Peter Hoyle — Botanist
by Bruce McEwen, January 20, 2010
There's no recession in the dope business.
A couple of Chicago mules recently appeared in Ukiah with $300,000.
Chicago Mule, Fermin Robles
They were looking for Mendo Mellow to take back to the Windy City.
It seems, though, that Mr. Fermin Robles of that city couldn't quite get all the weed together before Special Agent Peter Hoyle captured the money, and Mr. Robles along with it.
Hoyle only got six and a half pounds of marijuana, but he got most of the $300,000 and a 2008 pickup truck Fermin and his wife had just purchased for $14,000.
Hoyle had been watching Robles for some time, and now Robles was looking out at Hoyle from the defendant's table, Hoyle and some big felonies, including cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale, transportation for sale, and a gun, too.
Fermin Robles' lawyer, Omar Figueroa, had the court in stitches. Even Special Agent Hoyle, a man ordinarily not associated with comedy, was amused.
“Are you a botanist?” Figueroa asked Hoyle.
Hoyle regarded the lawyer with an amused smile.
Many officers are nervous on the witness stand, but Hoyle's been there many times, so many times he's more than a match for the law degrees.
“Uh, noo...” Hoyle said.
“Can you tell me the difference between Cannabis sativa and Cannabis indus?”
“No. But I know marijuana when I see it.”
“Have you read the California Health & Safety Code definition of marijuana?”
Hoyle said he'd probably read the code, but made it clear he hadn't memorized it for god's sake.
In his sharp suit and dark, curly hair, the movie star handsome defense lawyer stood as still as a chess piece in anticipation.
“Do you know what it says? Health & Safety Code? 11018?” Figueroa asked.
“Objection, your honor,” Deputy DA Kitty Houston said.
“Not off hand,” Hoyle answered.
“Do you know the genus and species?”
“Your honor, the people object.”
“Any training in taxonomy?”
“I don’t know what that means,” Hoyle said.
“It's the scientific classification of biological forms,” Figueroa instructed.
“Any training in botany, Special Agent Hoyle? No? Then, how can you be sure the plants were marijuana?”
“By looking at it and smelling it,” Hoyle replied.
“Did you try to place it in the proper genus and species?”
“Objection. Your honor, the witness is a qualified expert in the cultivation and possession of marijuana for sale,” Ms. Houston said, weary at the idea that a cop could be hammered for not being a PhD botanist.
Judge Ron Brown has smiled at the funny parts of the testimony.
Houston: “Special Agent Hoyle. Did you form an opinion? And if so what was it?”
Hoyle: “Yes, I did. It was for sale.”
Figueroa: (Indignantly)"Did you form an opinion about Count IV [the transportation of marijuana for sale]?”
Hoyle: “Yes, I did. Do you want to hear what it was?”
Hoyle was toying with Figueroa and enjoying himself hugely.
Figueroa: “Uh, ...no. Thank you.”
“It was for sale,” Hoyle said.
Figueroa: “But earlier, you testified that you weren't even there. When did you arrive at this opinion?”
Hoyle: “About an hour ago. When the CHP officer testified.”
Figueroa: “But there were no scales found with the marijuana. Does that weaken or strengthen your professional opinion?”
Hoyle: “It has no impact at all on my opinion. Your client told the CHP officer it was for sale. That statement alone was enough. And typically, they won't have the scales when it's being transported for sale.”
Figueroa: “On a scale of one to ten, then, how sure are you the testimony of the CHP officer would indicate the transportation of marijuana for sale?”
Hoyle; “I'd give it an eleven.”
Figueroa: “Thank you.”
Mr. Figueroa conferred with his client, Fermin Robles, who looks like an NFL lineman.
Figueroa: “Were guns pointed at my client?'
Hoyle: “Yes!” Hoyle sang out, clearly delighted at the memory.
Figueroa: “Did you point guns at my client.”
Hoyle: “No. Not 'guns.' I only pointed one gun at him.”
Figueroa was not as amused with this distinction as Hoyle was.
“Did you have the evidence tested, Special Agent Hoyle?”
“I don't believe I did,” Hoyle said.
Figueroa: “In this case, your honor, the prosecution has not even gotten to first base. They haven't proved it was even marijuana. The witness says he knows it when he sees it, but this has no credit.”
Ms. Houston for the prosecution, The People.
“I am not aware that officers who are otherwise experts need also to be botanists, your honor.”
Figueroa: “The corpus delecti rule applies at the prelim, your honor.”
Judge Brown: “As I understand the rule you only need some proof that the evidence is marijuana, and I think the People have provided that with the testimony of the officer. And a look at the totality of the circumstances, complete with the admissions and the money, I think it can be inferred that it was marijuana. As for the other counts, I think the evidence supports the charges and allegations.”
* * *
Sgt. Bruce Smith had followed his nose along the old railroad tracks outside Willits all the way to an indoor grow late one night last spring where he found 'mother plants' and cloning machines. Mother plants are mature female marijuana plants. The experienced horticulturist can take clippings from these plants and put them in the Quick Clone cloning machine and start, in this case, anyway, hundreds of new plants. Mendocino County's Marijuana R&D has always been cutting edge, but the hearing on the Willits Railroad Track's Quick Clone Case had to be postponed so I went to a civil matter, a Point Arena School District matter up in Department E, Judge Behnke’s court.