anyone, ending their lives under this terrible burden.

If Peter Neary is going to be reasonable and offer a common sense compromise, it will happen this week. As he weighs his options it is of the utmost importance that you contact his office to let him know how you feel.  Call and leave a short message at (802) 786 2531, or email at peter.neary@state.vt.us and Cc: marc.brierre@state.vt.us.

My mother and I will be talking about our situation on a community broadcast station this Saturday night at about 7:30; you can stream it live here. We hope you will talk to your friends and family about what is going on. Send an email to everyone you think might be interested, share it on Facebook, let this be spoken of in the light of day. We need to begin the much-needed conversation in this state about medical cannabis.

This is an issue that goes beyond my family and Rutland District Court, it effects families around the State and across the nation; Vermont needs to take a stand on the side of compassion.

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