Court of Appeals: New trial for woman who claims sheriff's office entrapped her | News
INDY Week's news blog

Archives | RSS

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Court of Appeals: New trial for woman who claims sheriff's office entrapped her

Posted by on Tue, Oct 7, 2014 at 5:13 PM

An opinion handed down today by the North Carolina Court of Appeals reversing a drug conviction sheds light on how courts must consider arguments for entrapment. Though the ruling springs from a Rowan County case, it could potentially be applied to a Durham drug case, currently up for appeal, in which a man argued he was entrapped by police.

In the Durham case, which we wrote about in June, 61-year-old Milton Morgan was caught on camera selling crack to confidential informant Jennifer Burrage. (The physical handoff was not captured on camera, but the jury assumed the transaction had occurred.) Morgan, who had no prior criminal record, insisted that he was not a drug dealer, and that the police induced him into making a sale he was not predisposed to make.

Morgan was not Burrage's original target, and during a conversation captured on audio prior to the sale, Burrage told Durham police that "he's not a dealer.” But the police instructed her to try to buy drugs from him anyway.

During trial, Morgan’s attorney argued that Judge Michael J. O'Foghludha should give the jury instruction on the defense of entrapment. O'Foghludha declined. The jury found Morgan guilty of sale, delivery, possession, and maintaining a dwelling for drugs.

There are parallels between the Durham and Rowan County cases. In 2011 Emily Eudy told the Rowan Sheriff’s Office that her friend Melissa Ott—the defendant in the case—had narcotics for sale. In order to reduce her own sentence for a pending drug charge, Eudy offered to introduce undercover detective Kevin Black to Ott to make a purchase. Eudy and Black met with Ott, who sold Black 49 hydrocodone pills.

During trial, Ott testified that she was not a dealer, but a user, and only sold the pills to Black as a favor to Eudy, alleging that Eudy devised the scheme in order to make money. Ott testified that hours before the transaction, Eudy had given Ott her own pills and coached her on what to say to Black later that day. Ott further testified Eudy feigned fear that she would get in trouble with her husband if she dealt directly with Black. (When Eudy took the witness stand she denied Ott’s version of events, alleging that Eudy was, in fact, a dealer, and that she had not given Ott the pills to sell.)

Over Ott’s objection, the judge declined to give the jury instruction on the defense of entrapment. Eudy was convicted for drug trafficking and possession of opium with the intent to sell or deliver.

In today’s unanimous opinion, however, the Court of Appeals reversed the verdict, ruling that the judge should have given the jury the instruction of entrapment, even though Eudy refuted Ott’s testimony.

The issue of whether a defendant was entrapped is generally a question of fact to be determined by a jury, through a judge’s instruction, based on evidence viewed in a light most favorable to the defendant. With that in mind, Judge Robert C. Hunter, writing on behalf of the Court of Appeals, agreed with Ott’s contention: “the evidence shows that the plan to sell the pills originated in the mind of Eudy, who was acting as an agent for law enforcement, and defendant was only convinced to do so through trickery and persuasion.”

After Morgan was convicted in the Durham case, he appealed. It would not be surprising if his appeal will be based on the grounds that Judge O'Foghludha should have allowed the jury to determine whether Morgan was entrapped.

In both the Durham and Rowan cases, there was evidence suggesting that the defendants were urged to sell drugs. Each defendant denied they were bona fide drug dealers. (In both examples, the argument appears stronger for Morgan than for Ott.)

"While the appellate attorney will ultimately decide what issues to bring forward, the lack of instruction on entrapment was a significant issue, as that was the major defense to the sale and delivery in the case," said Daniel Meier, Morgan's trial attorney.

However, there are differences of note between the cases. In the Ott case, there was evidence (albeit disputed) that the pills originated with Eudy; in the Morgan case, it appears he sold his own crack. In the Ott case, the disputed evidence suggested that Eudy coached Ott as to what to say; in the Morgan case, he received no such coaching. In the Ott case, the disputed evidence suggested that Ott received free pills for making the deal; Morgan received no such gift. Finally, Ott testified in her own defense, whereas Morgan declined to take the stand. 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Pin It


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

INDY Week publishes all kinds of comments, but we don't publish everything.

  • Comments that are not contributing to the conversation will be removed.
  • Comments that include ad hominem attacks will also be removed.
  • Please do not copy and paste the full text of a press release.

Permitted HTML:
  • To create paragraphs in your comment, type <p> at the start of a paragraph and </p> at the end of each paragraph.
  • To create bold text, type <b>bolded text</b> (please note the closing tag, </b>).
  • To create italicized text, type <i>italicized text</i> (please note the closing tag, </i>).
  • Proper web addresses will automatically become links.

Latest in News

Twitter Activity


Most Recent Comments

@jerryg so if the mayor has no power why should we vote then?

by snake00 on Runoff for Raleigh Mayor's Post May Be Ahead as Francis Denies McFarlane a Majority of Votes (News)

Cora landed the endorsements of the Durham Committee (DC) and the Friends (FD) for 10,400 votes.
Huggins with the DC …

by Frank Hyman on Cole-McFadden Survives Durham Council Primary, Moffitt Does Not (News)

Cora landed the endorsements of the Durham Committee (DC) and the Friends (FD) for 10,400 votes.
Huggins with the DC …

by Frank Hyman on Durham's Next Mayor Will Be Steve Schewel or Farad Ali (News)

Just because one of our two newly elected Council members is pro-neighborhood and natural resources, it does not qualify her …

by Meredith de la Vergne on Make Way for the NIMBY Raleigh City Council, as Newcomers Nicole Stewart and Stef Mendell Oust Bonner Gaylord and Defeat Stacy Miller (News)

© 2017 Indy Week • 320 E. Chapel Hill St., Suite 200, Durham, NC 27701 • phone 919-286-1972 • fax 919-286-4274
RSS Feeds | Powered by Foundation