Jury finds man guilty of first degree felony drug offense

By Brian Knox | Published Wednesday, February 6, 2019
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A Wise County jury Wednesday morning found a Henrietta man arrested during a 2017 traffic stop in Rhome guilty of a first degree felony drug possession offense.

Michael Carson

Michael James Carson, 47, was convicted of possession of a controlled substance in penalty group 1 — gamma-hydroxybutyric acid — in an amount of 200 to 400 grams. The drug, commonly called GHB, is a depressant also commonly referred to as a date rape drug.

Due to previous felony convictions, Carson faces an enhanced punishment range of 25 to 99 years or life in prison. His sentencing hearing in front of 271st District Judge Brock Smith is scheduled for next Thursday following a presentence investigation report.

Rhome Police Officer Brody Brown testified Tuesday that he stopped a car driven by Carson around 2 a.m. on Jan. 16, 2017, for a traffic violation. After speaking to Carson, Brown then separately spoke to a backseat passenger, Shawn Ingram, who initially didn’t furnish the officer with identification but later admitted his name and said he had an active parole violation warrant.

As Ingram was being arrested for the warrant, Brown got ready to check the man’s pockets and asked if there was anything inside that would “poke, pick or stab.”

“He said, ‘Yes, I have a point in my pocket,'” Brown said Ingram replied.

He then testified that in his experience as a drug interdiction officer, Brown knew a “point” was a common reference to a syringe used to inject drugs.

The syringe appeared to have dried methamphetamine on it, Brown testified, and that provided probable cause to search the vehicle.

When he opened the trunk, Brown said Carson identified one of the backpacks inside that belonged to him. The bag was then searched, and a Coke bottle and water bottle were found inside.

But both bottles contained a substance that wasn’t a soft drink or water. Instead, Brown determined it was GHB and placed Carson under arrest.

William Todsen with the Department of Public Safety Crime Lab in Abilene testified that he was able to confirm the substance was GHB in an amount of 288.99 grams.

Carson’s attorney, David Holmes, pressed Brown about why he later discarded the syringe or didn’t try to have fingerprinting or DNA tests done on the bottle that would have produced evidence that connected those items to his client. The officer also admitted the audio on the video recording of the traffic stop also didn’t work that evening.

During his closing argument to the jury, Holmes said the officer should have taken extra care while working on a case involving a serious criminal charge.

“How many mistakes do we put up with in a first degree felony?” Holmes asked the jury.

Assistant District Attorney Patrick Berry provided a different viewpoint of the officer’s actions, saying that Brown puts his own life at risk when dealing with lethal amounts of drugs such as GHB.

“This is a very serious case,” Berrys said. “This defendant brought a large amount of highly dangerous, extremely lethal substance into our county.”

It took the jury close to an hour to deliver its verdict just before 11 a.m.

Carson will face a minimum of 25 years in prison instead of five due to previous felony convictions. Berry entered those convictions into evidence at the beginning of the punishment phase of the trial. Carson has previously been convicted of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver in Dallas County in July of 2011, assault causes bodily injury family violence in Collin County in October of 2011 and forgery of a government record in Dallas County in February of 2014.

Carson pleaded “true” to the previous convictions.

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