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Jury delivers guilty verdict in cocaine trial

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Lewisburg man was found guilty as charged at the end of a two-day jury trial last week, in spite of a vigorous defense by LaShawn Williams of Memphis, assisted by Rhonda Hooks of Mt. Pleasant.

William Lance Walker, 31, was charged in a five-count indictment with possession of powder cocaine and crack cocaine with intent to sell and deliver, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Agents of the 17th Judicial District Drug Task Force obtained a warrant and searched Walker's home at 1913 Sugar Maple Drive on Dec. 5, 2008. The lawmen found 6.7 grams of powder cocaine, concealed inside a teddy bear, and 3.8 grams of crack cocaine, packaged for resale in 36 "corner bags," according to testimony at the trial. They also found a set of digital scales and "baggies" frequently used to package drugs.

"He claimed ownership of the cocaine," testified Agent Tim Miller, assistant director of the 17th JDDTF, describing a conversation he and Director Tim Lane had with Walker during the bust. Miller also said that Walker told him for the last 31 days he had been buying about 2.25 ounces of cocaine a week in Nashville and bringing it to Lewisburg to sell.

Williams and Hooks tried to discredit the account of Walker's words, as given in Lane's report, but Lane asserted, "The facts are the facts and the evidence is the evidence."

"It's gift wrapped with a bow," Lane continued. "We have the evidence and we have the confession."

Williams closed for the defense, telling jury members they had heard no proof that Walker lived at the house, or that he knew the drugs were there. She took agents to task for not checking the scales or the baggies for fingerprints, and for not recording Walker's confession.

"There's no proof that he said those things," Williams exclaimed. "Did he say anything? There's no evidence he handled the drugs or the teddy bear."

"If you find him not guilty, you're letting a drug dealer go," said Assistant District Attorney Eddie Barnard, as he gave the prosecution's final argument. "This man over here is a dope dealer. They're all the same to me. They need to be prosecuted and they need to be convicted."

The jury agreed with the prosecution, though some of them might have wondered what the justification was for the search warrant. What they were not allowed to know, because of the presumption that a defendant is innocent until proven guilty, was that a confidential informant had made three buys of cocaine from Walker at different locations in Marshall County in the month before the bust, and a final buy at the Sugar Maple Drive house just 72 hours before the warrant was signed. Further, jury members, looking at Walker in his crisp white shirt and striped silk tie, could not know that he was an inmate of the Tennessee Department of Corrections. He got a 16-year sentence in 2002 for aggravated robbery and possession of cocaine for resale, and had been released on parole 31 days before the incident that led to this trial. In other words, Walker returned to drug dealing after he got out of prison.

He will be sentenced by Circuit Court Judge Robert Crigler next month.