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Key Testimony in YONET Drug Case

meth

By Justine Joya

The case of Andrea Collins and Vincent Felix continued yesterday morning, with Agent Diaz on the stand. Ms. Collins and Mr. Felix are being charged with possession of illegal drugs and 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 morning began with Judge Richardson and both counsels settling a dispute over whether or not part of Agent Diaz’s previous testimony would be stricken from the record. The defense was arguing that a portion of Diaz’s testimony was based on his opinion rather than facts, while Deputy District Attorney Bronte argued that his testimony was based from his experience as an agent. Coming to a conclusion, Judge Richardson ordered a portion of the witness’ testimony, regarding the lasting effects of methamphetamine, to be stricken from the record and disregarded by the jury.

After calling the jurors back in, DDA Bronte proceeded with her cross-examination of Agent Diaz. Ms. Bronte’s examination focused on the amount of methamphetamine found in the defendants’ home, and what that amount inclined Diaz to believe it was being used for. Diaz reported that he believed the 37.9 g of methamphetamine was being distributed because in his profession it is uncommon for an individual to carry more than 4 g of methamphetamine unless it was being sold. In addition to copious amount of methamphetamine, Diaz noted that there was frequently “short stay traffic,” which also pushed him to believe that Felix and Collins were selling.

When it was the defense’s turn to cross-examine, Deputy Public Defender Richard Van Zandt began by asking Diaz what an unsuspicious amount of visitors was that one could have, and whether “5 visitors over a 5-week period” really suggested methamphetamine distribution. Diaz replied by saying that out of the context of the investigation, 5 visitors over a 5-week period would not suggest drug trafficking.

Defense Attorney James Granucci drilled Diaz about his training as an officer, asking if it ever consisted of presentations or instruction by medical doctors or psychologists who can attest to the biological harm caused by methamphetamine. When the witness told Granucci that the training consisted mainly of other law enforcers, rather than medical professionals, Granucci hinted that Diaz did not know for certain the effects of methamphetamine. Before concluding the examination, Granucci asserted that it was in Diaz’s opinion that the 37.9 g of methamphetamine was for sale, but Diaz responded by saying that he based his opinion on the totality of circumstances and not just on the methamphetamine itself.

After a short recess, the court reconvened and defendant Vincent Felix was called to the stand.

Granucci’s examination of his client started routinely, beginning with a short briefing of Mr. Felix’s background. When asked if he ever sold methamphetamine or marijuana, the defendant denied the claims. Granucci then asked Felix to recall the day of the raid in 2012. According to Felix’s recounting of the event, the officers barged into his home early that morning. When he got out of bed and opened his bedroom door, he was tackled and fell onto Ms. Collins who was still in bed, was struck by the butt of a gun causing him to bleed, and then he and Collins were arrested in their living room.

After the events of the raid, DDA Bronte delivered a series of questions about his and Ms. Collins’ income and the prices of all the assets and accessories the couple possessed. When asked about the marijuana and methamphetamine, Felix told her that he had no intention to sell it and that it was all for his and Ms Collins’ personal use. In regard to the camera placed on their front door, Felix explained that he purchased the camera after one of his bikes was stolen from his property.

Following a mid-morning break, Mr. Granucci called upon a psychologist, Dr. Donald Siggins, to testify about the influences of drugs on chemically dependent individuals. Dr. Siggins began his testimony by explaining that he received a B.A. in History from the University of California Los Angeles, along with an M.A. in Psychology from the University of Redlands, before finally earning his Ph.D from the University of San Francisco in Counseling Psychology.

To further establish the credibility of his witness, Mr. Granucci asked Dr. Siggins to elaborate on his study of psychology. Dr. Siggins claimed that between 1985-1990  he served as a substance expert for both children and adults, and that for ten years he supervised the staff of Juveniles at Risk before expanding his supervision in the last two years to Preparing People for Success.

When asked by Mr. Granucci how many people he has counseled for substance abuse, Dr. Siggins stated that he has counseled and aided hundreds of chemically dependent individuals.

According to Dr. Siggins, tolerance is defined as a, “physiological protective phenomenon,” that involves the body’s reaction to protect the person against drugs [and the] toxins,” involved in substance use.  The higher a person’s tolerance the more drugs the person will need to consume to achieve a high sensation. After establishing a connection between tolerance and substance abuse, Dr. Siggins stated that he has been qualified about three to four times to testify in court, including the Yolo County Superior Court.

As testimony continued, Dr. Siggins stated that there are three ways in which tolerance may affect an individual. Metabolic tolerance is a process by which the system detoxifies drugs. The liver and kidney ready themselves to eliminate the drug. Ecological tolerance refers to when cells change to protect themselves, and behavioral tolerance refers to when an individual may act as if they are not intoxicated when they really are intoxicated.

Shortly before cross-examination began, Mr. Granucci asked Dr. Siggins about the different ways an individual may abuse methamphetamine. According to Dr. Siggins an individual may smoke, swallow, or inject the substance and the individual may experience a substance high of four hours should they not consume anymore.

Ms. Bronte began her cross-examination by calling into question Dr. Siggin’s expertise. She frequently asked the witness when was the last time he completed a course on substance abuse, to which the witness replied recently and in 1992 with his Ph.D program. When Ms. Bronte asked when he last read a paper on substance abuse, the witness replied by claiming that he closely follows the National Drug Institute and recently read “a paper from Columbia concerning brain matter,” under substance abuse, in the spring semester. Unsatisfied with that answer, Ms. Bronte demanded to know the exact dates of the spring semester, to which the witness defined from January to June of 2014.

Ms. Bronte asked the witness to comment on the amount of substance a chemically dependent user, who is in frequent contact with the witness, uses daily. When the witness declined to give a certain amount and claimed that anyone chemically dependent will use any amount they can receive, Ms. Bronte objected, claiming the answers were non-responsive, before asking the witness if there is any way to determine whether a dependent person is clinical or sub-clinical. According to Dr. Siggins, the only way to determine if someone is clinically or sub-clinically dependent is if one speaks to them.

Before closing her cross-examination, Ms. Bronte asked Dr. Siggins if he had ever spoken to Andrea Collins or any of the defendants involved in the case, to which the witness replied that he had not. She then proceeded to ask, if an individual abuses three and a half grams of methamphetamine a day, which might or might not equate to 0.4 grams every two and a half hours, whether they would be allowed to sleep. The witness claimed that the individual would not be able to sleep on a speed-run. Assuming that an individual abusing methamphetamine every two and a half hours would be on a speed-run, Ms. Bronte concluded that they would be able to sleep. In response Dr. Siggins claimed, “You’re calling that a speed-run, I’m not.” The witness concluded by stating that that hypothetical individual might not be on a speed-run, but they would be abusing “constantly.”

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The Vanguard Court Watch puts 8 to 12 interns into the Yolo County House to monitor and report on what happens. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org

One comment

  1. This piece was also co-written by Saghi Nojoomi.

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