Wednesday, March 29, 2006

10th Circuit Affirms Pickard's LSD Life Sentence

Note: The court's opinion is here.
Pickard will surely seek a rehearing and/or review in the US Supreme Court.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Life sentences upheld in record LSD case

By Robert Boczkiewicz
Special to The Topeka Capital-Journal
http://cjonline.com/stories/032906/loc_lsd.shtml

DENVER -- An appeals court on Tuesday upheld the life sentence of a man who allegedly used an illicit laboratory at Wamego, Kan., to become the nation's largest supplier of the hallucinogen LSD.

The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 3-0 against William Leonard Pickard in his bid to overturn his convictions and two life prison terms.

Pickard, 60, was convicted in 2003 in federal court in Topeka for his role in operating the lab from a converted missile silo. Authorities said the LSD-making lab was the largest ever seized in the history of the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.

He and co-defendant Clyde Apperson were proven "to be responsible for the illicit manufacture of the majority of the LSD sold in this nation," a DEA official said in 2003. Tuesday's ruling also upheld Apperson's 30-year sentence.

Pickard was a chemist and has a master's degree in public policy from Harvard University. He was a researcher at the University of California at Los Angeles who studied psychoactive drugs, the San Francisco Chronicle reported in a lengthy 2001 article.

The Chronicle reported that Pickard had been interested in LSD since the 1960s, when the drug helped launch the counterculture revolution. LSD was what Timothy Leary referred to in that era when he urged people to "turn on, tune in and drop out."

In his defense, Pickard claimed that over the years he regularly informed federal law enforcement of his research findings. The appellate judges described that part of his defense as "an unusual story."

DEA officials said Pickard and Apperson had operated LSD labs in New Mexico, Colorado, California and Oregon before they shifted operations to the missile site near Fort Riley in 1999. They were busted in 2000 near the site by authorities who said the two men had more than $1 million of a chemical needed to make LSD.

In an 11-week trial described as one of the longest in Topeka federal court history, they were convicted of conspiracy to make and distribute LSD in 1999 and 2000, and of possessing it with the intent to distribute.

The appeal

Judge Mary Beck Briscoe, of Lawrence, Kan., wrote Tuesday's 81-page decision for the six-state court based in Denver.

The judges rejected all of the appeals arguments by Pickard and Apperson. They argued their constitutional right to a speedy trial was violated, that evidence seized should have been suppressed because it allegedly was obtained illegally and that prosecutors abused the grand jury process.

Apperson also argued he was prejudiced because U.S. District Judge Richard Rogers refused to sever his trial from Pickard's. Pickard also argued that Rogers improperly prevented him from obtaining evidence favorable to the defense and that Rogers was unfair.

The appellate judges said that a life sentence was mandatory for Pickard under federal law because he had two prior drug-related convictions.

An Internet Web site, "freepickard.org," was established by Pickard's supporters, who said he "sends his thoughts toward world peace" from prison. Federal records show that he is serving his sentence at a prison in Victorville, Calif.

Pickard's attorney didn't respond to a request for comment. Federal prosecutors in Kansas said they couldn't comment because they hadn't seen the ruling.