Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

State v. Courtney

Court of Appeals of Utah

September 8, 2017

State of Utah, Appellee,
v.
Carl Mack Courtney, Appellant.

         Second District Court, Ogden Department The Honorable Michael D. DiReda No. 131900508

          Emily Adams, Attorney for Appellant

          Sean D. Reyes and Tera J. Peterson, Attorneys for Appellee

          Judge Gregory K. Orme authored this Opinion, in which Judges J. Frederic Voros Jr. and Michele M. Christiansen concurred. [1]

          ORME, JUDGE

         ¶1 Defendant Carl Mack Courtney was convicted of drug possession with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. He appeals both convictions, arguing that the trial court abused its discretion by admitting impermissible character evidence and that he was denied his right to the effective assistance of counsel. We conclude that, even in the absence of the errors Defendant ascribes to the trial court and his trial attorney, the jury would not have returned a different verdict. Accordingly, we affirm.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶2 On the morning of August 26, 2010, a police officer was patrolling the parking lot of an Ogden apartment complex when he noticed a man wandering the lot, "looking in and around vehicles." The officer decided to investigate, as several vehicle burglaries had recently been reported in the area. The officer asked the man "what was going on." Defendant responded that he was looking for a lost child, but-oddly-he declined the officer's offer to assist in the search. Defendant's pupils were dilated, and he appeared "nervous" and "very fidgety." At the officer's request, Defendant provided identification and permitted the officer to search his person.

         ¶3 During the search, the officer found several items that convinced him he had probable cause to arrest Defendant. The officer found approximately "60 small Ziploc plastic baggies" and a four- to five-inch pocket knife in Defendant's left-front pants pocket. He also found a sheet of paper containing a list of names and dollar amounts, which ranged between $40 and $300. The officer recognized some of the names on the sheet-among them, "Half Pint, " "Truck, " and "Pops"-as belonging to individuals he had dealt with during previous narcotics investigations. He would later testify that the paper appeared to be an "owe sheet" and that he knew from his training and experience that distributors of narcotics often used such lists to keep track of "who owes you what."

         ¶4 After he was taken into custody, Defendant requested that his then-girlfriend be informed of his arrest. The girlfriend, who resided at the apartment complex where the arrest took place, was watching Defendant's daughter at the time. She would need to be informed that Defendant would not be driving his daughter to her first day of kindergarten that morning.

         ¶5 The officer agreed to inform the girlfriend of the situation and called for backup to assist him. When backup arrived, the officer left Defendant in the custody of another police officer while he and a third officer proceeded to meet with the girlfriend. After assuring the officers that she would get Defendant's daughter to school on time, the girlfriend agreed to answer their questions about Defendant. She told them that Defendant had borrowed her car the day before and that he had driven it back to her apartment earlier that morning. She then agreed to allow the officers to search the car.

         ¶6 Inside the car the officers found a "black zip-up pouch" resting on top of a "blue and black zip-up sweatshirt." Inside the pouch they found a "hypodermic needle" and a "plastic baggy containing a white crystal substance, " which the Utah State Crime Lab later confirmed to be methamphetamine. The officer later testified that the girlfriend, without being told of the contents of the pouch, informed him that the pouch belonged to Defendant and that she had seen him carrying his identification in it a few days earlier. Both the officer and the girlfriend testified that the car doors were locked and the windows were rolled up just before the search.

         ¶7 The officers questioned Defendant regarding what they had discovered in the vehicle. Defendant confirmed that he had driven the girlfriend's car to her apartment that morning, that he had been the only one inside the car, and that he kept a sweatshirt in the car like the one on which the pouch had been found. He denied, however, that the pouch and its contents were his. He also told them that he used the Ziploc baggies to store coins from his coin collection, but the officers were unable to find any coins on Defendant's person or in the car.[2]

         ¶8 At the jail, the booking officer conducted an inventory search of Defendant's personal belongings. As was his routine, the officer confiscated Defendant's cell phone, intending to shut it off for storage. But before he could, a text message "popped through." It read, "Are you willing to trade glass for a computer that hasn't been tweaked off of[?]"

         ¶9 The State charged Defendant with possession of a controlled substance with intent to distribute and possession of drug paraphernalia. The former is a second degree felony; the latter is a class B misdemeanor. See Utah Code Ann. §§ 58-37-8(1)(a)-(b), 58-37a-5(1) (LexisNexis 2016).

         ¶10 Prior to trial, the State filed notice of its intent to introduce evidence that Defendant had been convicted of distributing methamphetamine in 2012. That conviction, which resulted from events that occurred after the events giving rise to the convictions at issue in this case, [3] involved a recorded sale of methamphetamine to a confidential informant in the presence of an undercover officer.[4] The State sought to introduce evidence of the events underlying that conviction, arguing that the evidence would show Defendant's "intent, " "any absence of mistake or lack of accident, " and "any motive that he would have for" possessing the methamphetamine. Although the trial court stated that it did not want to "spend an inordinate amount of time re-trying that other case, " it said it would allow the State to introduce "basic facts" relating to Defendant's distribution conviction because it found the evidence "extremely probative" and not overly prejudicial.

         ¶11 At trial, the officer explained to the jury that based on his experience investigating narcotics crimes, the methamphetamine he seized from the car amounted to a "distribution quantity." The officer also testified that narcotics dealers typically carry a weapon, such as the knife Defendant had been carrying on the morning of his arrest, to protect themselves against robbery. The officer answered questions regarding the text message the booking officer had discovered, explaining that "[g]lass is a common reference to methamphetamine" and that "tweaking" means "using meth." Finally, he testified that baggies such as the ones Defendant had been carrying are commonly used to package and distribute narcotics.

         ¶12 The State also called the girlfriend to testify. She stated that the methamphetamine the officer had found in her car did not belong to her and that the sweatshirt and black pouch both belonged to Defendant. Further, she stated that at various times in the past she had seen Defendant store his identification and Social Security card in the pouch, as well as methamphetamine. She also testified that she had used methamphetamine with Defendant, that Defendant had provided the drug to her, and that she had seen Defendant sell the drug ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.