Monday, May 04, 2015

Meth Conviction Reversed for Insufficient Evidence

U.S. v. Washington, 2015 WL 1811151 (4/22/15) (Okl.) (Published) - The 10th finds the evidence insufficient in a not atypical drug-in-the-car case. In a bag in the trunk of the car Mr. Washington was driving, officers found 14 bricks of marijuana and a receipt issued to Mr. Washington's passenger. Officers also found a "large quantity" of meth in 3 closed containers: a "Cold Eeze" box, a zipper bag and a "Green Tea Extract" bottle. There were two scales that were "not easily visible." One in a box and one designed to look like an ordinary iPhone. On the back seat was a false-bottomed container with no drugs in it. There was aluminum foil, but there were no drugs, in Mr. Washington's duffel bag. The car smelled of marijuana(!), but no one testified whether the smell was of burnt or raw marijuana. The 10th found insufficient evidence Mr. Washington knew there was a distribution level of drugs in the car. The smell of marijuana could have meant someone smoked marijuana, but it did not indicate to Mr. Washington there was enough marijuana to distribute. Similarly, the aluminum foil is something meth consumers, not meth distributors, use. Mr. Washington could not see what was in any of the closed containers. To prove this, the 10th attached photos of the opaque containers. There was no evidence Mr. Washington knew there were two barely visible scales. The 10th also disputed the government's interpretation of some of the other evidence, e.g., the 10th determined there was no evidence Mr. Washington heard his passenger lie about where they were going. In sum, the 10th says, the jury could have attributed guilt to Mr. Washington based on his presence in the car and speculation about his knowledge, but that did not constitute sufficient evidence to find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.