Yesterday morning Defense Attorney James Granucci and Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt, alongside their clients Vincent Matthew Felix and Andrea Marie Collins, met with Deputy District Attorney Sara Abrate in Judge Paul Richardson’s Department 1. Ms. Collins and Mr. Felix are being charged with possession of illegal drugs, drug paraphernalia, and intent to sell. There are three counts in total, resulting from a drug raid of their Woodland home in late 2012.
The beginning of court proceedings started with an Evidence Code §402 evidentiary hearing to determine whether Woodland Detective Jeff Moe’s testimony will be admissible in front of the jury. After moments of disputes from the defense, Judge Richardson denied the defense’s request to generate further reports regarding the surveillance of their clients’ property, noting that the defense had plenty of time during the preliminary stage of the trial to gather such information.
When the jury was finally present, the court proceeded with Detective Moe’s testimony. DDA Abrate questioned the officer about the details of his case regarding defendants Collins and Felix. When asked to recall specific events leading up to the property raid, Detective Moe gave a synopsis of three particular occurrences. The first dealt with an individual who arrived at Collins’ and Felix’ residence on a bike, the next with an individual who approached the property on foot, and the last was a subject in a car speaking to Felix, who was standing outside the vehicle. According to the officer, as he approached the vehicle, both Felix and the subject in the car turned and glared at him.
After wrapping up specific incidents that the officer recollected, DDA Abrate went on to discuss the evidence that arose from the house raid that took place in December of 2012. She first presented a picture of the defendants’ porch with a surveillance camera placed above the door. The next series of photographs depicted methamphetamine and marijuana paraphernalia, a small weighing scale, and a wallet containing over $1500 in cash. When asked if there was anything in the house related to contraband, Det. Moe gave an assertive “yes.”
In her opening statement, Ms. Abrate established the events leading up to the legal search of Collins’ and Felix’s home. Det. Moe surveyed the house from an undercover cop car for some time before requesting a search warrant. He saw signs of drug sales, such as short term visitors who entered and left the couple’s home in a suspicious amount of time.
During the raid, Collins and Felix were pulled from their bedroom. Police found drug paraphernalia and other suspicious items in the bedroom, such as a police scanner used to monitor nearby law enforcement. Lots of cash in different denominations was found throughout the home and in the couple’s respective wallets. Five containers of marijuana, totaling one ounce, were found unconcealed in the home. Thirty-eight grams of methamphetamine were stored in a single bag behind the plastic door of a computer printer.
Mr. Granucci began the defense’s opening statement by explaining Collins’ and Felix’s history. The couple grew up in Woodland and they had been together for one and a half years when the drug raid was performed. During the raid, Felix was slammed down on the bed and struck in the face. When they were brought downstairs to the living room and asked about the marijuana and meth pipe on the living room table, Felix claimed the methamphetamine belonged to him. Collins took responsibility for the marijuana.
At this point, Mr. Granucci announced, “I think we will find both of them smoked the marijuana recreationally. We will also find that Collins and Felix did not violate the sections of possession with intent to sell.”
Mr. Van Zandt ended the defense’s opening statement with something to consider: “Many bags is consistent with possession for sale. That’s the chief argument of the Defense, that the meth was all in one package. I’m going to argue that the quantity suggests possession for sale, but not the distribution. The quantity of marijuana looks like it was used for personal consumption, not sale, although it was in various jars.”
Ms. Abrate’s first witness was called to the stand. Boyd Lasater, a Senior Criminalist with the Department of Justice for more than 15 years, specializes in analyzing methamphetamine and other illegal substances. Upon Abrate’s request, he took the court step by step through the chain of custody used when analyzing drugs. The drug must be signed in and signed out of a vault, and it has a barcode so that it may be tracked.
In cross, Mr. Van Zandt asked Mr. Lasater to differentiate between qualitative and quantitative. Mr. Lasater clarified that qualitative means the identification of the substance as meth, and quantitative means the percent amount of meth or the quantity. Mr. Granucci stood and asked if Mr. Lasater examined the marijuana personally, to which the senior criminalist responded with a resounding, “No.”
Before Mr. Lasater was excused, Mr. Van Zandt asked a final, open question, permitted by Judge Richardson: “Was there an odor to the meth?”
“No,” was Mr. Lasater’s reply.
The second witness to be called by Deputy DA Abrate was Detective Moe, who has been a police officer for the city of Woodland for 16 years. Det. Moe, the undercover cop surveying Collins’ and Felix’s home, saw people enter and leave the residence in under ten minutes. He did not confront any of these visitors because, in his words, “an undercover officer must try to stay hidden. They don’t want to reveal themselves.”
At this point, the attorneys and Judge Richardson met at the sidebar for ten or so minutes. Reaching no conclusion to their private discussion, court was adjourned and set to resume on Wednesday at 8:30AM in Department 1.