By Michael R. Moser
Donnie Dewayne Davenport had a simple explanation for why he was in possession of major components used in clandestine methamphetamine labs.
The jury didn't buy it, and instead of going camping, Daveport, 59, will be sitting in his jail cell as he waits for his Aug. 9 sentencing. His fate is being enhanced by being tagged with the label of career criminal.
It took a Cumberland County jury just over an hour and a half Tuesday to convict Davenport of initiation of the process to manufacture methamphetamine and levy a fine of $2,500. Davenport's past also caught up with him as Deputy District Attorney General Gary McKenzie told the court he had filed for an enhanced sentence because of the defendant's past criminal history.
Only two witnesses were called to the stand to testify for the state — Cumberland County Sheriff's Deputy Sgt. Jason Elmore and Deputy David Moore. Davenport was the only witness called by defense attorney Robert Zecher.
The state's case was pretty simple. A phone tip suggesting the presence of "hot" or stolen property was made to a law enforcement agency in Cookeville was forwarded to the Cumberland County Sheriff's Department's Criminal Nuisance Enforcement Team (CNET).
The result was a response by Elmore, Moore and K-9 Officer Danny Stone to 681 Grey Fox Dr. in Wyndridge Estates, a subdivision located off Plateau Rd.
As the officers arrived on the scene, they observed Davenport turning quickly to a storage building and locking the door so that officers could not enter. Davenport denied the presence of stolen property and no stolen property was found.
Moore testified that near the storage building he spotted a "burn pile," a spot where he found debris partially burned that indicated the potential of a meth lab or components present on the property.
Moore added that it was not uncommon to find burn piles containing remnants of containers or packaging from items commonly used in the manufacture of meth.
Davenport testified that Scotty Meadows owns the property and had given Davenport permission to park his camper on the lot in exchange for the defendant cleaning up the land. The camper did not have running water or electricity.
Davenport was taken into custody, Moore testified, and transported to the Justice Center while a search warrant was issued for the storage building, camper and vehicles on the property. Inside the outbuilding, deputies found a cooler containing lithium batteries, coffee filters, a camp cook stove and fuel, a plastic container with top removed and other items commonly used in the "one-pot" or "shake and bake" method of making meth.
Both deputies told the jury how the items seized were used in the meth making process.
Under cross examination from Zecher, however, Moore testified that no meth was found on the property.
Davenport told the jury of eight women, four men and one female alternate, that he had lived on the properly for nearly three months and that the burn pile was present when he moved to the Grey Fox Dr. address.
He said he was in the process of locking the shed to go purchase some gas when the deputies arrived and was not trying to keep them out of the storage building or hide anything from them.
When they asked him whether he had stolen property, Davenport testified that he told them, "I did not."
He denied cooking drugs or using meth and testified that he had never failed a drug test. He added that he goes camping "all the time," and that all the items seized were used during camping.
During cross examination, Davenport admitted that he had numerous convictions for driving under the influence and for aggravated burglary. What could not be asked, and what the jury did not know, was that Davenport had been charged in the past with making and possessing meth.
In closing arguments, McKenzie told the jury that there was no dispute that the items seized and found grouped in the cooler were used in the manufacture of meth, and he asked jurors to "take common sense back there (to the deliberation room) with you."
Zecher countered that if jurors felt uncomfortable with any portion of the state's case against his client, then their verdict should be not guilty. He added that jurors should have no "unanswered questions" when deciding the verdict. And he reminded them of the absence of meth on the property.
The jurors were given the option of a lesser included charge of unlawful use of drug paraphernalia, and with options of fines from $250 to $5,000.
Davenport has been free on bond since he was first charged in the case, but Criminal Court Judge David Patterson agreed with McKenzie that the defendant should be immediately taken into custody.
Davenport could be sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.