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Majority reverses conviction based on meth manufacturing

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A divided Indiana Court of Appeals has determined that the state can’t use the amount of manufacturing materials and empty packets of ingredients at a person’s home to prove he was dealing in that substance, without clear evidence the drug would have been produced in that amount.

The ruling came in Douglas W. Fancil v. State of Indiana, No. 20A01-1107-CR-339, with the panel affirming and reversing in part a ruling by Elkhart Circuit Judge Terry Shewmaker.

Douglas W. Fancil appeals his jury conviction for Class A felony dealing with methamphetamine, based on the police finding no meth in his residence and the prosecutor’s reliance on the amount of manufacturing materials and his past history of buying pseudoephedrine as key evidence. At trial, the state called a detective experienced in meth manufacturing to testify about the process and prove that Fancil manufactured the pseudoephedrine into three or more grams of meth.

At the end of the trial, the court instructed the jury on both Class A felony dealing in meth and Class B felony dealing in meth as a lesser-included offense. But the court refused to instruct the jury on the lesser-included offense of possession of reagents or precursors with intent to manufacture methamphetamine. The jury found Fancil guilty and he received a 48-year prison sentence, with four years suspended to probation.

On appeal, the panel found the evidence was insufficient to support the conclusion that Fancil manufactured three or more grams of meth. But the judges found no other error.

Relying on its decision in Halferty v. State, 930 N.E.2d 1149, 1153 (Ind. Ct. App. 2010), that involved similar facts, the appellate panel determined that the police detective’s testimony could not be included because it was not conclusive about how much meth could have been made from the materials in the residence. The Supreme Court denied transfer in that case, and Halferty’s conviction was reversed.

In this case, a two-judge majority remanded the case with instructions to enter a conviction for Class B felony dealing in meth with an appropriate sentence.

Judge L. Mark Bailey disagreed with his colleagues Judges John Baker and Carr Darden, finding the evidence was sufficient to conclude what the state charged. He disagreed that the Halferty precedent applies to these facts and that the police detective’s testimony was more conclusive here than it was in that earlier case. As a result, he would have affirmed the trial court because a reasonable inference that Fancil produced three or more grams of meth was possible.

 

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