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Marshall man convicted on drug offense

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Saline County jury took less than 20 minutes Wednesday, Aug. 13, to hand in a guilty verdict in the case of Lawrence E. Stewart, 45, of Marshall for the class A felony of distribution of a controlled substance near public housing or other governmental assisted housing.

Stewart was arrested and charged in September 2007 following the second of two drug buys made by a confidential informant that was observed by deputies of the Saline County Sheriff's Department.

According to the report by sheriff's deputies, Stewart was taken into custody after deputies obtained a search warrant of a residence in the 1300 block of South Grant following a "controlled drug buy." Deputies reported they discovered drug paraphernalia and a substance they believed to be cocaine.

In her closing argument to the six-man, six-woman jury, Stewart's attorney, Rebecca M. Hains of Warsaw, suggested that Stewart did not know the location of the drug buy was in public housing, a proposition rebutted by Saline County Prosecuting Attorney Donald G. Stouffer who noted every one of the nearby houses was identical to the one where the drugs were sold.

A sentencing hearing will be held at a later date. Stewart faces a sentence of from 10 to 30 years as provided in Revised Missouri Statute 558.011. Stewart was charged under statute 195.218.

Contact Kathy Fairchild at


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News: We have additional information on the length of the jury deliberation, too. If we don't publish it as a regular story, I'll post it here.

My thanks for raising both questions. We want to do a good job of bringing these kinds of stories to the public's attention. Comments like yours keep us on our toes, and as a bonus (at least for curious folks like me and, obviously, you) give us an opportunity to research additional angles and information to bring more detail to the story.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 5:01 PM

Thanks Kathy,

I was just curious and I am sure you can understand why I was concerned -- after all it would not have been the first time racism played a part in a conviction.

So I am happy it wasn't an all white jury, yet it was a very, very swift conviction with very little debate and that is concerning all the same.

-- Posted by news across the neocon empire on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 4:19 PM

news: It was not an all-white jury.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Fri, Aug 15, 2008, at 7:38 AM

It only took this Jury 20 minutes to convict this guy???? It doesn't sound like they, the jury, were doing much other than letting a few minutes pass to make it appear as if their had been some discussion of the facts of the case and then a vote.

I am quite certain this individual was probably guilty -- it sounds like the police certainly did a good job and by the book -- and a good healthy "job well done, fellas" is in order for them, but the jury only took 20 minutes to discuss the case. That is kind of scary. Remember that the law requires the jury be convinced beyond all reasonbable doubt in order to vote to convict. Generally a good rule of thumb in determining reasonable doubt is if all but 1 of the facts point to guilt but 1 fact seems to be somewhat in doubt, the jury should vote not guilty. Granted this case appears to have been open and shut, but certainly there must have been 1 piece of evidence that could a have been debatable.

I have a question: Was the defendent African-American and was the Jury all White? This probably isn't the case but, if it were, putting that together with the mere 20 minutes it took the jury to convict this guy would tend to make me wonder if this fellow got a fair trial.

-- Posted by news across the neocon empire on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 9:43 PM

I'll have a longer story ready tomorrow on this issue, but it's true the offense is escalated by the fact it took place in or near a public housing facility (I believe the distance is up to 1,000 feet but will verify that).

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 9:05 PM

The answer is positively yes. A sentence will be greater, much more in a lot of cases, if the transaction took place near public housing, public parks, schools, and even public buildings in some states.

-- Posted by troygilpin on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 7:52 PM

I don't understand why it would be important whether or not he knew the location of the drug buy was near public housing. If he was arrested for selling or buying drugs and the prosection had the evidence to back up the charge, why does it matter where the illegal transaction took place? Do sentencing guidelines provide for more jail time due to the location?

-- Posted by Reader101 on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 6:18 PM
Response by Eric Crump/Editor:
I think the answer is yes -- penalties escalate when the crime takes place within a certain range of schools or public housing. I believe Kathy is planning to do a followup story tomorrow with more details.

A job well done to all that was involved in this case!!...Another drug offender off our streets!!

-- Posted by Get A Grip on Thu, Aug 14, 2008, at 3:58 PM

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