By Monica Velez
Most citations or arrests in Yolo County end up at 1000 Main Street, the Yolo County Superior Court House. In this particular criminal case, the logging of evidence and the reading of Miranda rights began during a security check at 1000 Main St. around 11:45 a.m. on November 16, 2015.
Defendant Curly Sampson is pleading not guilty to a misdemeanor possession of a controlled substance – drug paraphernalia. Sampson walked into the courthouse and, as he was following the typical procedures of going through security and putting his personal belongings through the X-ray machine, a security guard found suspicious items in the clear I.D holder in his wallet.
Judge Daniel Maguire, Deputy District Attorney Frits Van der Hoek and Deputy Public Defender James Bradford picked the jury on the morning of March 1, 2016. After the lunch recess, they were able to breeze through opening statements and two out of three witnesses.
During the People’s opening statement, Van der Hoek assured the jury that this would be a short trial with three important matters – facts, evidence and the law. He explained that what he said and what the deputy public defender said is not considered evidence or the law; the jury’s duties were to take all the facts presented and apply them to the law.
Van der Hoek guaranteed the law would find Sampson guilty of having paraphernalia, a crack cocaine pipe, after the witnesses explained what happened and the evidence was presented.
Bradford, of course, took an opposite stance in his opening statement to the jury. He explained that one of the jury’s tasks is to determine whether or not the objects found in the defendant’s wallet on the conveyor belt were used to smoke on November 16, 2015, and not at a prior time.
The deputy public defender said it was up to the jury to determine if it is a fact that the objects found in Sampson’s wallet were not manipulated in any way, and that they remained in the current state they were in when discovered.
Bradford said it is their job to make sure that, if Sampson is convicted, it is because there is proof beyond a reasonable doubt that he is guilty, and he assured the jury they will end up having reasonable doubt that Sampson is guilty.
The first witness was the security guard who found the paraphernalia in Sampson’s wallet on November 16, 2015. He was working at the X-ray machine, looking to see if anything inappropriate was being brought into the courthouse.
The witness said that something looked suspicious inside the defendant’s wallet and they ran his wallet through the conveyor belt twice. When something still did not look right, the witness asked permission to look through the wallet, saying that if Sampson did not give him permission he would not have opened the wallet.
After the security guard opened the wallet, he followed protocol and gave it to his floor supervisor, his floor supervisor then giving it to Yolo County Deputy Sheriff Mark Saunders.
The first witness said he did not touch anything inside the wallet and he did not know what it was, saying the objects looked like broken glass. He does not remember seeing a filter that accompanied the pipe and did not have any other opportunity to touch or see the objects.
Deputy Saunders was the second and last witness of the afternoon, the officer to respond to the call from security in the lobby. Dep. Saunders talked to Sampson a few feet away from the security station. He said he read Sampson his Miranda rights and noted that Sampson understood his rights and agreed to talk to him.
Sampson confirmed to Saunders that the wallet and pipe were his, and said he used the pipe to smoke crack cocaine, the last time being around six months ago and that he had forgotten the items were in his wallet. The deputy took photographs of the objects and wrapped them up to book into evidence.
Deputy Saunders unwrapped the objects in court and confirmed that they were wrapped up the same and that he saw no tampering of the objects.
When asked by Bradford during cross-examination, Deputy Saunders said it was fair to say he did not break protocol that day during the collection of evidence. Saunders said he found shards of glass in the wallet, the pipe was broken on two sides, and he did not manipulate or see anybody else manipulate the evidence.
Although Dep. Saunders said “ideally” it is standard protocol to record statements, in this case he did not record anything because he did not have a recorder on his person. Saunders also did not do the NIK field presumptive test to the object either, a test that is used to determine the type of narcotics that is being or was used.
Deputy Saunders told Bradford that he did not take the evidence straight to the sheriff’s office, but put the evidence in a locker at the courthouse breakroom instead. The objects were not sent for forensic tests either.