Mackenzie family found guilty at marijuana trial

Mackenzie family found guilty at marijuana trial


A jury found Benton Mackenzie and his family guilty Wednesday at their marijuana trial without hearing a medical defense he tried so desperately to introduce.

The family intends to appeal once the sentence is handed down Aug. 28. Time in an Iowa prison is inevitable for Benton Mackenzie.

"I'm flabbergasted the court ordered me to not tell the whole truth and nothing but the truth," Mackenzie said after the verdict in Scott County District Court, Davenport. "It's an abomination of justice."

Mackenzie, 48, and his wife, Loretta, 43, were convicted of felony manufacturing marijuana, conspiracy, violation of the drug tax stamp act and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Their son, Cody, 22, was convicted with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and paraphernalia.

Loretta pushed Benton in a wheelchair as the family left the courthouse. He said he's not surprised by the verdict.

"I knew that's what they were going to do," he said.

He has never denied the 71 marijuana plants Scott County Sheriff's deputies found in his Long Grove home were his.

Jurors declined to comment as they were escorted out of the courthouse by bailiffs. They deliberated one hour Tuesday and four hours Wednesday before reaching the guilty verdicts.

Benton Mackenzie said his case isn't over, hoping the appeals process will shed more light on his medical condition.

Diagnosed with angiosarcoma in 2011, he said he is in the late stages of the terminal cancer.

Scott County District Judge Henry Latham had barred Mackenzie multiple times from telling jurors that he grew marijuana in order to treat his cancer with oil derived from the plant.

Although convicted, he is allowed to continue living at home until the sentencing. He thinks he will die in prison.

"I'm dead already," he said.

All male inmates enter the Iowa Department of Corrections at the Oakdale facility. DOC spokesman Fred Scaleta said inmates are held there for 30 to 45 days before they are sent off to any one of the state's nearly dozen penitentiaries. 

At Oakdale, they are given in-depth evaluations of any physical or mental health conditions, Scaleta said, adding each of the state's correctional facilities have a comprehensive health services department.

Inmates with more severe medical issues are sent to University Hospitals, Iowa City, for treatment, Scaleta said.

Scaleta said he couldn't comment on Mackenzie's condition.

Benton Mackenzie said that with two prior felony drug convictions in 2000 and 2011, he faces no less than three years in prison.

He pleaded guilty in 2011 to the same charge the jury found him guilty of Wednesday. He said he grew marijuana then for the same reason: to treat his cancer.

The 2000 conviction was for growing mushrooms. Sharing his story with the Quad-City Times last September, he said he used to be a recreational drug user before becoming a medical marijuana user and advocate.

His wife took the same plea in 2011, but he insisted his wife has never taken part in his drug activity.

"They have no fingerprints, no proof," he said.

Both were on probation when they were charged last year.

With one prior felony conviction, Loretta Mackenzie says she isn't sure how much, if any, prison time she faces.

Benton Mackenzie could have had all the latest charges against his wife and son dropped had he taken a plea deal that he was offered, but he refused.

"It's wrong," he said. "That was final. This is not. Justice can still be obtained. With an appeal, they'll know all the facts."

Loretta Mackenzie said she doesn't hold anything against the jury.

"They were not allowed to hear enough information," she said. "It was definitely a very controlled environment. It's pounded into your head that no matter what your feelings are, you're going to follow the law."


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