[Masthead] Fair ~ 75°F  
High: 89°F ~ Low: 67°F
Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Informant key to felony drug case

Friday, August 15, 2008

The case against Lawrence E. Stewart, convicted of the class A felony of distribution of a controlled substance near public housing or other governmental assisted housing Wednesday, Aug. 13, might not have been brought at all, had it not been for the assistance of a confidential informant.

The informant, who had previously cooperated with the Missouri drug task force in other cases, was ticketed in the late summer of 2007 for several traffic violations including speeding and driving while revoked.

A search of the informant's vehicle after the traffic stop also uncovered marijuana and drug paraphernalia, leaving the informant in some very deep trouble.

Eventually, the informant approached members of local law enforcement with a proposal.

In exchange for an unspecified amount of relief on the charges against the informant, the informant would assist in the apprehension of a drug seller.

Accordingly, on two occasions in September 2007, with the assistance of the informant, Saline County Sheriff's Department deputies observed two separate drug buys between the informant and Stewart.

The drug transactions took place at or near public housing facilities in Marshall.

Missouri provides specific penalties for distribution of drugs on the "controlled substances" list, which includes marijuana, cocaine and other drugs, in Missouri Statute 195.211 -- "Any person who violates or attempts to violate this section with respect to any controlled substance except five grams or less of marijuana is guilty of a class B felony."

Conviction of a class B felony carries a minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 15.

In Stewart's case, however, a different statute comes into play -- Missouri Revised Statute 195.218 provides that "A person commits the offense of distribution of a controlled substance near public housing or other governmental assisted housing if he violates section 195.211 by unlawfully distributing or delivering any controlled substance to a person in or on, or within one thousand feet of the real property comprising public housing or other governmental assisted housing."

Selling the drugs within 1,000 feet of public housing raises the crime to a class A felony, escalating the minimum penalty to 10 years and the maximum to 30 years.

At several points in the trial, Stewart's attorney, Rebecca M. Hains of Warsaw, questioned the prosecutor's claim that Stewart knew his residence was located within public housing, displaying photographs of the site to the jury that didn't show any signage indicating it was public housing. In her summation, Hains used the same photos, considerably enlarged, and said, "I'm still wracking my brain to figure out if Stewart knew it was public housing," and told jurors to "see if you can come up with any evidence he knew he was on public property."

The six-man, six-woman jury obviously didn't buy that argument, and brought back the guilty verdict in just under 20 minutes.

Contact Kathy Fairchild at marshallhealth@socket.net


Comments
Note: The nature of the Internet makes it impractical for our staff to review every comment. If you feel that a comment is offensive, please Login or Create an account first, and then you will be able to flag a comment as objectionable. Please also note that those who post comments on marshallnews.com may do so using a screen name, which may or may not reflect a website user's actual name. Readers should be careful not to assign comments to real people who may have names similar to screen names. Refrain from obscenity in your comments, and to keep discussions civil, don't say anything in a way your grandmother would be ashamed to read.

cahman8,

You make an interesting statement when you say, "I think that housing should be allowed to perform random drug searches."

Its interesting because it is so contrary to our laws and our traditions. Frankly, your comment is down right unamerican.

The 4th Amendment of the USA Constitution is very clear on searches and seizures and the conditions and proceedures necessary there-in and as it states,

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

cahman8, please be sure and pay close attention to this line of the 4th Amendment ..."no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,..."

Note the phrase "probable cause." The United States Supreme Court has, in numerous cases since this Nations conception, ruled that probable cause means a crime that a policeman can detect using his natural senses from outside of the home. It does not say or mean "reasonable suspicion." That is something far different. It says "probably cause."

This Amendment clearly prohibits random searches of peoples' homes -- no if, ands, or buts about it.

That is how the Founders of our Nation wanted it to be. In addition, this Amendment, the supreme law of the land regarding searches, protects ALL citizens and residents of the USA -- including anyone living in public housing.

Its sad to know that there are facists out there who want to strip you, and me, and everyone of their basic civil rights. Hitler would definately approve of those who oppose our Constitution and our traditional American values, but what is facinating is that this enemy that wants to deprive others of their rights and encourages the Government to break our laws comes not from outside our Nation but from with-in! Its people like you, cahman8, and your cohorts in the White House and the Republican Party that wish to strip Americans of their God given rights (as you stated in the comments section, you don't want people in public housing to have 4th Amendment protection) and that kind of unAmericanism is the enemy of the United States and every freedom loving American. I bet you would not be so all fired up to disavow our Constitutional Rights if it was your home that was being "randomly" searched several times each week, every week.

cahman8's statement is a good example of what has gone wrong with our Nation. He clearly has no significant understanding of the principles upon which this Nation was founded, nor does he seem to understand very much about the structure of our Government and the laws that protect us. He is a good example of why we need to make darn sure we all get out and vote Democrat on November 4th!!

-- Posted by news across on Tue, Aug 26, 2008, at 8:41 PM

I think that housing should be allowed to perform random drug searches. Then again only about half the units would be occupied.

-- Posted by cahman8 on Sun, Aug 24, 2008, at 10:53 PM

Kathy- you mentioned that there is no drug offenses on her record in any county. That's not real promising then because as mentioned in this article, "The informant, who had previously cooperated with the Missouri drug task force in other cases..." It appears she's getting arrested for drugs regularly and ratting out people to get the arrests off of her record. As stated, this is not the first time she's done this. Now, if anything serious comes up, she has no previous record for drugs- according to you. Is this really fair? How is this dirt ball the exception? She keeps the dealers in business and then tells on them when she gets caught. Then, she reoffends each time. She's really no better than they are. How reliable can a source like this be? Seems like prosecuters leave her alone for political reasons. She is part of the problem, but she doesn't make the prosecuters and MPD look good enough. That's what someone with this kind of luck looks like to me- a pawn for the prosecutor. It's going to catch up with them unless they do something about HER!

-- Posted by er on Wed, Aug 20, 2008, at 11:06 AM

EiEiO: Once the CI testifies, unless some additional arrangement has been made, all confidentiality usually goes out the window, anyway. Since her participation in Stewart's conviction, the woman who testified has re-offended and has a pending court case. As far as I can see, though, she does not have any drug offenses on her record in this or any other county.

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Tue, Aug 19, 2008, at 5:06 PM

Pick Your Poison! Take away the dealers and there will be no users.

-- Posted by cutler06 on Tue, Aug 19, 2008, at 12:46 PM

This is kind of a catch 22. I'm glad the defendant was caught and sent to jail. However, I'm a little worried that the woman who has been caught numerous times is still out there putting our safety in jeopardy. This isn't her first dance, which means she's a habitual criminal- with possibly a longer rap sheet than the defendant. She's on some serious drugs, as evidenced by the buying of crack, and is still out driving (speeding no less) until the police pull her over. What if the next time they don't catch her before she plows into someone? It all could have been avoided by her conviction.

-- Posted by er on Tue, Aug 19, 2008, at 9:45 AM

The informant was identified, and testified, in court. Would you all prefer that crack dealers roam freely, preying on our children, or law enforcement utilize every tool possible to take this disease out of our community. Granted, dealers, as well as their poison, will always be available. But with good law enforcement, they are pushed further underground, rather than dealing from their front lawns in the middle of the day. I'd prefer these folks go to the city to buy their junk than having it readily available in Marshall.

-- Posted by cutler06 on Tue, Aug 19, 2008, at 7:55 AM

Wow....using public resources I could easily find out who the "Confidential Informant" is with the information provided by the MDN.

Great job!!

>:-/

-- Posted by EiEiO on Mon, Aug 18, 2008, at 11:21 AM

I've made the subject of jury verdicts into a separate blog "Trial by jury-how fast is too fast?" Feel free to comment there. KF

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Mon, Aug 18, 2008, at 10:12 AM

The verdict in the case of Lawrence E. Stewart Wednesday, Aug. 13, came in very fast, in less than 20 minutes.

The trial itself, not including jury selection, began at 1:30 p.m. Wednesday. Testimony ended just before 7 p.m. After a dinner recess, jurors heard closing arguments from Saline County Prosecutor Donald G. Stouffer and defense attorney Rebecca M. Hains before going to the jury room at 8:20 p.m.

By 8:40 p.m., the jurors had returned and been individually polled on their agreement with the verdict. They were then dismissed after a brief discussion with Judge Dennis A. Rolf.

To some, the verdict seemed to have come not only quickly, but perhaps too quickly.

Dr. Joseph Rice, president of the Jury Research Institute in Alamo, Calif., said Friday, Aug. 15, that although bringing in a verdict in under 20 minutes in a criminal case is fairly quick, it's not unheard of, particularly in a one-day trial.

Rice said his research indicates that most juries take a "straw poll" of their members almost immediately after selecting the foreman.

"If all the members of the jury are already in agreement on the verdict, there is then little reason to continue deliberations," he said.

Rice added that what the jury decides can be a measure of how well each side presented its arguments.

"They may have believed the prosecutor's presentation was good, or that the defense attorney's presentation was not, or some combination of each," he said.

Rice, a clinical psychologist and attorney, is frequently called upon by attorneys involved in a broad range of difficult cases.

In a 2002 California case involving the kidnapping and murder of a young girl, Rice was quoted in an article in The San Diego Union-Tribune by reporter Kirstin Green on the possibility of jury influences:

"Rice says jurors tend to exercise good judgment and focus on evidence presented in the courtroom when they enter deliberations.

"Jurors are very good about separating the outside world," he said. "For the most part, they are able to put aside those issues and focus on the evidence."

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Mon, Aug 18, 2008, at 9:07 AM

DAgates needs a life. Rehashing 9/11 warnings is old news. Everyone knows warnings were missed. As for the informer, congrats to him. Granted he used it to get out of his responsibility for his own miss deeds but still he is not "snitch" when drug dealers are taken off the street. Now maybe he needs to stand up and be a man. Sadly, many younger persons would rather hide behind the aprons of the their moms. Taking responsibility for own actions is something sadly missing in todays society. Now it is always someone elses fault.

-- Posted by ghostwriter1978 on Sun, Aug 17, 2008, at 6:19 PM

Here's some information about confidential informants:

http://criminal.lawyers.com/Criminal-Law...

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sun, Aug 17, 2008, at 9:41 AM

There were warnings before 9/11 that were either not taken seriously and investigated or were ignored altogether, but the point remains - who would *not* have wanted a confidential informant to successfully intervene?

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sun, Aug 17, 2008, at 6:53 AM

Actually.....Bush was warned prior to attacks!!

http://tvnewslies.org/html/9_11_warnings...

Sorry off topic but thought a sidebar was appropriate here.

-- Posted by DAgates on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 10:29 PM

Without the informant, who certainly took some risks, the convicted defendant would still be supplying drugs. I agree that the use of an informant doesn't seem always seem quite "kosher" for lack of a better word, but on the other hand, we would all have appreciated an informant who might have successfully warned us about 9/11, wouldn't we?

-- Posted by Kathy Fairchild on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 8:34 PM

Yeah I agree with chelle04 on this one.

No one likes a snitch, after all its reminiscient of the days of Stalin and the Soviet Union when the public was encouraged to turn their neighbors in to the KGB for listening to Western radio stations.

Never-the-less, selling hard drugs like cocain and meth are serious and dangerous criminal violations and should be dealt with harshly and especially when those drugs are being sold in places where children live and play. After all we the public have every right to expect a safe environment in which to raise our families.

I guess in the end this fellow forgot the old addage, "if you wanna play, you gotta pay." Now he is paying with a big chunk of his life.

On the other hand, by now the snitch's name is all over the community and the drug dealers know who he is. I doubt he will be around much longer. He will probably disapear before too long. I might be more concerned with his safety but frankly, its not like he was helping the police because it was the right thing to do, but rather, he was he helping them because he thought there was something in it for him -- the most selfish of reasons. A selfish coward like that deserves what he gets.

-- Posted by news across the neocon empire on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 4:03 PM

i think he got screwed why let a drug addict be an informant and still be on the streets doing the same **** thing if i were the drug task force id figure a diffrent way to catch the bad guy becuz they are letting one free for being a snitch

-- Posted by angeleyes1977 on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 2:38 PM

This man knew what the housing property looked like he use to live in a unit on Lincoln and Vest street. He is just trying to get out of it. I believe that if some one is caught selling on or near public housing that the law should be hard on them. There are families that live there who is trying to provide a safe home for their families and with all of the drug issues that Marshall faces, these people need to get the maximum sentence.

-- Posted by chelle04 on Sat, Aug 16, 2008, at 7:07 AM


Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: