By Jim Angell, Cowboy State Daily
A man whose vehicle was found to contain more than 70 pounds of marijuana was unsuccessful in his effort to overturn his conviction on charges of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.
Wyoming’s Supreme Court on Monday rejected the appeal of Dallas Clem Mitchell, disagreeing with his claims that there was insufficient evidence to support his conviction and that a recording of a conversation with his jailed co-defendant should not have been introduced as evidence.
According to the opinion, written by Justice Kate Fox, Mitchell was stopped by a Wyoming Highway Patrol trooper on Interstate 90 near Sheridan in August 2018 because his car was weaving on the highway.
During the stop, the trooper smelled marijuana and asked Mitchell to step out of the vehicle for a sobriety test, leaving passenger Bret Feser inside.
After Mitchell successfully completed the sobriety test, the trooper said he needed to check the vehicle for marijuana. The opinion said Feser then jumped into the driver’s seat and drove the vehicle away.
The resulting chase, which reached speeds of up to 100 mph, ended in Campbell County when troopers used a spike strip to flatten the vehicle’s tires. Feser ran from the scene on foot and was arrested several hours later.
A search of the vehicle revealed 74 pounds of marijuana and Mitchell was charged with possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to deliver a controlled substance.
During the trial, prosecutors presented a recording of a call between Mitchell, who was free on bond, and Feser, who remained in jail. During the conversation, Mitchell apologized to Feser for taking a route through Wyoming and said he would help pay Feser’s bond. The two also joked about the stop and criticized prosecutors for pursuing charges “for what they felt was a small amount of relatively harmless drug compared to ‘dope,’” the ruling said.
Mitchell also mentioned his criminal history in the recording.
Mitchell questioned the relevancy of the recording and said his statements about his prior legal problems should not have been heard by the jury.
But justices ruled the recordings supported allegations that Mitchell intended to deliver the marijuana and that there was an understanding “between him and Mr. Feser to carry out the crime together,” the opinion said.
Justices also said there was sufficient evidence for the jury in Mitchell’s case to convict him on the charges.
“Mr. Mitchell was in a compact car with two dogs, another adult, and four large suitcases filled with over 74 pounds of marijuana packaged in a form consistent with delivery,” the opinion said. “The marijuana produced a strong odor. Among Mr. Mitchell’s possessions was a marijuana grinder, a stack of money bands … The evidence was sufficient to convict Mr. Mitchell of possession with intent to deliver.”