A District Court jury deliberated less than two hours Tuesday before convicting a 31-year-old Missoula man on four charges involving the manufacture of methamphetamine.
After listening to testimony for much of three days, the seven-woman, five-man jury found Tony Byers guilty of felony counts of conspiracy to manufacture dangerous drugs, criminal production of dangerous drugs, criminal possession of dangerous drugs and a misdemeanor count of criminal possession of drug paraphernalia.
Byers has been in jail since his arrest last November after another Missoula man, Jonathan Toth, turned himself in to Missoula police for operating a meth lab. Toth also told police about Byers, saying he carried the tools for operating a meth lab in his car and that Byers had cooked meth at his apartment in the past.
When police executed a search warrant on Byers' car and a house on Ernest Avenue where he was found, they turned up numerous items used in the manufacture and usage of meth, including pipes, syringes, a scale, a meth recipe, meth residue, an address book and bags and Tupperware with meth residue on them.
In her closing arguments, Missoula County Deputy Attorney Karen Townsend conceded that the witnesses who testified against Byers, several of whom are also charged with drug crimes, were not among Missoula's most upstanding citizens.
"A number of the people testifying here are certainly not individuals you would want to invite home to your house," Townsend said.
But she said they are people who know the drug trade and had first-hand access to Byers' meth-making activities. Townsend said their testimony, coupled with the evidence found in Byers' car and other places was enough to find him guilty of the charges.
Byers' attorney, Margaret Borg, Missoula's chief public defender, reminded the jury that they cannot convict her client of crimes based solely on the testimony of known accomplices. She said she wholeheartedly agreed with Townsend when it came to the reputations of the prosecution witnesses.
"The bottom line for us, ladies and gentlemen, is that the testimony of accomplices is no good," Borg said. "It's tainted and it's inappropriate to convict on accomplice testimony alone."
Borg contended that without the accomplice testimony, the state did not have enough evidence to convict Byers.
District Judge John Larson set Byers' sentencing date for Aug. 9.