Jury acquits Champaign man of having cocaine for sale | Courts-police-firefighters
URBANA — A Champaign man living in a home where police found $2,000 worth of cocaine was acquitted Wednesday of intending to sell it.
A jury deliberated just over an hour on Wednesday before returning verdicts of not guilty on all counts against Billy D. Palmer, 43, who lived in the 1900 block of David Drive with the mother of his children when he was arrested on January 8. 2020.
He had been charged with possession with intent to deliver cocaine, a Class X felony due to the amount, and forgery for having counterfeit $100 bills in the house.
Palmer was on parole at the time for a weapons offence, his sixth felony conviction, when a parole officer asked members of the Champaign County Street Crimes Task Force to search the house with him.
Testimony during Palmer’s two-day trial before Judge Randy Rosenbaum is that officers showed up around 8:30 a.m. and within minutes found 21.9 grams of powder and crack in plastic bags inside. a sock under a couch, a digital scale nearby, and another 1.7 grams of crack and about $1,000 in cash in the pocket of a leather coat in a closet.
Task Force Officer Jim Kerner testified that Palmer was there with his 17-year-old daughter and almost immediately told police the house was so infested with bed bugs that they slept in the living room.
Kerner, who said he conducted hundreds of searches in his 10 years on the drug task forces, said it “raised everyone’s suspicions” who thought Palmer was trying to discourage their search.
Along with the cocaine and cash, police also found a trash can near the couch that contained 19 cut-out plastic bags, the corners of which Kerner said drug dealers typically used to package small amounts of cocaine. They also found an open box of baking soda in an entertainment center.
Palmer told Kerner that the cocaine was not his and that his uncle was staying home, but Kerner testified that he could not find anyone by that name in local law enforcement databases.
Jurors viewed approximately 30 minutes of body camera footage of Kerner as he interviewed Palmer, who said his uncle “had a lot of company there” in the area where police found the cocaine.
In Palmer’s defense, Savoyard attorney James Dedman called two people who testified that they attended a house party the weekend before Palmer was arrested on Wednesday.
Witnesses said they were guests of Palmer’s brother, who also lived there, and that people were using cocaine at the house.
A third woman testified that she purchased cocaine from the brother between October and December 2019.
Testifying in his own defense, Palmer said the drugs weren’t his and admitted he lied about an uncle living there, saying he didn’t want to blame it on his brother .
He said the $100 bills, which featured Chinese characters on the back, came in a package his child’s mother had ordered online for their youngest daughter to use to learn to count.
When asked if he intended to use them as real, Palmer replied, “Of course not.”
He said the jacket that had cocaine in the pocket also belonged to his brother.
In his arguments to the jury, Assistant State’s Attorney Tom Bucher called Palmer a “convicted liar” and said all the evidence gathered showed he was guilty.
Bucher said the cocaine was far more than a user would have, and the digital scale, cut-out plastic bags, baking soda and fake bills all pointed to a drug smuggling operation.
“There was over $2,000 worth of cocaine under that couch. Don’t you think if it was someone else’s they would have come and got it?” Bucher argued.
He urged the jury to pay attention to the way Palmer’s “eyes flash” in body camera footage when Kerner asks if his DNA or fingerprints would be on the cocaine.
“The eyes are the window to the soul,” he said, calling Palmer’s reaction a “consciousness of guilt.”
But Dedman countered that the lab did not test the cocaine for DNA or fingerprints and that Bucher presented “not a shred of evidence that points to Billy as the possessor”.
“He wants you to condemn Billy Palmer on his perception of what he (Bucher) saw on the video,” Dedman explained. “Whatever, there could be 40 other things going through his mind as these seven investigators walk through his house and yell at each other.
“Are they really going to ask you to convict him because of his look?” he added. “There is no evidence that Billy Palmer intended to do anything wrong with these materials.”