The policeman, the pothead and the judge with peculiar views of the law comprise the characters in this saga symbolizing the quiet outrages that occur daily in America’s court system and within its so-called War on Drugs.
These outrages – individually and collectively – undermine America’s vaulted concept of equal justice under law.
In fairness to fact, the policeman this saga is now an ex-cop facing charges of sexually assaulting children and the pothead is not some perpetually dazed doper but a savvy legalization activist who’s run for various political offices in New Jersey.
However, the judge is in fact a piece of work, whose peculiar legal views recently helped the former policeman escape a trial for having sex with cows, a contrast to this same jurist hammering the activist in a child visitation case years ago.
Burlington County, NJ Superior Court Judge James J. Morley mutilated the Garden State’s animal cruelty law with his September 2009 ruling in a case involving Robert Melia Jr. – once a patrolman in Moorestown, NJ, an upscale community 12-miles outside Philadelphia where Judge Morley reportedly lives.
Melia faced charges for putting his penis in the mouths of five calves and having those vile acts videotaped.
Morley declared he didn’t think Melia’s misconduct constituted a crime because there was no evidence those vile acts violated the letter of the NJ animal cruelty law.
New Jersey doesn’t have a specific law barring bestiality (sex with animals).
Thus, prosecutors charged Melia under NJ’s animal cruelty statue after authorities discovered a videotape of Melia forcing oral sex on calves during a separate sex abuse investigation.
Melia and his girlfriend face separate charges for sexually abusing children.
Although Judge Morley characterized Melia’s cow-sex as disgusting, he still concluded Melia’s sexual contacts with calves weren’t illegal because NJ’s animal cruelty statue requires specific proof of the abused animal being “tormented.”
In Morley’s mind, since the calves didn’t call 911 to complain, Melia’s sexual assaults didn’t matter – legally at least.
Morley, when countering a prosecutor’s opposition to his position, incredibly asserted that since children find comfort in pacifiers perhaps those cows found comfort with Melia.
Apparently, Morley didn’t see a Moo-Means-No moment in the videotaped scene where one calf head-butted Melia during one animal sexual assault incident.
In contrast to Judge Morley finding flaws in the animal cruelty law to protect the rights of animal-abuser/alleged-child-molester Melia, years ago Morley flogged First Amendment rights when stripping the activist of his child visitation rights.
When Morley stripped child visitation rights from Edward Forchion (better known as NJWEEDMAN) he constantly cited Forchion’s “political views” – Forchion’s advocacy of legalizing marijuana.
Forchion’s advocacy of legalization included protests, internet based campaigns, running for political office as a Legalize Marijuana Party candidate and stunts like smoking a joint inside NJ’s State Capitol.
Morley, allegedly a learned jurist, should have known when citing Forchion’s advocacy as the basis for withholding visitation rights that the NJ Supreme Court consistently issued rulings giving wide latitude to the exercise of First Amendment rights.
One 1980 NJ Supreme Court ruling noted that “political expression includes any fair comment on any matter of public interest…” while a 1968 ruling upheld the right “to denounce a public body, its officers and its programs…”
Morley even refused to restore Forchion’s right to visit with this child after a federal judge ruled that some NJ authorities had illegally punished Forchion with a five-month imprisonment for engaging in legalization advocacy fully protected by the First Amendment.
Ironically, that imprisonment arose from a demonstration Forchion conducted outside the Burlington County courthouse in 2002 protesting adverse rulings in the case where Morley and other judges barred visitation but ordered child support payments.
NJ authorities arrested Forchion contending he violated terms of his parole for a marijuana possession conviction by talking to two reporters about that courthouse protest and maintaining a website advocating legalization.
“Because of this bigot [Morley] I haven’t seen my daughter in five-years. Free speech and political expression didn’t exist in my family court case,” said Forchion, who now operates a medical marijuana dispensary in Hollywood, CA.
“The judges of Burlington County would never let me see her because of my political views on marijuana. Now NJ state legislators are saying the same thing: LEGALIZE MARIJUANA. No one is taking their kids from them,” Forchion said, referencing the proposal to legalize marijuana for medical purposes approved by NJ’s Senate in February 2009 and presently pending in the General Assembly.
The anti-marijuana attitudes that led NJ authorities and judges to constantly crack-down on Forchion sadly animate the medical marijuana bill pending in NJ’s legislature.
In its current Assembly amended form, the measure would make NJ the most restrictive medical marijuana state in the nation. This highly restrictive measure, for example, permits use for only a narrow range of aliments and denies approved medical users the ability to grow their own marijuana.
Forchion vehemently opposes NJ’s pending Compassionate Use Medical Marijuana Act that observers expect to gain legislative approval after the November election… making Jersey the fourteen state sanctioning medical marijuana.
“I find the bill contradictory and unfair in too many areas,” Forchion said. “You will practically have to be dying to use marijuana under New Jersey’s proposed bill.”
Forchion, forever the legalization proponent, finds fault in the bill keeping marijuana “illegal and highly punishable for most citizens with small amounts [while] also being accepted medicine for a few.”
The flaws Forchion finds in the pending bill are also cited by Jim Miller, President of the Coalition for Medical Marijuana NJ who terms the present Assembly amended version as “barely acceptable” to the Coalition.
“The Assembly version took out chronic pain as a valid reason for receiving medical marijuana. Additionally, this version limits patients to one ounce per month which means patients will exhaust their supply within ten days and then suffer for the remainder of the month,” said Miller.
Miller’s late wife, Cheryl, suffered from MS (Multiple Sclerosis) and used marijuana to relieve her pain. Miller and his wife lobbied and staged acts of civil disobedience in the capitols of Trenton and DC from the early 1990s until her death in 2003 in support of securing medical marijuana approval.
Although NJ’s law enforcement apparatus opposes any approval of medical marijuana – fearing a prelude to legalization, Miller feels more than subtle opposition is coming from another powerful source.
Miller points a finger at NJ’s pharmaceutical industry. Five of the nation’s ten largest pharmaceutical companies are headquartered in NJ.
“Medical marijuana is not popular with pharmaceutical companies because it will take money from them.”
NJ Governor Jon Corzine says he will sign a medical marijuana bill when the legislature approves it.
Corzine’s Republican challenger in this year’s gubernatorial race, former NJ US Attorney Chris Christy, was the target of Ed Forchion protests in August 2003.
NJWEEDMAN picketed Christy’s Newark office after that federal law enforcer side-stepped Forchion’s requests for prosecution of the authorities who illegally imprisoned him.
“I turned to US Attorney Christy because he claimed he was fighting against corruption,” Forchion recalled recently. “When he refused to help, I picketed his office calling him a hypocrite and he had me arrested three times.”
Federal police charged Forchion with offenses ranging from creating a disturbance to non-conformity with signs and directions for those protests outside the federal office building in Newark.
Christy’s office dropped the charges against Forchion in January 2004.
The money spent persecuting Ed Forchion and the resources devoted to hassling people hurting like Cheryl Miller provide prime examples of authorities wasting scarce tax dollars pursuing marijuana prohibition.
“In these tough economic times there is no reason to spend money incarcerating people for marijuana,” Jim Miller said. “Government’s can make money taxing marijuana.”
That pending NJ bill bars persons convicted of a crime, like Forchion, from any involvement with medical marijuana – a provision NJWEEDMAN terms “most egregious…”
Despite that provision, Forchion said, “One day I will be back in New Jersey and my vision is to open a “Rastafarian Temple” in Camden that provides ganja (medical marijuana) to citizens.”
Linn Washington is a columnist for The Philadelphia Tribune who writes regularly about inequities in the US justice system.