Elderly Man in Wheelchair Faces Drug Paraphernalia Charges

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YoloCourt-16By Monica Velez

After what turned out to be a confusing debate between what the prosecution had to prove, what it took to prove each count without a reasonable doubt, and, frankly, the difference in opinion of what the law was, Curly Sampson’s misdemeanor trial turned into only one fact being known as true – there is no denying that Sampson had suspicious glass objects in his wallet on November 16, 2015.

Closing arguments began on the afternoon of March 2, 2016, in Mr. Sampson’s trial, with Deputy District Attorney Frits Van Der Hoek telling the jury what this case was about – facts, evidence and the law.

Van Der Hoek then went into what the case was not about, explaining how some jurors might feel sympathy for the defendant, who testified earlier that morning; he was a elderly man in a wheelchair. The defense told the jury not to let public opinion or bias influence their decision.

Van Der Hoek broke down the three elements which he argued would prove the defendant to be guilty without a reasonable doubt of possession of a controlled substance – drug paraphernalia.

The People said the first element to prove was that Sampson “unlawfully” possessed an object for an “unlawful” use. Van Der Hoek assured the jury that, because the objects were in the defendant’s wallet, in his possession, he knew they were there.

The evidence also shows that the objects were for the use of smoking crack cocaine. A “burnt copper scrubbing pad” was in the defendant’s possession, and it was said in earlier testimony by an expert witness that that particular object was regularly used for smoking crack cocaine.

The expert witness also said the glass pipe was used specifically for crack cocaine. The defendant himself also testified that the pipe was used for crack cocaine, although he did mention that he would not use that specific pipe to smoke out of because it was broken on each end.

Van Der Hoek argued that just because the defendant said he would not use the pipe in that condition doesn’t stop the object from being a tool used to smoke controlled substances.

The second element the People argued was that Sampson knew the presence of the objects, and remembering that they were there was not an element or requirement for the law. Sampson told Officer Mark Saunders that he had used these objects to smoke crack cocaine six months prior to the citation, that he put them in his wallet and forgot about them.

Van Der Hoek said that of course Sampson was going to testify he forgot the objects were in his wallet, and he expected Sampson to deny knowledge of the objects. He argued that, since Sampson used his wallet every day, he had to have known the objects were in there. The objects were in the clear I.D holder, being visible every time the wallet was opened.

The defense acknowledged that it was possible to carry around an object in a wallet and forget that it is there, but Van Der Hoek said it is not reasonable, especially since the object was frail thin glass. Van Der Hoek said forgetting the object was in his wallet is not a defense, and the element of proving Sampson knew of the objects’ presence was proved beyond a reasonable doubt.

The third element to prove was that the defendant knew the objects were used for smoking a controlled substance. Van der Hoek said Sampson admitted in testimony earlier this morning and to Officer Saunders that the “copper-scrubbing pad” was used, with the pipe, to smoke a controlled substance.

The People reminded the jury not to let sympathy get in the way of applying the evidence to the law.

Deputy Public Defender James Bradford said in his closing argument that the pipe and objects found in the wallet in the current form they were in on November 16, 2015, is what the People had the burden of proving could be used for smoking.

The defendant did admit to Officer Saunders that he had smoked crack cocaine with that pipe, when it was intact and not broken, six months prior to Nov. 16, 2015. In his earlier testimony, the defendant had said it was three months before Nov. 16.

Bradford argued that the current form of the objects, when they were confiscated at the security check in Yolo County Superior Courthouse, were not in any condition to be smoked out of.

He said there was no evidence the defendant would smoke from that pipe because it wasn’t useable or functional. He said there would be a risk of ingesting the shards of glass.

Bradford said that the deputy district attorney was trying to shape evidence against the fact that Sampson did not use the pipe in the form that it was found. The evidence did not prove all three elements to be true, because it was only clear that Sampson had smoked in the past – it did not mean the object found in this current form was used to smoke on November 16.

The defense reminded the jury that the conversation between Officer Saunders and Sampson was not recorded or written down, only summarized; therefore, they should take the evidence with skepticism. Sampson did not tell Officer Saunders that he smoked out of a broken pipe or that he was able to. Bradford said Saunders jumped to a conclusion that could not be supported with evidence.

Bradford also reminded the jury the defendant was not on trial for something he did six months prior to November 16, and was not charged with that crime. The defense argued that Van Der Hoek wants to believe that the copper pad is enough to charge the defendant, but that is not the only object needed to smoke a controlled substance.

Van Der Hoek replied to Bradford by saying that his burden is only to prove that one of the objects found was used for smoking in order to prove guilt. The district attorney explained that it was not the law for both objects to be put together to convict, he only needed to prove one object could be used to smoke a controlled substance.

The People explained that the state in which the objects were found does not need to be in a useable condition, that is not the standard.

The defense made sure to tell the jury about the power they have, and if they are sitting and saying “probably,” then they must find the defendant not guilty because that is proof they have a reasonable doubt.

The deputy district attorney ended his rebuttal statement by saying this case needed to prove the defendant knew the objects in his wallet were used for smoking a controlled substance, and that he knew he had them on his person.

Six women and six men then walked into a deliberation room after the bailiff was sworn in at 2:42 p.m. on March 2, 2016.

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About The Author

The Vanguard Court Watch operates in Yolo, Sacramento and Sacramento Counties with a mission to monitor and report on court cases. Anyone interested in interning at the Courthouse or volunteering to monitor cases should contact the Vanguard at info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org - please email info(at)davisvanguard(dot)org if you find inaccuracies in this report.

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3 thoughts on “Elderly Man in Wheelchair Faces Drug Paraphernalia Charges”

  1. Tia Will

    So we have disrupted the lives of 12 jurors, paid all the taxpayer expenses to run the court during this trial including the salaries of all involved for what ……. a broken piece of drug paraphernalia ?  Really ????? Do our police, lawyers, judge, support staff and jury members really not have anything better to do to protect our community ?  If the answer is no, then my position would be that we need to downsize, not to increase in the area of policing and “justice”.

     

     

  2. Ann Block

    Yes, so glad our fine District Attorney is doing his best to protect us from such dangerous people.  One wonders why pre-plea diversion wasn’t offered along with drug rehabilitation services, if needed.   One also wonders about the ethnicity of the defendant….

  3. Napoleon Pig IV

    What a ludicrous waste of public resources and an inexcusable abuse of government power! When are we going to charge the district attorney’s office with grand theft of time and money and premeditated corruption of public health and well-being?

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