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Appeals court vacates lesser drug conviction as double jeopardy

March 25, 2014

A Paoli man convicted of multiple drug offenses had a lesser conviction vacated Tuesday by the Indiana Court of Appeals. The court let stand other convictions for which he was sentenced to an aggregate 16 years in prison.

In Jerid T. Bennett v. State of Indiana, 59A05-1306-CR-277, the panel let stand convictions, rendered in a jury trial, of Class B felony dealing in cocaine, Class D felony maintaining a common nuisance and Class A misdemeanor possession of marijuana. But the panel vacated a conviction of Class D felony possession of cocaine, finding it is barred by double jeopardy.

Bennett failed to prevail on his other appellate claims. He argued certain evidence should not have been admitted, the state should not have been allowed to show text messages to the jury during closing arguments, and that the court erred in allowing the state to amend charging information.

Judge Cale Bradford wrote for the panel that police had probable cause to issue a search warrant for Bennett’s home that turned up drug evidence presented to the jury.

With regard to the admission of text messages detailing a drug transaction, Bradford wrote, “In light of the substantial independent evidence of Bennett’s guilt, we conclude that the admission of the challenged exhibits was at most harmless. As such, we further conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in admitting the challenged evidence at trial."

 

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