Man acquitted of cocaine charges

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The jury deliberated less than an hour before coming to a verdict.

A 29-year-old man with a history of felony convictions was acquitted Tuesday of charges that he sold drugs near a school.

The six-man, six-woman jury deliberated for less than an hour before finding Charles E. Jones III innocent of distribution of a controlled substance near a school. If convicted, he could have faced up to life imprisonment for the class A felony.

Prosecutors accused Jones of selling a confidential informant $450 of powdered cocaine on March 11, 2005, out of his Village on the Green apartment, which is less than 2,000 feet from Southeast Missouri State University.

The informant was wearing a hidden camera during the sale, a recording of which was shown to jurors.

"You can see what's on that tape. You can see what happened," assistant prosecuting attorney Julie Hunter said.

But defense attorney Stephen Wilson argued the video was a poor recording and that someone could not clearly identify who was actually making the sale, adding no money was seen being exchanged.

Wilson also cited the possibility the seller in the video was Jones' roommate at the time, who had a similar hairstyle. Hunter argued the two looked nothing alike, with Jones' roommate having much shorter hair than the defendant's shoulder-length, braided locks.

When Jones took the stand in his defense, he told jurors of his history of convictions, which included felony burglary, assault and drug trafficking.

"It is correct you've been in some trouble in your life?" Wilson asked.

"Yes, sir," Jones said, adding that he had pleaded guilty in those cases.

Hunter argued that, based on Jones' criminal history, the jury should find him less believable than the informant. The informant, who also testified, has no convictions, has known Jones for 13 years and could not have confused the defendant for someone else, Hunter said.

During closing arguments, Wilson argued the opposite about Jones' criminal history.

"I suggest to you he's believable. When he's gotten in trouble, when he's gotten caught, he's pleaded guilty. Not this time. Not this time," Wilson said.

During his testimony, Jones could not say for certain where he was on March 11 or at the time of the buy.

Wilson said Jones couldn't remember where he was because of the length of time between the March buy and his arrest on Oct. 26.

"How can you have the chance when seven and a half months go by?" Wilson asked of his client remembering where he had been that day.

Hunter said the length of time was necessary because arresting Jones earlier could have jeopardized the confidential informant's ability to continue making undercover buys.

Jones remained in custody Tuesday night, and Prosecuting Attorney Morley Swingle said the he was being investigated by the U.S. attorney's office on federal drug charges.

335-6611, extension 127

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