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Darnell Taylor v. the State of Wyoming

February 7, 2011

DARNELL TAYLOR, APPELLANT DEFENDANT,
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, APPELLEE PLAINTIFF.



Appeal from the District Court of Campbell County The Honorable Dan R. Price, Judge

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Voigt, Justice.

Before KITE, C.J., and GOLDEN, HILL, VOIGT, and BURKE, JJ.

NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in Pacific Reporter Third. Readers are requested to notify the Clerk of the Supreme Court, Supreme Court Building, Cheyenne, Wyoming 82002, of any typographical or other formal errors so that correction may be made before final publication in the permanent volume.

[¶1] On October 30, 2008, police searched an apartment leased by the appellant's girlfriend and found marijuana, cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine. The appellant's girlfriend told police that the drugs belonged to appellant, and he was charged with three counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance. At trial, after the State presented its case in chief, the appellant moved for a judgment of acquittal claiming that the evidence presented by the State was insufficient to show that he had constructive possession of the drugs. This motion was denied and the appellant was convicted on all three counts. This appeal followed.

ISSUE

[¶2] Did the district court err when it found that the State had presented sufficient evidence to establish the elements of constructive possession and denied the appellant's motion for judgment of acquittal?

FACTS

[¶3] In July of 2007, the appellant's girlfriend, Courtney Vandom, gave the appellant a key to her apartment. Toward the end of 2007, Ms. Vandom and her daughter moved into the appellant's apartment. However, Ms. Vandom maintained the lease on her apartment.

[¶4] During the first ten months of 2008, the appellant and Ms. Vandom continued to live together in the appellant's apartment, but Ms. Vandom visited her old apartment about once a week. During these visits, Ms. Vandom would give packages to people the appellant would send to the apartment. The appellant would accompany Ms. Vandom to her apartment on occasion, but he also often went to the apartment when she was not present.

[¶5] On October 30, 2008, officers with the Division of Criminal Investigation and the Campbell County Sheriff's Department executed a search warrant on Ms. Vandom's apartment. The search of the apartment uncovered bags of illicit drugs hidden under the mattress in the master bedroom and in the pantry area of the kitchen. The bags contained marijuana, methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. Ms. Vandom arrived at the apartment complex after the search had already commenced, and went to her sister's apartment, which was also in the complex. Officers eventually came to speak with Ms. Vandom in her sister's apartment. The officers arrested Ms. Vandom and took her upstairs to her apartment and told her what they had found. Ms. Vandom said she was aware of the marijuana in the apartment and that it belonged to her and that she was selling to "pay my bills." However, she said that she was not aware of the methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin, and that the drugs belonged to the appellant. Ms. Vandom later admitted that she was aware of the other substances and that she delivered them for the appellant.

[¶6] On the night after the search, the appellant called a friend who picked him up and brought him to the friend's house. The friend testified that the appellant was "agitated" and "nervous" because he said there were drugs in the apartment. The appellant specifically told the friend that there was methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin, and marijuana in the apartment. Later that night, after giving the appellant a change of clothes, the friend dropped the appellant off near an alley in Gillette.

[¶7] Two or three days later, the appellant again contacted this friend and asked him to go to Ms. Vandom's apartment to retrieve the appellant's jacket. The appellant also told his friend that an ounce of methamphetamine was still in the apartment. The appellant mailed his apartment key to the friend, and his friend searched the apartment for the methamphetamine. During the search, the appellant contacted the friend and told him that the methamphetamine was located on the top shelf of the pantry. The friend was unable to find the drugs, and he did not hear from the appellant again after that.

[¶8] After a search that lasted several months, law enforcement located the appellant in Florida, took him into custody, and returned him to Wyoming. The appellant was charged with four counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance within 500 feet of a school. After a preliminary hearing, the appellant was bound over on the first three counts involving the methamphetamine, cocaine and heroin. The fourth count, alleging possession of marijuana with intent to deliver, was dismissed. The appellant entered not guilty pleas on all three counts.

[ΒΆ9] A jury trial commenced on November 18, 2009, and lasted two days. At the completion of the State's case-in-chief, the appellant orally moved for a judgment of acquittal. The district court denied the motion. Following the denial, the appellant did not present any evidence and the case proceeded to the jury. The jury returned a guilty verdict on all ...


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