Sufficiency of Evidence/Sentencing

Jonathan P. Killeen
Shareholder at Boyle | Shaughnessy Law PC in Manchester, NH

No. 2018-0441
August 21, 2019
Affirmed

A confidential informant made three controlled buys of drugs at the defendant’s premises. The plaintiff was subsequently arrested, charged, and found guilty on three drug charges. The defendant was sentenced to two consecutive sentences of 7½ to 15 years on the first two drug convictions and a consecutive suspended sentence of 7½ to 15 years on the third drug conviction.

The defendant appealed the convictions and sentencing. He challenged the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions and the trial court’s consideration at sentencing of evidence that he was the leader of a drug enterprise.

The Supreme Court concluded that given the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the State, the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was guilty of selling a controlled drug on three occasions. Specifically, the jury heard evidence that on three occasions the confidential informant requested heroin from the defendant and that law enforcement provided the confidential informant with money to purchase the heroin. The confidential informant testified that on three occasions he met with the defendant to complete the drug purchases and on those occasions the defendant gave the confidential informant drugs in exchange for money supplied to the confidential informant by law enforcement. Finally, a criminalist testified that the drugs purchased from the defendant tested positive for Fentanyl and cocaine. Based on this evidence, a rational trier of fact could have found that the defendant sold a controlled drug to the confidential informant on three occasions.

The Supreme Court also concluded that evidence of other criminal conduct considered by the trial court at sentencing must at least rise to the level of probability. The Supreme Court noted that at the time of sentencing, the defendant had been indicted on drug enterprise charges and that a grand jury’s decision to indict concussively determined the existence of probable cause to believe that the defendant committed the crime with which it charged him. As a result, probable cause is more than speculation or innuendo such that evidence regarding the defendant’s involvement in a drug enterprise was sufficiently trustworthy information to warrant a reasonable person to believe that the defendant committed a crime. The trial court therefore had a reliable basis upon which to conclude that the defendant was involved in a drug enterprise that extended beyond the three drug buys made by the confidential informant.

 

Gordon J. McDonald, attorney general (Sean R. Locke, assistant attorney general, on the brief), for the State. David M. Rothstein, deputy director public defender, of Concord, on the brief, for the defendant.