Friday, June 13, 2003

Rules tightened on meth cases

Court: Guilt hinges on possession of all ingredients

By Charles Wolfe
The Associated Press

FRANKFORT - A defendant charged with manufacturing methamphetamine must have all the necessary equipment or ingredients, the Kentucky Supreme Court said in a split decision Thursday.

A defendant who possessed some but not all the equipment or chemicals used in making the illegal drug could be prosecuted for criminal attempt, provided there was evidence of his intent, the court said.

In a dissenting opinion, Chief Justice Joseph Lambert said offenders would have to be caught "red-handed" under the majority interpretation, which he called "excessively technical."

The court ordered a new trial for Ronald Kotila, who was convicted in Pulaski County on a meth manufacturing charge in 1999.

Kotila had possession of many of the items needed for a meth lab, all of which are legal by themselves and commonly available: antihistamine tablets, lithium batteries, cans of starting fluid, glass jars, rock salt, a cooking pot and a wooden stirring spoon, among other things.

However, Kotila did not have two essential ingredients - anhydrous ammonia and muriatic acid.

And the pertinent Kentucky statute specifies that a suspect must possess "the chemicals or equipment for the manufacture of methamphetamine."

"The presence of the article 'the' is significant because, grammatically speaking, possession of some but not all of the chemicals or equipment does not satisfy the statutory language," the court said in an unsigned opinion.

In a partial dissent, Lambert predicted that prosecuting meth manufacturing cases will become nearly impossible.

A suspect "with the least amount of ingenuity will be able to prevent his conviction by merely omitting from his cache of tools and ingredients one or two of the more common, and bringing in the missing components only at the last moment," Lambert wrote.

"Thus to achieve a conviction ... it will be necessary to catch the offender 'red-handed.' "

$1M gets an abode with style at Homearama
Custody fight for Justin at Square 1
Butler resident may have monkeypox
Gay-theme play attracts protest

Surrogate delivers twins for Joan Lunden
E-check enemy keeps up heat
Mayor has last word on radio
Heroes' welcome planned for returning Marines
West Nile recurs in Ohio; 31 died last year
Reds, Army celebrate Flag Day
Ruling to let jurors ask questions vindicates judge
Project nurtures minority Ph.D.s
Norwood has blue-light specials
Obituary: William Parchman, 83, founded P&O
Tristate A.M. Report

AMOS: Canceled concert
BRONSON: Kiddie porn
HOWARD: Some Good News

Children Services dismisses employee
Low interest forces Butler Co. ball to be canceled
Chief faces charges
Lawn ornament is globe-trotter
1995 murder probe revived; figurines, other items stolen

Ohio, N.C. lawmakers spar over Wright brothers
Ohio Moments

Banquet hall makes its debut
Rules tightened on meth cases
Officers adopt new jail policy
Animal lover's gift seeds shelter's building fund
Bishops will confer in private
Admitted killer loses chance for parole
Kentucky obituaries