Jury Trial in Castle Dale
A jury trial in the 7th District Court of Bryce K. Bryner was held in Castle Dale on Jan. 26-28. On trial was Jeffery Houston, 36, of Price. The defendant was representing himself against 13 charges of violation of a controlled substance precursor act which is a second degree felony. A precursor substance is a substance which can used in the manufacture of an illegal drug. The substance in question in this trial is crystal iodine which is a precursor in the manufacture of methamphetamine.
Representing the state of Utah was deputy county attorney Brent Langston. Judge Bryner instructed the jurors before the final statements, he read to them a long list of instructions to take into consideration while making their deliberations. Judge Bryner said, "The government always wins when justice is done regardless of a guilty or not guilty verdict. You are here to determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty."
Attorney Langston addressed his closing remarks to the jury. He said they had heard testimony from Emery Animal Health Clinic regarding the use of crystal iodine in veterinary treatments of animals. Crystal iodine is sometimes used by farriers in the horseshoeing process to help control the bleeding of the foot of an animal being shoed.
The first time the defendant purchased crystal iodine occurred on June 29, 1999. Attorney Langston said as a parttime farrier the defendant was entitled to possess crystal iodine, but the question was how much and how often. He is not being charged for this first purchase. Another purchase in Sept. 1999 was also not charged. The defendant left the area for a period of time in which no purchases were made. On Oct. 9, 2001 an iodine solution was purchased and also on Dec. 19, 2001. In the record keeping at Emery Animal Health the defendant picked up the crystal iodine at said times and places. He would make a phone call and then appear in person to pick it up.
Attorney Langston said the state is not required to prove that the crystal iodine was used in the manufacture of methamphetamine, but a controlled substance precursor charge is based on knowing or having reason to believe that the precursor could be used at some point in the manufacture of methamphetamine. "We have no way to know what happened to it after it left the defendant's control."
A local farrier testified at the trial to the small amount of crystal iodine needed in the business and a pound will last a long time.
It was said the defendant moved back into the area in 2001 and made a purchase of two/thirds pound in May 2001. On Aug. 1, 2001 another pound was purchased, on Oct. 20 another pound of crystal iodine was purchased. Another purchase of iodine solution on Dec. 19, 2001 for which he is not charged. On Jan. 5, 2002 another pound purchased, on April 5, 2002 another pound was purchased, on June 14, 2002 another pound was purchased, on Aug. 3, 2002, another pound was purchased, on Sept. 14, 2002, another pound was purchased, on Oct. 15, 2002 another pound and on Nov. 13, 2002, another pound. Attorney Langston pointed out that purchases became more frequent over time. On Dec. 11, 2002 a pound was purchased and also on Dec. 30, 2002 another pound was purchased, it was at this time the Emery County Sheriff's Office became involved and an arrest was made on Dec. 30, 2002. At the time of his arrest he allegedly told officers he hadn't shoed any horses in a month.
Attorney Langston said Houston was allegedly purchasing the crystal iodine for $65 a pound and selling it for $250 a pound. Attorney Langston said this arrangement should have raised suspicion in the defendant as the person he sold to could not purchase this product for himself.
Houston spoke to the jury in his own behalf. He said a statement he had made at the time of his arrest had been taken out of context regarding where the crystal iodine went after it left his hands. He said it was reported that it wouldn't have to go much farther from him to a lab, but he said he had really said it wouldn't have to go much farther from the guy he traded it to. He himself did not know of a lab.
Houston disagreed with the records from Emery Animal Health regarding his purchases, saying they were not all made by him, and others purchased in his name and anyone could have typed his name in the computer.
Houston said he used the crystal iodine in his business as a farrier. During times when a horse's feet are wet in the pasture, the crystal iodine is used to dry them out.
Houston said he did not wish to represent himself in these charges. He did not know how to be a witness for himself and ask himself questions on the stand. He said he didn't have time to produce witnesses and maintains his innocence. He wondered how the Emery Animal Health could sell to him, but it isn't legal for him to have the substance. Houston also said he had a bottle stolen from him just before he was supposed to shoe some horses that weekend. Houston said he has felt intimidated through the whole thing and he has never been in trouble before. He said he told the officers what they wanted to hear, when they questioned him. Houston asked jurors to look at where he was and where he is now in making their decision.
Attorney Langston spoke in rebuttal to Houston's remarks ending with, "Ladies and gentlemen, this man was willing to say anything to the cops and he's willing to say anything to you, don't let him do it."
The jury went into deliberations and came back with a guilty verdict on 13 counts of violation of a controlled substance precursor act, all second degree felonies. The defendant was taken into custody by the Emery County Sheriff's Office. He will again appear in court on Feb. 1 for the setting of a sentencing date. During the interim period between appearances, the Adult Probation and Parole will prepare a presentencing report for the court.
Houston has had counsel in the past when Margaret Sidwell Taylor represented him and the case was appealed to the Utah Supreme Court. Houston fired her as his attorney and then retained Bruce Oliver, attorney, who later dropped the defendant because the defendant did not keep in touch.