A Scott County judge Tuesday denied a motion to fire the attorney of an Iowa cancer patient charged last year with operating a marijuana-growing operation.

In an impassioned plea to the court, Benton Mackenzie told Judge Henry Latham that he should be allowed to tell jurors that he grew marijuana to extract cannabis oil to treat his terminal cancer.

Latham in May ruled that the jury cannot hear that evidence because the state of Iowa does not allow for such a defense. Iowa does not allow medical marijuana.

Mackenzie told Latham during the second day of jury selection in his trial that his appointed attorney, Joel Walker, lied to him and said that an interlocutory appeal on the issue had been filed and denied by the Iowa Supreme Court.

That appeal was never filed, Mackenzie said.

If the high court opts to accept an interlocutory appeal, which is rare, all proceedings in the case would stop until it makes a decision on the request.

Walker was appointed to represent Mackenzie earlier this month after the law license of his original attorney, Lori Kieffer-Garrison, was suspended.

Walker said Tuesday that he thought the appeal had been filed before he was appointed to the case.

The only appeal filed with the Supreme Court, however, sought a reversal of Latham's decision to deny a request to suppress evidence, Walker said.

Mackenzie argued Tuesday that he has a right to life and that he would not receive a fair trial if he cannot testify to the reason why he grew marijuana.

Testifying truthfully, he said, would result in contempt charges against him, he said.

"Every time I turn around, I'm either facing death or jail, and I don't know what to do at this point," Mackenzie said as he wiped away tears.

Latham denied Mackenzie's motion to fire his attorney and ruled that Walker has done an exceptional job representing Mackenzie in such a short amount of time on the case.

Latham told MacKenzie that discharging Walker "would be an injustice to you" and would effectively delay the trial.

After two days of jury selection, no jurors have been chosen to hear the case.

Eighteen prospective jurors have been retained for further consideration.

Attorneys and Latham want to question and retain a panel of 24 prospective jurors and then will narrow down that group to 12 jurors and three alternates.

Each attorney has six peremptory strikes, which can be used to dismiss a juror without stating a reason.

Mackenzie, 48; his wife, Loretta, 43, and son Cody, 22, are being tried this week, more than a year after their June 2013 arrests. 

Benton and Loretta Mackenzie are charged with manufacturing marijuana, possession and conspiracy. Cody Mackenzie is charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

On June 21, 2013, deputies searched the Long Grove property of Mackenzie's parents, Dorothy and Charles, and found 71 marijuana plants, according to court documents.

During the search of the Mackenzie property, deputies say they found marijuana in Cody Mackenzie's bedroom, according to court documents.

A fourth defendant, Stephen Bloomer, pleaded guilty Monday to manufacturing marijuana. He faces up to five years in prison at his Aug. 21 sentencing and is expected to testify in the other cases.

Prospective Scott County jurors have been asked about their familiarity of the case, their opinion of Iowa marijuana laws and whether they understand basic legal principles, such as the presumption of innocence.

Many of the prospective jurors questioned have said they are unfamiliar with the case.

Mackenzie, who uses a wheelchair, has sat near the door of the small courtroom during jury selection.

Benton and Loretta Mackenzie were dressed in blue, green and red plaid Scottish kilts Tuesday.

(16) comments


TOBACCO kills 1200 Americans every day yet no prosecution ? No ban ? U.S. Gov't patent # 6630507 PROVES marijuana has health benefits.

"Marijuana, in its natural form, is one of the safest therapeutically active substances knownto man. By any measure of rational analysis marijuana can be safely used within a supervised routine of medical care." - Finding of Fact by FRANCIS L. YOUNG, Administrative Law Judge UNITED STATES Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Administration In The Matter Of Marijuana Rescheduling Petition, Docket No. 86-22, dated: September 6, 1988.

WE THE PEOPLE are sick and tired of seeing our children and loved ones imprisoned and taken from us on the false pretense of a contrived and misguided "War On Drugs," that, like the previous Prohibition on Alcohol, served only to enrich a criminal class of government operatives that profit from their private prison system while defrauding the citizens of honest government and depriving US of the benefits of a tax revenue source. Marijuana should be legalized and taxed for the benefit of the people.

What can be said about the pillars of Iowa's society when their GMO corn and High Fructose Corn Syrup CAUSES diseases like Diabetes, Obesity, Cancer, etc ? It appears that the agenda against the MacKenzies is an agenda against the American Family itself.

In the face of such misconduct, there is only one just remedy: A trial (or new trial) before a Fully Informed and honestly selected jury, with an honest judge presiding.

Any "judge" who violates the Constitution is a Fraud, Acting under color of law. This "judge" has ordered that the victimless defendants not use their defense as a defense. He has violated his oath of office, (Misprison of Felony). Acts 25:16....


JURY RIGHTS: "The JURY has the right to judge both the law as well as the fact in controversy." - John Jay, 1st Chief Justice, U.S. supreme Court, 1789.

"The JURY has the right to determine both the law and the facts." - Samuel Chase, U.S. supreme Court Justice 1796, Signer of the unanimous Declaration.

"The JURY has the power to bring a verdict in the teeth of both law and fact." - Oliver Wendell Holmes, U.S. supreme Court Justice, 1902.

"The law itself is on trial quite as much as the cause which is to be decided."- Harlan Stone, 12th Chief Justice, U.S. supreme Court, 1941.

"The pages of history shine on instances of the jury's exercise of it's prerogative to disregard instructions of the judge..." - U.S. v Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139 (1972)

"All laws which are repugnant to the Constitution are null and void." - Marbury v Madison, 5 US (2 Cranch) 137, 174, 176, (1803)

"Where rights secured by the Constitution are involved, there can be no rule making or legislation which would abrogate them." - Miranda v Arizona, 384 US 436 p. 491

"No one is bound to obey an unconstitutional law and no courts are bound to enforce it." - 16 Am Jur 2d, Sec. 177 late 2d. Sec 256

"The jury has an unreviewable and unreversable power...to acquit in disregard of the instructions on the law given by the judge...(emphasis added)-U.S. v Dougherty, 473 F 2nd 1113, 1139 (1972)

"Few (uniformed) jurors understand that their role is to protect fellow citizens from government tyranny, and that their first consideration is to protect the person(s) on trial from viciousness, greed and ambition of government-paid employees of the same government that is making the laws, which violate human rights no less than slavery laws violated human rights. It was informed jurors who helped end slavery. Informed jurors today can help end all government abuses of human rights that are committed by government employees. Jurors are to protect people from these cruel laws, which make us slaves of government. Government wishes to own our bodies, our lives, and our productivity." - Ilio Jones, Executive Director of the Fully Informed Jury Association (406) 442-7800


Censored again


1st let me disclaim that I work in law enforcement. I personally think this a huge waste of time. Pot should be decriminalized and available like tobacco and alcohol. The tax dollars we spend enforcing the marijuana stamp act as well as other frivolous drug offenses involving pot is wasteful. We should be doing what the State of Washington is doing be legalizing marijuana, regulating it, and taxing it. The projected tax revenue for any state that does this is in the billions and is also offset by the tax payer savings in not having to pay to enforce stupid pot laws. But the do-gooders of society say that we can't do this because it is a gateway drug. What a bunch of BS. 9-10 people that I've arrested for pot crimes are the easiest going non-violent offenders. The bottom line this is all about money and our government is chasing it the wrong way. The Stamp act is predicated on selling these ‘products’ without the government being able to get their cut i.e. tax revenue. We’re spending way more money reacting to this issue (enforcement) than taking a proactive stance (legalizing/taxing) and reaping the tax revenue but decriminalizing marijuana.


How can he defend himself if he cannot explain himself. The judge is afraid of the truth and should be ashamed. IF (big if) that is the letter of the law, it certainly violates the spirit of the law and American sensibilities. SHAME!


Total waste of time and taxpayer money.

Brian McCullough
Brian McCullough

Why pick jurors when this case should most likely get thrown out because the over zealous police broke trespassing laws to go make the bust?[ not mentioned in this article. wtf qctimes ?


You have to wonder how the person who arrested them and the prosecutors would feel if this happened to their loved ones. Not a lot of compassion shown. I will pray for this family and those defending them.


You have to wonder how the person who arrested them and the prosecutors would feel if this happened to their l


The Pillars of Iowa society are like hold outs from history. They seem to maintain their pre-civil war ignorances and prejudices. While other states have realized that the "War on Drugs" was a farce from it's inception, these hold out prosecutors refuse to hear the people. PROHIBITION served to enrich the criminal class. LEGALIZE IT and TAX it so the TAXPAYERS are not DEFRAUDED. It's time to do the right thing. Did your education fail to teach you that punishing victimless crimes is WRONG ? Have you heard of Jury Nullification ? A Jury IS the law. THEY CAN VETO ANY "LAW" that is deemed by them to be UNJUST. In 2012, New Hampshire passed HB 146, a fully informed jury bill, which guaranteed defendants the ability in court "to inform the jury of it's right to judge the facts and the application of the law in relation to the facts in controversy." JURIES ARE THE COURT. THEY HAVE THE POWER TO "JUST SAY NO" to the continued destruction of American Families by unscrupulous greedy "pillars" of society that seek their own personal interests. call (406) 442-7800 and ask about Jury Nullification.


Prosecutors have some discretion, yes, but they generally limit the exercise of that discretion to cases where there is ambiguity of legislative intent. On this issue, the Iowa legislature has been fairly clear that they oppose the concept of medical marijuana use. Your blame on prosecutors is misplaced.

Juries are the finders of fact, weighing the evidence submitted, and then they apply the law to those facts. Juries don't create law. Our elected representatives write the laws. That's what our republican form of government, guaranteed under the United States Constitution, is all about.


aequitas, you couldn't pay me enough to be a county attorney as long as the plant marijuana is illegal......I have better things to do......




Not guilty. Just another waste of our tax payer money prosecuting a terminally ill man.


I may be wrong, but I think it is going to be very hard to find 12 people who want to send this very sick man to prison for trying to medicate himself and prolong his life.


As this article and others note, they will not be able to present a defense of why they were growing marijuana.

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