Part of conviction overturned

Friday, January 28, 2011

A Lewisburg man had part of his September 2008 conviction reversed by the Tennessee Supreme Court recently.

A Marshall County jury found Ungandua Andre Ingram, 33, guilty on one count of selling 0.5 grams or more of cocaine, one count of possession of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine with intent to sell, one count of simple possession of marijuana, and one count of possession of drug paraphernalia.

After considering the case, Justice Sharon G. Lee delivered the five-judge panel's opinion stating, "The defendant's convictions for the sale of 0.5 grams or more of cocaine and conspiracy to sell 0.5 grams or more of cocaine are reversed, and the case is remanded to the Circuit Court for Marshall County for further proceedings consistent with this opinion. The defendant's remaining convictions are affirmed."

"I'm pleased," said Ray Fraley of Fayetteville, the defendant's attorney. "If they want to re-try him they can, but the important thing is that the Supreme Court gave us some guidance on the issue of what it a custodial arrest."

Before the trial, Fraley moved to suppress the results of warrantless searches of Ingram and his home. Agents of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force performed a traffic stop after witnessing Ingram fail to come to a complete stop at two stop signs. Earlier that day, a confidential informant had made two buys of crack cocaine in which the DTF agents suspected Ingram was involved. During the search after the traffic stop, they found four $20 bills of the drug-buy money in Ingram's pocket.

Ingram consented to a search of his residence, during which law enforcement officials found a .45 caliber pistol, a bulletproof vest, a 14.6 gram-bag of powder cocaine, a set of digital scales covered in apparent cocaine residue, a 3.5-gram bag of marijuana, and $2,000 in cash. Ingram gave them a bag containing 3.3 grams of crack cocaine.

After a suppression hearing, Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler denied the defense's motion to suppress, stating that "the search of the defendant's person was lawful because it was conducted incident to a lawful arrest and that the defendant had given valid and voluntary consent to search his residence."

The Court of Criminal Appeals concluded that Crigler was wrong to deny the motion to suppress the results of the search of Ingram at the traffic stop, because he was not, in fact, under arrest at that time. The appeal court, however, held that the trial court was correct in not suppressing the results of the search of the defendant's residence.

Both the Court of Criminal Appeals and the defendant requested permission to appeal to the Supreme Court for clarification on points of the law, and this was granted.

Ingram is still on probation, though his time behind bars has been completed. He received an effective sentence of eight years and six months, of which he was ordered to serve one year in the Marshall County Jail.

The costs of the appeal were divided between the defendant and the state.