Pierce guilty on three counts

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

A local man was pronounced guilty on all counts Thursday evening, after a three-day trial.

A jury of seven women and five men deliberated for about two hours before returning a guilty verdict for Tyrone Pierce Jr., 34, formerly of Columbia, who has been in jail since he was arrested on Feb. 13, 2009.

Two cases against Pierce had been merged, resulting in a total of five counts. He was found guilty of sale and delivery of less than 0.5 grams of a Schedule II controlled substance (crack cocaine); possession of 0.5 grams or more of a Schedule II controlled substance (crack cocaine) with intent to sell and deliver; and simple possession of a Schedule VI drug (marijuana).

Documents in Pierce's case file state that "his family" retained attorneys LaShawn Williams of Nashville and Rhonda Hooks of Columbia to represent him.

They argued his case vigorously at every turn, seeking to have the evidence of the confidential informant who made the "buy" suppressed because she was a self-confessed drug addict and occasional crack user. Williams and Hooks questioned the procedures used by agents of the 17th Judicial Drug Task Force, claiming that the serial numbers of the bills used for the drug buy, and later found in Pierce's pocket, had not been properly recorded. They also cast doubt on the security of the chain of evidence, even sending Task Force director Tim Lane back to his office to get his evidence log and bring it to court. A recorded telephone call between the informant and a man was played several times for the jury, and Williams and Hooks said this should be thrown out because the male voice did not identify himself as Pierce.

"If the law and the facts are both against you, argue about everything else," said assistant district attorney Eddie Barnard, describing the defense's case to the jury.

"Follow the law - follow the facts," Barnard urged the jury in his closing argument.

After the defense's closing argument, presented by Hooks, in which she claimed reasonable doubt had not been eliminated, Barnard returned to have the last word.

"It's more interesting what was not said," he told the jury. "Like where the dope was found: on her client."

Further, Barnard stated, Hooks "failed to mention the admission out of his mouth."

This refers to the statement in Pierce's case file that reads, "Pierce told Agents that he had recently been laid off from work. As a result of this he got back involved in the distribution of crack cocaine. He refused to provide the name of his supplier or assist the DTF."

A sentencing hearing for Pierce will be held in early April.