Yesterday a Durham County jury found Milton Morgan guilty on four counts of drug-related offenses.
Superior Court Judge Michael J. O’Foghludha consolidated the cases and suspended a sentence of eight to 19 months in lieu of 24 months of supervised probation.
Milton was indicted on four drug charges. But the jury declined to find Milton guilty of one of those counts: possession of schedule II drugs with the intent to sell or deliver. Instead, the jury found him guilty of possession, which is a lesser charge.
The State and the defense concluded their closing arguments this morning in the case of Milton Morgan, a 61-year-old Durham man charged with drug crimes after a conversation between him and a confidential police informant was caught on tape. The jury is now in deliberation.
The case, which we wrote about in the June 10 issue of the INDY, begs the question: should police use confidential informants to buy drugs from people who aren’t actual dealers?
A video exchange submitted into evidence seems to suggest that a drug transaction took place, though there was no direct footage of the transaction. The video also captures the informant, Jennifer Burrage, explaining to Durham undercover police officers that Milton was not a drug dealer, but would probably be willing to sell her a small amount of drugs if she returned to his apartment for a second time. (An audio clip of the conversation is included in our original story.)
In his closing argument this morning, Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Yates told the jury not to focus on the label “dealer,” but rather focus on the elements of the crimes Milton was charged with.
“Is he being charged with being a drug dealer?” Yates asked the jury. “No.”
Proving that Morgan is a dealer is “not the burden the state has,” Yates added. “Who has the drugs, who is going to sell them— that’s the operation.”
Daniel Meier, Milton’s attorney, told jurors that the Durham police, by putting pressure on the confidential informant, improperly induced Milton into becoming something he was not — namely, a dealer.
“This is the war on drugs and the way the Durham Police Department chooses to fight it,” said Meier. “The Police are supposed to prevent crime … but they’re trying to create it.”
Meier referenced Burrage, who agreed to help police in exchange for getting her own set of pending charges dismissed. “The State has given her this opportunity by turning him into a drug dealer,” Meier said as he pointed at Morgan at the defense table with dramatic flair.
Morgan has been charged with four crimes: sale of drugs, delivery of drugs, possession with intent to sell, and maintaining a dwelling for drugs. Two rocks of crack—the equivalent of a tenth of a gram of crack—was also submitted into evidence.