Thursday, May 16, 2002


The NYTimes (res. req.) looks at a smokin' judge in 'Zona.

Issue in 2 Death Sentences: Judge's Drug Use

PHOENIX, May 15 — The judge bought marijuana by mail. He paid with a cashier's check, and he used the office stationery. The envelope bore a handsome imprint: "Philip Marquardt, Superior Court Judge, Phoenix, Arizona."

Mr. Marquardt lost that job and his license to practice law after his second marijuana conviction, in 1991, and he is today a retired ski instructor in Carefree, just north of here. Now, two men he sentenced to death in the 1980's are asking courts to look into whether his use of marijuana deprived them of a fair trial.

Their assertions test attitudes about whether using drugs while not working should be of concern in the workplace, about how much extra scrutiny is warranted in death penalty cases and about the limits of judicial privacy. Judges and prosecutors worry that allowing criminal defendants to examine the human element in the judicial process will have enormous consequences.

Mr. Marquardt conceded in an interview that he used marijuana regularly in the years in which he sentenced the two men to death. Sipping a soft drink by the pool at a golf resort outside town, Mr. Marquardt talked on Monday about his past and its significance for the men he sentenced to death. He acknowledged once having had a taste for the fast life, "but it never carried onto the bench," he said.

Mr. Marquardt, 68, who spent 20 years on the bench, is fit and vigorous, and he was in a reflective mood. "By the very nature of marijuana you don't wake up drugged up or glazed over," he said. "I walked into the courtroom clearheaded, clear-eyed and absolutely in control of my intellectual abilities."

Richard Michael Rossi, 54, whom Mr. Marquardt sentenced to death in 1988, speaking by phone from death ow in Arizona State Prison, said of the judge: "There is a lot of irony here. We both had addiction problems. I acknowledged mine. He didn't acknowledge his."