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December 29, 2008

Chemistry is not a crime, and Lewis Casey is not a criminal

More war on drugs hysteria: Canadian college student Lewis Casey was arrested and imprisoned on suspicion of operating a meth lab in his family's garage. The police later admitted that 18-year-old Casey wasn't making drugs, but they kept him in jail anyway on the grounds that he had materials that could have been made into explosives.

As PZ says, "Errm, having the "materials necessary to produce explosives" is an awfully low bar to set. If we're going to go that route, let's round up and arrest all the farmers — they've got fuel oil and fertilizer in bulk, and are a far more serious danger."

Friends and family say Casey is just an enthusiastic science student who likes to dabble at home. He has been released from jail but he's not allowed to perform experiments, except under school supervision. His trial will continue on Jan 26.

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Comments

The story in the Star Phoenix reports that police released a statement saying the lab was being used only to produce explosives. Which is a higher standard than having materials necessary to produce explosives. I'm not ready to believe the police in this case--let's see their evidence that explosives were being produced in the lab. But do you have some evidence that the Star Phoenix has erred in their report of what the police have alleged?

PZ seems to be quoting from a website called i09. Are they a more reliable source than the Star Phoenix, a newspaper I know absolutely nothing about? I am troubled that i09 links to the Star Phoenix account, so if you or PZ had tracked backed to the apparent source, you would have noticed the discrepancy yourself. It might be a worthwhile rule, when repeating a story another blogger has featured, to actually consult that blogger's sources and attempt to find the original account before passing a story on as true.

The cops' case, as reported in the Star Phoenix is beyond weak.

This is from the Star Phoenix:

Casey, who lives in the 100 block of Ninth Avenue East with his parents, is still charged with possessing components of explosive devices in conjunction with materials discovered in the lab.

Casey hasn't been charged with possessing explosives or manufacturing explosives. He's charged with possessing stuff that could be used to make explosives. The cops aren't claiming that they found traces of explosives, nor that they have statements from Casey or witnesses implicating him in the manufacture of explosives, nor even that he had all the necessary components for manufacturing explosives.

As PZ points out, you can find some things that could be used to make a bomb in almost any lab, and in plenty of non-labs. The police have already admitted that can't tell one alleged illicit lab from another.

The cops aren't claiming that they found traces of explosives, nor that they have statements from Casey or witnesses implicating him in the manufacture of explosives, nor even that he had all the necessary components for manufacturing explosives.

How do you know that the cops aren't claiming those things? The Star Phoenix, as noted above, reports that police released a statement saying the lab was being used only to produce explosives. Do you know if that statement is available?

Also, what is required to bring a charge of "posession of components of explosive devices"? I know that people can be charged with "possession of burglary tools" using things you could find in almost any home, but I believe it requires something more than mere possession of a screwdriver to support the charge.

I'm not arguing that the police have a strong case, only that when a story lacks details, it's probably imprudent to fill them in yourself, based on a third-hand account.

Parse, I read the Star Phoenix article. I'm going by what he was charged with and the evidence cited by the police that found its way into the public record.

You're the one who's filling in facts--that the police might have better evidence than the article suggests.

All he was charged with was possessing some materials that could have been used to make a bomb, which as PZ points out, could be said of nearly any laboratory. It's a lame charge and a perfect CYA for the police, who made a big show of beating down the kid's door and are now in the embarrassing position of having to retract their claims (and withdraw the charges)regarding methamphetamine production.

If the police found explosives, or extracted a confession, they almost certainly would have told the paper and the paper would have reported it. The police are just as self-interested as any defense attorney. They can allege anything they want to the media, but what really matters is the evidence.

If the Clan Lab team can't differentiate between alleged meth and explosives labs, I'm not inclined to credit their unsupported opinion about what the accused might have been doing in the lab.

The presumption of innocence is on Casey's side. The burden of proof is theirs.

The police making up a nonsense charge to punish a suspect for failing to be guilty?

Shock!

You're the one who's filling in facts--that the police might have better evidence than the article suggests.

I didn't say that the police might have better evidence than the article suggests, nor did I credit the unsupported allegations of the police. In fact, I said explicitly I'm not ready to believe the police in this case. . .


Sorry 'bout the Geraldo-esque nature of this post, but indoor pine tree farming, with total and complete secrecy, is legal, too -- even in Odessa, TX.

http://blogofbile.com/tag/cop-busters/

Why not just give all police officers Writs of Assistance and be done with it?

Reading this it occurs to me that I know nothing whatsoever about Canadian civil rights laws. Is there no requirement that some sort of probable cause or demonstrable mens rea exists to detain someone in Canada? I guess henceforth I'll be viewing those lovely Canadian Tourism Commission adverts with a jaundiced eye, eh? Now, pass me those empty Molson ale bottles so I can fill them with gasoline.

An 18 year old with a fascination with chemistry is going to make explosives with a probability approaching 100%. My Dad did it, I did it, my mom did it. Things that go boom are fun. Zero tolerance is idiocy. Let the kid make very small quantities of explosives under close supervision. He'll have a blast (heh) and learn a bunch of useful stuff. As long as he's not pulling dangerous stunts leave him be.

This post has been linked for the HOT5 Daily 12/31/2008, at The Unreligious Right

Rules/Laws are made to simplify things. However, it seems Human beings like to complicated everthing. I mean how stupid can you get. The kitchen knife is also a potent weapon, what are they going to do? Jail every mother?

Yes, when I was a kid I had a Gilbert Chemistry set that you could make all kinds of good stuff with, like gunpowder that when hit with a hammer went bang and even firecrackers. Later, when I wanted to get my child such a chemistry set nothing of the sort was available. I couldn't even get glassware like beakers, etc., or the chemicals to do the nifty stuff. Yes, we have become very "Orwellian", I was trying to remember some of the names of the chemicals that were then available but not now. I was afraid to do an internet search out of fear that "Big Brother" would be knocking at my door. Science is out, unless you're on the approved list, like school or work, and then limited by what you are allowed to be interested in. God help us, but he's just too busy making sure women can't get abortions and teenagers can't get sex education (preventing unwanted pregnancies and STDs) and last but not least..., preventing same sex marriages. Happy New Year.

i feel certain that at one time or another everyone I know has that stuff.

Case ended with a guilty plea for a non-criminal charge

http://www.cbc.ca/canada/saskatchewan/story/2009/10/25/sask-explosives-not-meth.html

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