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Pennsylvania jury convicts man on drug charge from 1997

Despite problems with the case against a 62-year-old former resident of Greene County, Pennsylvania, a jury recently convicted the man on charges related to a 1997 arrest. The length of time between the arrest and trial -- along with the death of the prosecution's main witness and the conviction of the state police officer who made the arrest on an unrelated matter -- did not prevent the jury from reaching their decision after 35 minutes of deliberation. They found the man guilty of drug possession with intent to deliver for allegedly possessing more than two pounds of marijuana.

The arrest took place on Jan. 29, 1997. Authorities say the defendant bought a pound of marijuana from a confidential informant in Grindstone. State police followed the defendant and pulled over his vehicle. They said they found around four pounds of marijuana in the car and arrested him.

The case then languished for several years. In the meantime, the confidential informant passed away. The state police officer who filed the charges against the defendant became a parole officer and was later convicted of trying to force one of his parolees to burglarize a house for him. He is currently in federal prison.

For whatever reason, the case did not go to trial until 2004, when the defendant failed to appear in court. The judge issued a bench warrant for his arrest, as did an Allegheny County judge in an unrelated matter.

Neither bench warrant was executed until the defendant was arrested in June 2011 -- more than 14 years after the initial arrest. Even then, the trial did not commence until this month.

It is not clear if the former police officer testified against the defendant. If so, it may have been possible for the defense attorney to impeach his credibility as a witness by bringing up his conviction. Whether that happened or not, the defendant has been convicted and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 12.

Source: Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, "Former Greene County man convicted on pot charge from 15 years ago," Liz Zemba, March 9, 2012

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