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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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  1. Hail to our Constitutional Law Expert in the Executive Office! “What you’re not paying attention to is the fact that I just took an action to change the law,” Obama said.

  2. What is this, the Ind Supreme Court thinking that there is a separation of powers and limited enumerated powers as delegated by a dusty old document? Such eighteen century thinking, so rare and unwanted by the elites in this modern age. Dictate to us, dictate over us, the massess are chanting! George Soros agrees. Time to change with times Ind Supreme Court, says all President Snows. Rule by executive decree is the new black.

  3. I made the same argument before a commission of the Indiana Supreme Court and then to the fedeal district and federal appellate courts. Fell flat. So very glad to read that some judges still beleive that evidentiary foundations matter.

  4. KUDOS to the Indiana Supreme Court for realizing that some bureacracies need to go to the stake. Recall what RWR said: "No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!" NOW ... what next to this rare and inspiring chopping block? Well, the Commission on Gender and Race (but not religion!?!) is way overdue. And some other Board's could be cut with a positive for State and the reputation of the Indiana judiciary.

  5. During a visit where an informant with police wears audio and video, does the video necessary have to show hand to hand transaction of money and narcotics?

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