Prosecution of major drug charges rests with appellate court

Feb. 01, 2013 @ 04:23 PM

Evidence in a major investigation of marijuana crop growing in the county remains suppressed, and the prosecutor in the case said that if an appellate court does not reverse the decision, the case is over.

Vance County narcotics investigators in October 2011 charged Glenn Edward Benters, 64, of 527 Currin Road, on six felony counts associated with having marijuana for sale, keeping a dwelling for the marijuana trade, growing marijuana and having items for illegal drug use.

Benters appeared in Vance County Superior Court this week for a hearing to determine his representation for the appeal process as Assistant District Attorney Bill Griffin prepares a case for an appeal due for the record Feb. 7.

Benters will be represented by Durham attorney Scott Holmes. Griffin said that he believes there is reason to reverse ruling that Superior Court Judge Carl R. Fox made in September, when he struck down evidence gathered by investigators in the case.

“The purpose of the appellate review is to determine if there were any errors in the court’s decision,” Griffin said, referring to Fox’s ruling.

Griffin added that if appellate judges uphold the Fox ruling, and the impacted evidence is not allowed, the case against Benters is over: the investigative work of seizing, processing and destroying 47 mature hydroponic-growth marijuana plants and eight juvenile plants, an illegal crop worth $282,000, will be for naught.

“Then there would be no basis for prosecuting the case,” Griffin said.

The appellate hearing on the case will be scheduled for a hearing in Raleigh, according to Griffin.

Fox ruled that investigators stepped beyond their constitutional limitations when they came on to Benters’ property from a neighbor’s land without Benters’ knowledge.

Fox said an informant was unreliable and probable cause of illegal activity wasn’t sufficient. The judge said only after entering the property illegally did Vance County sheriff’s deputies gain probable cause evidence for the search warrant used to seize evidence.


Contact the writer at mfisher@hendersondispatch.com.