Smith County (East Texas) judges and juries have long had a reputation of meting out severe, some might say ridiculous, punishment for drug convictions. And Henry Wooten's case is no exception: the 54-year-old Tyler man was sentenced Thursday to 35 years in prison for possessing slightly more than four ounces of pot. Wooten actually got off easy -- the prosecutor asked the jury to give him 99 years. (We just hope TDCJ can free up room for this menace to society; maybe the state can release a child molester or serial arsonist to find a cell for Wooten.)
While the sentence may be asinine, we can't help but feel Wooten brought much of this upon himself -- mostly by choosing to be both a pothead and live in Tyler, when clearly that calls for an either/or scenario. But Wooten could have taken at least a few steps to minimize his chances of being busted so easily, and Hair Balls would like to lay out a few of these so that other lovers of the weed in Smith County can take heed.
1.) Don't smoke weed within 1,000 feet of a day care: According to the Tyler Morning Telegraph, "Tyler police officers were alerted to Wooten's location because of the smell of the marijuana."
Wooten was puffing near the Ebenezer Day Care Center, in what is known as a "drug-free zone." People in Smith County don't like that. So if you're driving along and you get a sudden urge to light up, take note of your surroundings: if you see lots of parents walking children into a building and then leaving without those children, you might be parked near a school or a day care. Do not, under any circumstances, pack your bowl there. Just go to the nearest liquor store, and you can bet you'll be outside a drug-free zone. Enjoy!
2.) Don't let people see you pull a bunch of baggies out of your pocket: Per the same article, Smith County Assistant District Attorney Richard Vance told the jury "Wooten pulled bag after bag from his pockets like one of those clowns you see..." (see Rule No. 3 for the rest of Vance's quote)
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3.) Don't leave gear in plain sight in your care: "...and in the driver's seat of his car was a big bag and digital scales."
4.) Don't demand that a private lab test your weed: Although Wooten was perfectly within his rights when he asked a local lab to analyze his weed, we're guessing he probably annoyed the judge and the prosecutor, and in turn the jury, by this petulant ploy. It's pretty hard to mistake weed for anything other than weed. Did Wooten think the lab might screw up and report that the sticky green matter in the baggies was in fact spaghetti? Seriously, how fucking high was this guy?
We're not saying these are get-out-of-jail-free cards, but they're generally good rules of thumb. If you live in Tyler and you smoke weed, you might want to print this out and keep it in your pocket for future reference.
(Oh, and don't have two prior convictions on your record. Or, if you do, don't go doing what this guy did.)