Joy Biggs, whose sister died in jail over an ounce of marijuana, gets a short reprieve

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Joy Biggs, whose sister died in a western Kansas jail this past January, received some unexpected help in her criminal case Tuesday.

Biggs, of Kansas City, was scheduled to plead guilty late Tuesday afternoon to a felony charge of not having a drug-tax stamp and a misdemeanor charge of possession of about an ounce of marijuana. On Monday, as she drove to Goodland ahead of her court hearing, she spoke with Paul Oller, a Hays lawyer who had learned about her case from a Pitch reporter. Oller specializes in drug cases, and he had a suggestion.

A Kansas Highway Patrol trooper stopped Biggs and her sister, Brenda Sewell, for speeding on Interstate 70 in January. The trooper stated in his report that he’d smelled marijuana in the Cadillac the sisters were driving. That’s how Sewell and Biggs ended up in the Sherman County Bastille – where Sewell would become violently ill and die.

Sewell told authorities before she died that the marijuana belonged to her, and that she used it for medicinal purposes. But Biggs was charged with the crime.

Oller suggested Monday that Biggs talk to her current attorney, Todd Stramel of Colby, and let him know that she did not want to take the plea agreement. At the hearing, Oller advised, she should ask the judge for a continuance to get a “second opinion,” Biggs told The Pitch on Tuesday.

The judge agreed and has rescheduled Biggs’ hearing for August 12.

The plea agreement, which called for at least six months of probation and a fine, sounded harsh to some legal experts. Many first-time offenders are placed in a diversion program, which, if successfully completed, allows the offender’s record to be expunged.

Biggs said Stramel and Oller would discuss legal strategies next week.

Authorities continue to refuse to release a report on the investigation into Sewell’s death. Sewell’s son has hired an attorney to explore filing a wrongful-death lawsuit.