On Friday, a jury in San Francisco found a man not guilty of possession of psilocybin mushrooms on the grounds that he had forgotten they were in his backpack, and therefore could not knowingly be in possession.
The argument was made by Deputy Public Defender Kimberly Lutes-Koths, who took on the case of Eric Meoli. Meoli was arrested for riding his bicycle on a BART platform on May 25. When he handed over his backpack to police, they found a small amount of “magic” mushrooms in an inner pocket.
According to Lutes-Koths, Meoli, a cannabis-club worker, provided ten dollars’ worth of legally-obtained marijuana to “a hippy in Golden Gate Park” who was having trouble sleeping. The hippy gave Meoli the mushrooms in return and Meoli purportedly put them in his backpack and forgot about them for months.
“One of the elements of the law requires that the defendant know of the presence of the substance,” said the attorney. Prosecutors were unable to establish that Meoli knew the mushrooms were there. As a result, the jury returned a not-guilty verdict.
According to The San Francisco Examiner, Lutes-Koths said the jury determined that it was just as likely that he forgot the mushrooms were there as it was that he knew they were there. She explained that juries are instructed to opt for innocence when circumstantial evidence points to the equal possibility of a guilty and non-guilty verdict.
“Some people think my argument was unique,” she said, “but it just seemed logical to me.”
David Ferguson is an editor at Raw Story. He was previously writer and radio producer in Athens, Georgia, hosting two shows for Georgia Public Broadcasting and blogging at Firedoglake.com and elsewhere. He is currently working on a book.
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