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People v McFadden

People v McFadden

Court Discusses Conviction Against the Weight of the Evidence.

The defendant was charged for a criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree in connection with a single transaction. The first trial resulted in a deadlock by the jury on two of the most serious charges. The defendant was found guilty on a partial verdict of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree and the trial judge declared a mistrial on the other counts. A second trial was conducted on the charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree and criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree.

The defendant was found guilty of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree, but he was not found guilty of of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree at the second trial. The conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance was set aside and a sentence of seven years imprisonment was imposed. The defendant appealed the conviction on the ground that he was subjected to double jeopardy and the weight of the evidence was insufficient to convict him on a charged of criminal drug possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reversed the conviction and dismissed the count charged criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree. However, did not consider the defendant’s appeal on the ground that the evidence was insufficiency as it was an academic argument. The Court of Appeals reversed the judgment and remitted the matter to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court to determine whether the defendant’s conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree was against the weight of the evidence.

The Appellate Division of the Supreme Court reduced the defendant’s conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree and the sentence was vacated. The People failed to prove that the defendant possessed a controlled substance knowingly and unlawfully with intent to sell. The evidence relating to the defendant’s arrest was analyzed by the court in reducing the conviction. The defendant was arrested after it was alleged by police officers that the defendant sold marijuana to a buyer in exchanged for cash in a white piece of paper. One of the police officer stated that he did not see anything transferred between the defendant and the buyer as it was instantaneous. The other officer gave conflicting evidence as to how long the exchange lasted. After the observation the defendant and the buyer were arrested where $20 was found on his person along with envelopes of cocaine, with a seal on it and the buyers was found with two bags of marijuana and white envelope of cocaine with a seal on it. The alleged buyer testified on the defendant’s behalf to the effect that they were co-workers but did not speak to each other. The witness stated he had purchased cocaine with a seal on it from someone who was not the defendant and that the person was his regular cocaine supplier. He further stated that he recalled seeing the defendant who was fishing on a beach with two other men and he waved to him. The witness testimony created doubt as to whether there was intent to sell the packets of cocaine by defendant. It could have been that the defendant only possessed the cocaine for his own personal use. The jury rejected the testimony of the police officers as there was no evidence that the defendant had intent to sell.

The court concluded that no inference could be drawn the defendant had an intent to sell the cocaine found on his person. The defendant possessed only a small quantity cocaine which was consistent with the explanation that he intended to use it for himself. The defendant was found with only $20 in cash and he did not possess any weapon or any drug equipment. Therefore, the evidence presented was insufficient to support that the defendant had an intention to sell the cocaine he possessed. As result, the conviction of criminal sale of a controlled substance in the third degree was vacated based on the evidence. However, there was a belief that the defendant reasonably possessed the cocaine knowingly and unlawfully to support the conviction of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. Hence, the charge of criminal possession of a controlled substance in the third degree was reduced to criminal possession of a controlled substance in the seventh degree. The case was remitted to the trial court for the imposition of a sentence for the offense.

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