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Martin v. State

Court of Appeals of Arkansas, Division IV

January 23, 2019

ROYAL MARTIN APPELLANT
v.
STATE OF ARKANSAS APPELLEE

          APPEAL FROM THE GRANT COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT [NO. 27CR-17-90] HONORABLE CHRIS E WILLIAMS, JUDGE

          Philip C Wilson, for appellant.

          Leslie Rutledge, Att'y Gen., by: Brad Newman, Ass't Att'y Gen., for appellee.

          RITA W. GRUBER, CHIEF JUDGE

         Appellant Royal Martin was convicted by a Grant County Circuit Court jury of possession of methamphetamine, a Class C felony, and two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, a Class B felony. Appellant was sentenced as a habitual offender to 360 months' imprisonment for possession of methamphetamine and 480 months' imprisonment for each count of possession of drug paraphernalia, with the sentences to run consecutively. On appeal, appellant contends that the evidence is insufficient to support the convictions. We affirm.

         Deputy Tim Preator testified that he was working for the Grant County Sheriff's Office on May 7, 2017, when he conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle in which appellant was a passenger. During his initial contact with the vehicle, Deputy Preator smelled a strong odor of suspected marijuana coming from the vehicle and informed the occupants that because of the smell there was probable cause to search the vehicle. The driver advised he did not have a license because it had been suspended. Deputy Preator testified that he asked the driver to step out and conducted a search of the driver, on whom nothing illegal was found. Deputy Preator then went to the front passenger side where appellant was seated. When appellant exited the vehicle, he told Deputy Preator he "probably had a little bit of marijuana on him." During the search of his person, Deputy Preator found two baggies in his right front pocket, one contained a large crystal-like rock and the other three or four green pills. Deputy Preator found nothing on the third occupant in the back seat.

         The search of the vehicle revealed another baggie of pills like those found on appellant, some suspected marijuana, and a baggie of suspected marijuana in a white pill bottle. Deputy Preator testified that appellant "advised me that the narcotics were his and that the people in the vehicle had nothing to do with it." According to Deputy Preator, appellant claimed ownership of everything.

         Agent Matt Smith with the Group Six Narcotics Task Force testified that he met Deputy Preator at the jail after learning of the drug arrest. Agent Smith took possession of the recovered items and stored them in the Grant County Sheriff Department's evidence locker before he took them to the crime lab. The items were brought to court and introduced into evidence. His testimony was introduced to establish the chain of custody. He stated that the envelope of evidence contained a small baggie of green vegetable material and a hand-rolled marijuana cigarette, multicolored pills, a piece of cut straw, the crystal substance believed to be methamphetamine, and the pill bottle with the pills inside and what looked to be a little marijuana. On cross-examination, Agent Smith stated there was only one pill bottle, dark or black, with a faded-out label that was a "greenish-blue color."

         Christi Williford, a forensic chemist at the Arkansas State Crime Laboratory, testified that the crystal substance was methamphetamine, which weighed 4.3995 grams. In addition, she added that one of the green pills tested consisted of 0.2128 grams of methamphetamine and caffeine.

         Based on this evidence, the jury found appellant guilty of possession of methamphetamine under Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-419 and both charges of possession of drug paraphernalia under Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-443(b). On appeal, appellant contends that the circuit court erred in denying his directed-verdict motions because there was insufficient evidence that he (1) knowingly or purposely possessed methamphetamine and (2) had direct physical control or constructive possession of the paraphernalia.

         A motion for a directed verdict at a jury trial is a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence. See Ark. R. Crim. P. 33.1 (2018). In reviewing a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, this court determines whether the verdict is supported by substantial evidence, direct or circumstantial. Foster v. State, 2015 Ark.App. 412, at 4, 467 S.W.3d 176, 179. Substantial evidence is evidence forceful enough to compel a conclusion one way or the other beyond suspicion or conjecture. Id., 467 S.W.3d at 179. We view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, and only evidence supporting the verdict will be considered. Id., 467 S.W.3d at 179.

         We first address the sufficiency of the evidence to support the possession-of-methamphetamine conviction. It is unlawful for a person to possess a controlled substance. See Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-419(a) (Repl. 2016). Possession of more than two grams but less than ten grams of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance that is methamphetamine or cocaine is a Class C felony. Ark. Code Ann. § 5-64-419(b)(1)(B).

         Appellant argues that the State failed to present sufficient evidence that he knowingly or purposely possessed methamphetamine either directly or by constructive possession. Appellant acknowledges that he told Deputy Preator that he "probably had a little bit of marijuana on him" but contends he did not mention anything other than possibly having marijuana. Appellant contends that the State failed to prove that he knew he had a baggie of methamphetamine in his pocket or that he had purposely placed the bag in his pocket. Further, appellant suggests that the State failed to present substantial evidence that he owned or exercised control over the vehicle, that he had any knowledge of the presence of alleged methamphetamine in the vehicle, and that he purposely possessed the alleged methamphetamine.

         The State responds that it presented substantial proof that the appellant knowingly and actually possessed methamphetamine because it was found in his pocket and he admitted it was his. The State also contends that, despite his arguments that there was no proof he knew he had a baggie of methamphetamine in his pocket or that he put it there, the jury did not have to speculate in order to find that he knew what was in his pocket, especially in light of his admission that the drugs belonged to him. Additionally, the State argues that appellant did not ...


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