By Gina Kim & Michele Chadwick
MODESTO, CA – Before the jury left the courtroom here this week to deliberate in the felony drug trial of Daniel Martinez in Stanislaus County Superior Court, criminalist expert testimony described the difference between levomethamphetamine and dextromethamphetamine.
The jury went out to deliberate Wednesday after closing arguments.
Called as a witness on the stand, Senior Criminologist James Hoult reiterated the relationship between these two chemical compounds.
“They’re isomers of each other, so in effect, they’re like mirror images of each other, kind of like your left and right hand,” stated Hoult.
Dextromethamphetamine is a more addictive central nervous stimulant than levomethamphetamine. Testing verified that all three substances found in the accused’s possession were definitely methamphetamine. However, the instruments criminologists used for testing could not discern between the two compounds at a molecular level, Hoult said.
The defense inquired as to whether levomethamphetamine could be found in some over-the-counter prescriptions. Hoult confirmed this was the case for prescriptions like Vick’s Inhaler, adding that both types of methamphetamine could be found in some over-the-counter prescription medicines as well.
But the type of methamphetamine found in this case could not be sold off the shelf.
“It’s not possible to buy a bag of crystal methamphetamine, no,” Hoult remarked.
Detective Gregory Booza, another witness investigating the accused, was assigned to the crime reduction team on Aug. 14, 2020. Upon entering the accused’s residence, Booza saw Martinez emerge from the back bedroom.
After the accused was detained, Booza conducted a search of the bedroom, locating three different sets of keys on top of a cushion-styled chair—one on a lanyard containing two keys for a safe, another set of house keys, and a motorcycle key.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Hogan presented photographic evidence depicting the safe inside Martinez’s bedroom for the court. Detective Booza noted there was a bag of white crystal substance sitting on the floor next to the safe.
Not broken up like methamphetamine usually is, the substance was found in larger shards consistent with street users. Moreover, it was contained in a plastic bag tied off and ribbed, also indicative of narcotics use, the detective said.
Using the keys he found on the chair, Detective Booza gained access inside the safe which held 12 separate bill folds rubber banded off, amounting to $12,000. Next to the money were two working digital scales and various mail addressed to the accused, including mail from the unemployment department as well as the last check from Martinez’s former employer.
DDA Hogan argued this proved the residence belonged to Martinez.
Two additional bags of narcotics were located around the residence—up to a total of 115 grams’ worth. Like the first batch, Detective Booza noted these crystal shards were larger than normal.
While interviewed, Martinez claimed he was not currently employed, but “did odd jobs and sold things.” When asked about the motorcycle and house keys, Martinez claimed ownership, but denied ownership of the safe keys, even after confronted about the mail addressed to his name.
Martinez also initially denied ownership of several bags of narcotics located in the residence, claiming he bought two ounces worth a month for personal use. Martinez eventually admitted to selling a couple sacks of meth a week. And when presented with his cellphone, he admitted there would probably be some conversation about sales over text messages, the detective said.
DDA Patrick Hogan presented several photographs depicting text conversations with buyers.
Investigator Jacob Mertz testified as an expert witness regarding the drug trade and communications between individuals . He testified that the owner of the phone “clearly has the ability to deal either a quarter of a pound or a quarter of an ounce. Otherwise they wouldn’t clarify.
“If he was a low-level dealer, he wouldn’t have to clarify because it would be obvious that he only has the ability to deal a quarter of an ounce at a time. The fact that he has to clarify indicates to me that he has the ability to do whichever the customer needs.”
Mertz also testified to how drug dealers keep their money when dealing and purchasing more product.
“They’re picking up from customers. They make a sale. The customer hands them the cash and they quickly count it. Then they just stuff it in a pocket or a bag, whatever. But they’re not going to neatly fold it most of the time. Then count it out and put it in a stack of a thousand like we saw earlier. The stacks of a thousand are mostly when you’re at home and preparing to buy something as a dealer. They are preparing the money ahead of time for a sale.”
Mertz believes that the 83 grams of methamphetamine at the defendant’s residence was possessed for the purpose of sales. He cited the following reasons: “the quantity, unusually high for your own use, … the scales present all throughout the house I believe there were 4 located in this case to me this also indicates sales… the money that’s in the safe that is prepackaged into perfect $1000 bundles indicates to me that they’re likely proceeds of sales that have been counted to reup or to buy additional narcotics for sale.”
Mertz also mentioned that the text messages imply selling drugs as well.
While discussing the texts, Mertz also testified that “the word methamphetamine and its synonyms are not used in those text messages.” During the cross-examination, Mertz testified that any substance can be divided or weighed out in pounds or ounces. DDA Hogan’s redirect allowed Mertz to clarify. Mertz testified that dealers use ambiguous terms “so they have some amount of plausible deniability. In addition to that they’re going to communicate primarily in terms of weight because it’s already implied what they’re asking about.”