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Court orders new trial in methamphetamine case

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The Indiana Court of Appeals has ordered a new trial for a woman convicted of felony methamphetamine dealing, finding that the Hendricks Superior judge should have instructed the jury on a lesser-included offense of methamphetamine possession.

In Angela C. Garrett v. State of Indiana, No. 32A05-1105-CR-239, the appellate court examined a case involving a traffic stop in which Angela Garrett was a passenger. The driver told police he’d smoked marijuana that day and gave officers the remains of several joints. When police searched Garrett, they found two bundles of cash totaling $4,500, and in her purse they discovered a gun, two scales, small plastic baggies and material to cut methamphetamine and increase the volume. She also had a small pouch with about 26 grams of meth in three baggies, as well as a pipe, scale, and more small baggies. Another gun was found in the trunk.

Garrett first told police the drugs and weapons were hers, but later she said that the driver was the dealer, not her, and that he’d been physically abusive and had threatened to hurt her and her children if she didn’t tell police the drugs and weapons were hers.

Although Garrett asked at trial that the jury be instructed on the lesser-included offense of possession, the judge declined to instruct the jury and she was subsequently found guilty of Class A felony dealing methamphetamine and Class A misdemeanor carrying a handgun without a license.

On appeal, the Court of Appeals declined to accept the state’s position that Garrett had waived her challenge to the court’s decision not to instruct the jury because she hadn’t submitted a written instruction for the trial court to review.

A serious evidentiary dispute existed about whether Garrett had intent to deal methamphetamine, the appellate court ruled. Citing its own caselaw from 1996, the Court of Appeals determined that the jury should have had the option to hear about that lesser-included offense – even if it wasn’t required to believe Garrett.

The case is remanded for a new trial.

 

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