By Prince Sahota
The trial of The People v. Jeremy Lee Deaton was back in session this June 29, 2016. The trial involves an alleged incident where the defendant was found sleeping in his car with ounces of methamphetamine in his possession. The defendant is charged with the following: possessing a dangerous controlled substance for sale according to Health and Safety Code section 11378 with a lesser included charge of drug possession; and displaying a false vehicle registration sticker on the license plate, consistent with Vehicle Code section 4464.
The elements of possessing and transporting methamphetamine include moving the drugs at a distance, no matter how short the distance might be, knowing that one is transporting drugs in his or her possession, understanding the character and nature of methamphetamine, and having it in a usable amount.
The People called a retired West Sacramento police officer. He testified that he had stopped the defendant in a 2004 incident which was similar to this case. He noted that in this case he ran the license plate of the vehicle the defendant was in and found that the car was not properly registered.
The retired police officer testified that he recognized the defendant from the prior incident. Further, he found drug residue on the defendant’s person. The officer observed a passenger in the car in possession of marijuana, methamphetamine and hydrocodone pills to relieve pain.
The officer testified that he read the defendant his Miranda rights, suggesting that the accused was in custody and was about to be interrogated. He also recalled finding a scale to measure drug weights. He stated that the defendant passed the illegal material to the passenger. He characterized this as normal.
Next, “AH” testified as a witness for the defense. She announced that she was working for Turning Point, a dual-diagnosis center dealing with addiction and mental health. She testified about her extensive education background, her career in helping people whose lives are affected by drugs, and her presence at conferences throughout the United States.
Further, this witness testified that she had personal experience with drug addiction and methamphetamine.
In her testimony she articulated that drug addicts will consume their drug and re-dose to maximize feeling high, and buy more drugs than they need. To explain away the prosecutor’s drug dealing theory, she said the buyers have scales to measure the drugs they buy from dealers who might undersell to them. She described the way users look for price breaks by buying in large quantities, and that they place small amounts of drugs in bags. She said they do this to avoid sharing.
The prosecutor cross-examined “AH.” She first asked the witness if she was paid by the defense to testify for the defense. She responded by saying that she was paid fifty dollars an hour for being in court. The witness conceded that drug users can also deal the drug as products.
“AH” said she reviewed the preliminary hearing before she testified. She said she only met the defendant the day before. She testified that she was recognized by a state senator for her work to help people fight drug addiction and mental health challenges.
The witness was asked if an effort to sell drugs occurred in the following scenario: A man and women are sitting in a car at 1:30 in the morning outside of a Denny’s with drugs, a methamphetamine pipe, a lighter in a sleeping man’s hand, in a vehicle containing a large mess of personal property. “AH” declared that it was not a sale attempt.
The prosecutor followed witness examination with her closing arguments. She argued her theory that the officer discovered methamphetamine in the defendant’s possession, with illegal substances found scattered throughout the car.
To make the case for false evidence of registration, she showed the jury People’s Exhibit 8.
In her closing statement, she returned to the testimony of Agent “A.” He worked for the Yolo Narcotic Enforcement Team (YONET). According to her, he stated that drug users never have, for personal use, the amount of drugs the defendant had.
The prosecutor contended that the expert witness’s knowledge only extended to drug addiction and mental health. The prosecutor said that the witness, who was involved with drugs between the 1990s and early 2000s, is not familiar with the drug market and how dealers think.
The prosecutor noted that empty plastic bags were found at the scene which contradict the idea that he was only a drug user.
The defense lawyer spoke to the jury to bring reasonable doubt to the prosecutor’s case. She maintained that her client was charged with the false vehicle registration, however, the facts don’t show that he knew about this. She said that people do not look at their cars very thoroughly when they borrow them, as was stated at this trial.
In the matter of the “baggies,” the defense lawyer said that they were actually parts of torn-off shopping bags.
The defense lawyer criticized the narcotics agent because he is detached from the personal experiences of people on drugs.
She dismissed the prosecutor’s argument about the large quantity of drugs. She said drug users lack self control.
The prosecutor argued for the granting of a motion to reopen evidence. She based the argument on cell phones found at the crime scene with wiped data, and passcodes which blocked the phone. The judge denied the motion because entering those facts would not provide any more evidence.
During rebuttal, the prosecutor stressed that circumstantial evidence means that many possible scenarios could explain the facts. She wanted the jury to consider only reasonable alternative scenarios to drug dealing, instead of scenarios based on imagination. The jury was given the case to deliberate.