Brittney Griner’s defense team challenges prosecution’s narcotics expert

Brittney Griner’s defense team challenges prosecution’s narcotics expert

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While the U.S. continues negotiating a potential deal to secure Brittney Griner’s release from Russian custody, the WNBA star returned to court on Tuesday where her defense team argued that the prosecution’s analysis of the cannabis found in her possession was flawed.

Griner’s attorney Maria Blagovolina told reporters that there is a need for clarity surrounding the substances that the two-time Olympic gold medalist allegedly had in her possession when she was arrested at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport on Feb. 17.

US basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted by police to enter a defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2, 2022. 

US basketball player Brittney Griner is escorted by police to enter a defendants’ cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on August 2, 2022.  (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

“There are a lot of factors that will taken by the court into account,” Blagovolina said, adding that Griner “admitted that she did bring something, but we need to know what she did bring.”

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During the hearing, prosecutors called a state narcotics expert who analyzed cannabis found in Griner’s luggage. Her defense fielded a specialist who challenged the analysis, charging that it was flawed and didn’t conform to official rules.

Griner pleaded guilty to a drug-smuggling charge last month, adding that her “intent” was not to violate Russian law. She acknowledged she had vape cartridges containing oils derived from cannabis with her but had no intention of breaking the law. 

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendants' cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on Aug. 2, 2022.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner stands in a defendants’ cage before a court hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on Aug. 2, 2022. (EVGENIA NOVOZHENINA/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

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“I still don’t understand to this day how they ended up in my bags,” she said during one of her court appearances. “I didn’t have any intent to use or keep in my possession any substance that is prohibited in Russia.”

While the use of medicinal marijuana is not legal in Russia, her defense team has presented testimony from doctors that she was prescribed cannabis as a treatment for pain.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner (R) is escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on Aug. 2, 2022.

U.S. basketball player Brittney Griner (R) is escorted by police before a hearing during her trial on charges of drug smuggling, in Khimki, outside Moscow on Aug. 2, 2022. (NATALIA KOLESNIKOVA/AFP via Getty Images)

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Blagovolina said Tuesday that they expect a verdict “very soon,” according to Reuters. The outlet reported that closing arguments from both sides are expected to come on Thursday.

Griner faces up to 10 years in prison. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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