By Haroutun Bejanyan
The courtroom was assembled with jurors for the preliminary examination of Jose Antonio Garcia Felix, who is facing charges of possession of methamphetamine with the intent to sell. The incident had taken place on December 7, 2012. Sitting on the stand was Officer Jeff Moe, who had been the one to conduct a search of Felix’s residence and found 38.3 grams of methamphetamine secretly stashed in hidden areas throughout the home. Felix’s defense attorney James Granucci asked Officer Moe in cross-examination to confirm that he had found a smoking pipe lying on the coffee table, in addition to the recovered meth.
After Moe acknowledged that he had, Granucci advanced to present a DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration) report highlighting that the average daily dose of methamphetamine for an addict is between 1 to 2 grams, then inquired of Moe his opinion regarding the data. Drawing on his personal experience with several addicts over the course of many years, Moe replied that the DEA’s data is not consistent with what he had encountered during his time as a member of YONET, Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team. The culmination of his personal encounters with addicts reflected a daily dose of meth between .1 to .2 grams as opposed to the DEA data presented.
Utilizing the DEA data, Granucci proceeded to establish a hypothetical in which, if the defendant, who claimed to have been an addict, and his addict friend had been using the higher end of the daily dose range presented in the DEA report, 2 grams each, the confiscated meth would have lasted them only 10 days. Officer Moe did not see it that way since his experiences indicate a far lesser daily dose by addicts, which would place the usage at .4 grams a day for 95 days to add up to the 38 grams confiscated.
Granucci advanced his argument, assuming that, if his calculations were correct, according to the DEA report of daily doses, it would make much more economic sense for the defendant to have bought methamphetamine by the ounce instead of gram, saving himself money for buying in bulk. Again, Officer Moe repudiated Granucci’s argument, stating that even if an addict did use 2 grams per day, it is not common for addicts to purchase in bulk because walking out of a known purchase zone with a bulge in their pockets would make them an obvious target to observing law enforcement and others who could rob them.
The prosecution, in re-direct examination, brought attention to the surveillance camera, which the defense had neglected to address. The camera had been installed above the door and was connected to the living room television to display a live feed of anybody at the door. Officer Moe testified that this was a common security measure practiced among drug dealers so that they would be aware of visiting customers and potential threats. During the People’s re-direct, Officer Moe reiterated that he had never heard of anybody using a gram a day and also that it is quite unusual for an addict to buy in bulk. According to Moe, not only do very few addicts have the day-to-day functionality to maintain a stable job that would allow them to purchase in bulk, but also bulk purchases present potential dangers with the difficulty to conceal the purchase from robbery or arrest.
Granucci returned to cross-examine again by probing into Officer Moe’s claim of having spoken to over 300 addicts during his time in YONET, inquiring when Moe had last spoken to an “informant” and asking him to give at least three of their names. Moe replied that he had spoken to one of the individuals earlier that day and then he refused to comply to Granucci’s request, stating that he did not remember most of the names and wanted to protect the confidentiality of the ones he did know. Only after Judge Paul Richardson demanded twice that Officer Moe respond, by giving the name of the individual he spoke to that very morning, did Moe comply, but he was still unable to provide any additional names. Before Moe left the stand in re-cross, he testified that the daily dosage used by the “informant” he had spoken to that morning was around .1 to .2 grams as well.
Following the prosecution’s witness, the defense presented their own witness, a licensed psychologist in California who counsels substance abusers. His experience with many meth addicts has led him to gain knowledge regarding the issues of increased tolerance and corresponding dosages. The witness claimed to have counseled meth addicts who used anywhere between 1 to 5 grams a day due to their increasing tolerance to the drug over time. He then went on to add that he has never read any literature which identified .1 to .2 grams as the standard dosage of a meth addict. According to the witness, law enforcement personnel may have reached the conclusion of .1/.2 grams as being the standard because every substance abuser they talk to on the street gives them a low number out of fear of legal repercussions.
The prosecution cross-examined this witness by attacking his credibility, revealing that he had only taken three classes relating to substance abuse over the 10-12 years of education. The prosecution was also able to establish that the witness did not work with any casual users, so his conclusive daily dosage was skewed toward heavy users who had developed a high tolerance. All of the information proffered by the witness was based on those meth users who are addicted. The witness had never spoken to Felix nor does he have any information about the defendant’s dosage, frequency, method or history of use. Yet, despite the lack of personal information about Felix, the witness somehow still asserted the opinion that Felix is a long-term user. The prosecution ended by urging the witness to verify that he was being paid a thousand dollars to render his professional opinion as an expert in the matter of tolerance and substance abuse.