Cancer patient on trial for growing marijuana hospitalized

2014-07-08T04:30:00Z 2014-07-18T18:05:23Z Cancer patient on trial for growing marijuana hospitalizedBrian Wellner bwellner@qctimes.com The Quad-City Times

Quad-City cancer patient Benton Mackenzie was rushed by paramedics Monday from the Scott County Courthouse, where he is on trial for growing marijuana, to a local hospital.

He was admitted to Trinity Bettendorf so doctors can treat him for anemia and other symptoms, his family says.

Meanwhile, Scott County District Judge Henry Latham dismissed jurors early and asked them to return Tuesday morning in case Mackenzie is well enough to be back in court for the trial, which also involves his wife and son.

The trial of the three was in its fifth day Monday. After the prosecutor rested his case last week, the Mackenzies' legal team was expected to begin theirs Monday morning.

Benton Mackenzie has said he wants to take the stand in his defense, even though a judge's ruling won't allow him to tell jurors he grew marijuana in order to treat his terminal cancer. The 48-year-old suffers angiosarcoma and shared his story with the Quad-City Times in September.

His family said his health took a "turn for the worse" over the weekend, and Monday morning, Mackenzie appeared in court lying down on a courtroom bench wrapped in a blanket, complaining of hallucinations and feeling excruciating pain.

The jury never entered the courtroom Monday. The judge said he didn't want jurors to see Mackenzie in this state.

"I am not going to have a jury come in and see Mr. Mackenzie laying on the front pew of the courtroom," Latham said.

His family decided he needed emergency medical attention. Shortly after 11 a.m., paramedics arrived at the courthouse and took Mackenzie to the hospital.

"I hope his attending physicians are aware he is presently on trial and his presence is needed at the trial," Latham said after reconvening with attorneys and the co-defendants.

About 1 p.m., after speaking with emergency room physicians, Loretta Mackenzie said her husband is "too unstable to return to court today."

About 1:30 p.m., defense attorney Joel Walker handed a doctor's note to Latham. He said doctors discovered that Mackenzie's potassium and hemoglobin levels were low and that he was expected to undergo a four-hour blood transfusion later in the day to improve those levels.

Doctors were expected to monitor potassium and hemoglobin levels overnight and decide by Tuesday morning whether to discharge Mackenzie, his family said.

Walker said he hopes to know by Tuesday morning whether Mackenzie can return to the courthouse. If not, Walker may consider a motion for a mistrial.

Latham said that if a mistrial is declared for Benton Mackenzie, the cases against Loretta Mackenzie and their son, Cody, likely will continue.

The couple is being tried in a conspiracy to grow marijuana at their Long Grove home after Scott County Sheriff's deputies seized 71 plants last summer. Deputies say they also found marijuana in Cody Mackenzie's bedroom, and the 22-year-old is being charged with misdemeanor possession.

Deputies testified last week the plants were found in a recreational vehicle next to the house that is registered to the mother of Stephen Bloomer, 49, of Davenport, a longtime friend of Benton Mackenzie.

Bloomer pleaded guilty to a Class D felony drug charge at the start of the trial. The prosecutor did not call him to testify.

Benton Mackenzie said he needed the plants to create enough cannabis oil to treat his cancer. He said his wife did not take part in the growing of marijuana.

Loretta Mackenzie spoke of the stress she felt as Monday's events unfolded.

"I'm a little unsure what's going to happen today," she said after returning to court from the hospital. "I'm not even thinking how this trial might proceed. I'm totally thinking about Ben."

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