Appeals court upholds sentence for Gwinn man’s meth conviction

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MARQUETTE, Mich. (WLUC) - A Gwinn man's prison sentence on meth charges won't be changing, the Michigan Appeals Court has ruled.

Forty-year-old Thomas Field was arrested in March 2017 after meth-making components were found in his vehicle during a traffic stop. A Marquette County Circuit Court jury found him guilty of one count of conspiracy to deliver/manufacture meth and one count of maintaining a meth lab.

Field was sentenced as a fourth-offense habitual offender to serve eight to 30 years in prison.

Field challenged his sentence, and the appeals court affirmed the judge's ruling.

According to the prosecutor’s case, Field, along with 39-year-old Starlene Bartol and April Barkle, agreed to manufacture a batch of meth for the three of them if the women would help Field acquire the necessary ingredients. The prosecutor presented evidence that Field picked up the two women in Ishpeming and then drove them to Marquette, where Bartol purchased pseudoephedrine at Target. The three then went to a Mares-Z-Doats, where Field purchased fertilizer in the form of tree spikes before the three were stopped by police and then arrested. According to Barkle and Bartol, the plan was for Field to manufacture the meth in the woods with items he had buried there and for the product to be spilt among the three.

Field argued to the appeals court on a variety of items. One of them being Field arguing that evidence of inadmissible. Field’s co-defendant, Bartol, testified saying she had previously seen Field make meth in the woods on at least five prior occasions. The prosecutor argued that the evidence was highly relevant to the issues of Field’s intent and knowledge. It was also argued that Field’s plan was to manufacture the drugs in the woods, and because Field had allegedly told Bartol that he had all of the other components to make the drug hidden in the woods. The prosecutor stated that the evidence was relevant to show a plan or scheme. The trial court agreed that the information was prejudicial, but found that the probative value of the evidence outweighed prejudicial effect. Therefore, it allowed the testimony and gave a cautionary jury instruction on the limited, permissible use of the evidence.

Field also argued that he was entitled to reversal of his convictions because the prosecutor committed misconduct by introducing Barkle’s prior statements and by commenting at trial that Field had substance abuse issues. Field did not object to the prosecutor’s conduct at trial though. Field arugued the prosecutor’s statements were not made in “good-faith”, but since the statements were harmless, Field was not entitled to reversal of his convictions.

Lastly, Field argued that the prosecutor failed to provide sufficient evidence to support the convictions. To prove Field was guilty of conspiracy to deliver or manufacture meth, prosecution was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a mutual agreement or understanding between Field and on other person to commit the unlawful act of making meth. To prove that Field committed the offense of operating or maintaining a lab involving meth, the prosecution was required to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Field owned or possessed a chemical he know or had reason to know was going to be used to manufacture meth.

According to prosecution, a police detective observed Bartol purchase pseudoephedrine pills. He then followed Bartol, who joined Barkle and Field, and the three went to another store where Field purchased tree spikes. During testimony, it was explained how tree spikes and pseudoephedrine are used to make meth. Also stated previously, Bartol had seen Field make meth in the past. This evidence was sufficient enough to enable the jury to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Field conspired with Bartol and Barkle to make meth.

With all of this and other arguments Field had made to the appeals court, the court found his conviction fair and Field still stands to serve his term in prison.



 
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