Meth Conviction Overturned After Witness Testified While High On Meth

James Donald Bachtell

A Montana man who was convicted of methamphetamine possession will be granted another trial after it was revealed that one of the witnesses in his trial was under the influence of methamphetamine when he testified. Derrick Thrush, who works as a forensic chemist for the state, was called as an expert witness in the trial of James Donald Bachtell to testify that the residue police found on a glass pipe when they arrested him in June 2017 was from methamphetamine. The next day Bachtell was convicted.

Just two days later, an internal review at the crime lab uncovered the fact that Thrush had removed drug samples that were supposed to be destroyed. He then ingested some of the illegal drugs he had taken on his way to court to testify against Bachtell. He admitted to taking leftover meth from evidence bags five or six times but said he never used the drugs while at the crime lab. 

Thrush was fired from his job and pleaded guilty to drug possession, theft and official misconduct in Missoula County.

Officials from the Montana Department of Justice’s Forensic Science Division said that they were "not aware of any inaccuracies with the results in our final reports." 

District Court Judge John Parker set a new trial date for Bachtell in November. Thrush will be sentenced for his crimes in December. 

Photo: Cascade County Detention Center

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