A Forsyth County man has been found guilty on drug charges in what local authorities described as the most sophisticated indoor marijuana-growing operation they had seen.
William D. Morrow III, 46, was convicted Wednesday on one count each of manufacturing marijuana and trafficking marijuana in a bench trial before Forsyth County Superior Court Judge Jeffrey S. Bagley.
Morrow’s sentencing has been scheduled for March 17.
The trial also served as a hearing on the defense’s motion to suppress evidence in the case.
Morrow was arrested April 8, 2008, after authorities discovered an indoor "grow house" in the basement of his home at 5220 Ridge Farms Drive in north Forsyth.
Sheriff’s investigators testified in court that they found 764 marijuana plants at various stages of maturity in Morrow’s basement, which was divided into four rooms.
He had also used upgraded electrical and ventilation systems, which included halogen lights on tracks operated by a timer.
Morrow was growing the plants hydroponically, or without soil, investigators said.
At the time, he was on probation for previous charges.
Investigators said they received a tip Morrow had been using marijuana and were able to search his home because he had waived his Fourth
Amendment rights as part of the probation.
The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.
Rafe Banks, Morrow’s attorney, contended the evidence against his client was invalid because the Fourth Amendment waiver was imposed on him and that he did not willingly agree to it as a condition of his previous sentencing.
Banks also maintained authorities did not verify the tip before searching Morrow.
“If the court agrees with me on any of these grounds, I would suggest the proper thing to do would be grant the motion and keep the verdict until the state decides to appeal or not,” he said.
Assistant District Attorney James Dunn argued that Morrow’s probation was part of a negotiated plea that included the waiver.
“This is what he bargained for, so to say he didn’t consent to it is extremely disingenuous,” Dunn said.
Bagley reviewed transcripts of Morrow’s previous sentencing and individually addressed each of Banks’ six grounds for granting the motion.
“All the evidence in this case stands or falls on whether the Fourth Amendment search was valid or not,” Bagley said.
He ruled the evidence was sufficient to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Morrow is guilty.