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Curtis v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division I

March 11, 2015

STEVEN ANDREW CURTIS, APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS, APPELLEE

APPEAL FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT. NO. 27CR-2013-71-1. HONORABLE CHRIS E WILLIAMS, JUDGE.

Gregory Crain, for appellant.

Dustin McDaniel, Att'y Gen., by: LeaAnn J. Adams, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

BART F. VIRDEN, Judge. GRUBER and GLOVER, JJ., agree.

OPINION

Page 701

BART F. VIRDEN, Judge

A Grant County jury found appellant Steven Curtis guilty of delivery of methamphetamine and maintaining a drug premises, and he was sentenced as a habitual offender to serve consecutive terms of twenty and ten years, respectively, and fined a total of $10,000. Curtis argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his directed-verdict motions and that the trial court erred in admitting the methamphetamine and test results into evidence

Page 702

because the State failed to sufficiently establish the chain of custody. We affirm.

I. Trial Testimony

Nathan Thomas, a confidential informant, testified that he approached police officers about doing a controlled drug buy involving Curtis. On August 7, 2013, Thomas met with a Drug Task Force agent, Eddie Keathley, at the Grant County fairgrounds. Keathley searched Thomas and gave him money to purchase methamphetamine and a video recorder, resembling a key fob, to record the transaction. Thomas testified he went to the trailer park where Curtis lived, he gave Curtis the money in the living room, and Curtis then led him to a bedroom. Thomas stated that Curtis took the methamphetamine from " a pretty good size little bag" and put it into a smaller 1-inch x 1-inch plastic bag. Thomas said Curtis then weighed the drug and gave it to him. Thomas left Curtis's place, returned to the fairgrounds, and gave the bag to Keathley. A video of the transaction was played for the jury. When Thomas's testimony resumed, he explained that the video had stopped working at some point inside the trailer.

Eddie Keathley, an employee of the Sheridan Police Department and supervisor over the Group Six Drug Task Force, testified that he searched Thomas before giving him $100 to purchase one gram of methamphetamine from Curtis. Keathley followed Thomas and watched him go inside a trailer. When Thomas left the trailer, Keathley followed him back to the fairgrounds. Keathley explained it was not unusual for the video recorders to stop working, and the device either ran out of space or the battery died. Keathley testified that Thomas gave him a yellow plastic bag that contained a crystal-like substance. The substance field tested positive for methamphetamine. Keathley photographed the drug, weighed it, and placed it inside an envelope that he put in the evidence locker at the police department. Keathley said that a log sheet was stored with the evidence. Keathley wrote " storage to Crime Lab" on the log sheet and, after picking the evidence up from the crime lab, he wrote, " Crime Lab to storage." Keathley stated that no one else at the police department had handled the evidence. Keathley submitted the evidence to the crime lab on September 16, 2013. When Keathley retrieved it from the lab, the evidence was in the same envelope he had submitted but had writing on it from people at the crime lab.

Christy Williford, a forensic chemist at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, testified that she retrieved an envelope from the lab's secure storage in the evidence-receiving section on September 26, 2013. She inventoried its contents, weighed the substance, and tested it. She performed two tests that determined the crystalline substance was methamphetamine. Williford then sealed the envelope, placed her initials on it, and returned it to the evidence-receiving section where she checked it back in with an evidence technician on October 7, 2013. Defense counsel, on voir dire of the witness, asked Williford who put the evidence into secure storage when it was received from Keathley, and Williford testified that the electronic chain-of-custody report indicated that it was Mandy Fowler, although she did not see the exchange personally. On re-direct examination, Williford testified without objection that, when ...


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