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Unreliable evidence weighing reduces Elkhart meth dealing conviction

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Elkhart County prosecutors and state witnesses used dubious methods to weigh methamphetamine during a trial, the Indiana Court of Appeals ruled Monday. The court reversed a man’s Class A felony conviction and ordered the court to resentence him on a lesser charge.

In Eldon E. Harmon v. State of Indiana, 20A03-1110-CR-529, the court ruled that imprecise measurements of “cooked” meth powder and the weight of liquid precursors to the drug were insufficient for the conviction and 40-year sentence with 30 executed.

“The sole basis for elevating Harmon’s offense from a Class B felony to a Class A felony was the weight of the drug. That is, to support the elevation, the State was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Harmon manufactured at least three grams of methamphetamine,” Judge Paul Mathias wrote in a unanimous appeal that included a separate opinion from Judge Nancy Vaidik.

“Here, the State used an unreliable method to establish the weight element of the Class A felony offense. We acknowledge that, for reasons that are not readily apparent, the State Police Laboratory has a policy against weighing liquids. But there were other, scientific ways the State could have established the actual, measured weight of the samples of liquid methamphetamine base,” Mathias wrote.

The techniques involved a state trooper weighing meth against packets of artificial sweetener, and what Harmon in his appeal referred to as jurors permitted to act as “human scales.”

“This evidence was inadequate to establish the ‘actual, measured weight,’” the ruling said.

Vaidik wrote in a concurring opinion that more clarity is needed with determining the weight of meth and its precursors for charging purposes.

Measuring the final product is clear-cut, she wrote, but “issues arise, however, when the manufacturing process has not been completed
and the methamphetamine is still mixed in with liquid ingredients. Varying methods have been used to determine the actual weight of the methamphetamine produced in this situation.

“I find the method of measuring the weight of the methamphetamine and the liquid together to be inherently problematic and to require
ascertaining the legislative intent behind the manufacturing-of-methamphetamine statute. I conclude that the legislature did not intend for the liquid byproduct of the manufacturing process to be included in the measurement of the weight of methamphetamine involved.”

 

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  2. The practitioners and judges who hail E-filing as the Saviour of the West need to contain their respective excitements. E-filing is federal court requires the practitioner to cram his motion practice into pigeonholes created by IT people. Compound motions or those seeking alternative relief are effectively barred, unless the practitioner wants to receive a tart note from some functionary admonishing about the "problem". E-filing is just another method by which courts and judges transfer their burden to practitioners, who are the really the only powerless components of the system. Of COURSE it is easier for the court to require all of its imput to conform to certain formats, but this imposition does NOT improve the quality of the practice of law and does NOT improve the ability of the practitioner to advocate for his client or to fashion pleadings that exactly conform to his client's best interests. And we should be very wary of the disingenuous pablum about the costs. The courts will find a way to stick it to the practitioner. Lake County is a VERY good example of this rapaciousness. Any one who does not believe this is invited to review the various special fees that system imposes upon practitioners- as practitioners- and upon each case ON TOP of the court costs normal in every case manually filed. Jurisprudence according to Aldous Huxley.

  3. Any attorneys who practice in federal court should be able to say the same as I can ... efiling is great. I have been doing it in fed court since it started way back. Pacer has its drawbacks, but the ability to hit an e-docket and pull up anything and everything onscreen is a huge plus for a litigator, eps the sole practitioner, who lacks a filing clerk and the paralegal support of large firms. Were I an Indiana attorney I would welcome this great step forward.

  4. Can we get full disclosure on lobbyist's payments to legislatures such as Mr Buck? AS long as there are idiots that are disrespectful of neighbors and intent on shooting fireworks every night, some kind of regulations are needed.

  5. I am the mother of the child in this case. My silence on the matter was due to the fact that I filed, both in Illinois and Indiana, child support cases. I even filed supporting documentation with the Indiana family law court. Not sure whether this information was provided to the court of appeals or not. Wish the case was done before moving to Indiana, because no matter what, there is NO WAY the state of Illinois would have allowed an appeal on a child support case!

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