ANNAPOLIS – A student lawyer persuaded the Maryland Court of Special Appeals to throw out the marijuana conviction of a Prince George’s County man.
A three-judge panel reversed James Brown’s conviction Friday, citing insufficient evidence.
Alane Peragallo, a student at American University’s law school, prepared Brown’s appeal and argued his case at the appeals court earlier this month as part of a special program. She was supervised by Public Defender Anthony Bornstein.
The 33-year-old law student said she was pleased but surprised by the ruling.
“I worked hard on it, but you just never know,” she said.
Brown and a companion, Paul Anthony Walters, were confronted by police in October 1994 as they sat in Walters’ car on Kanawha Street in Adelphi drinking beer, court documents show.
Acting on a tip, police searched the car with a drug- sniffing dog and found 16 pounds of marijuana in the trunk.
Brown, now 29, was in jail for eight months before being convicted of marijuana possession in May. During the trial in Prince George’s County Circuit Court, Judge Arthur M. Ahalt rejected two motions for acquittal made by Brown’s attorney.
In reversing the conviction, the appeals court noted that police did not find any marijuana or marijuana paraphernalia in the passenger compartment where Brown was seated.
The fact that a police officer smelled marijuana in the car was not enough to link Brown to the contraband, the court held.
It was possible, the court said, that Brown was just “having a beer with a friend.” Also, the court noted, police failed to check for fingerprints on plastic bags that held the marijuana. -30-