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Lewis v. State

Supreme Court of Wyoming

December 4, 2018

MICHAEL R. LEWIS III, Appellant (Defendant),
v.
THE STATE OF WYOMING, Appellee (Plaintiff).

          Appeal from the District Court of Johnson County The Honorable William J. Edelman, Judge

          Representing Appellant: Office of the Public Defender: Diane M. Lozano, State Public Defender; Kirk A. Morgan, Chief Appellate Counsel; Desiree Wilson, Senior Assistant Appellate Counsel.

          Representing Appellee: Peter K. Michael, Wyoming Attorney General; Christyne M. Martens, Deputy Attorney General; Caitlin F. Harper, Senior Assistant Attorney General; Benjamin E. Fischer, Assistant Attorney General.

          Before DAVIS, C.J., and BURKE [*] , FOX, KAUTZ, and BOOMGAARDEN, JJ.

          FOX, JUSTICE.

         [¶1] A Johnson County jury convicted Michael Lewis of felony possession of marijuana. On appeal, he argues that the State violated his right to confrontation when a supervisor from the state crime lab testified in place of the lab analyst who tested and weighed the marijuana. Because we conclude that Mr. Lewis did not suffer material prejudice, we affirm.

         ISSUE

         [¶2] Has Mr. Lewis demonstrated plain error in testimony by the supervisor of the analyst who tested and weighed the marijuana?

         FACTS

         [¶3] Mr. Lewis is a musician from San Antonio, Texas. In June 2016, Mr. Lewis; his manager, Ryan Garza; and their DJ, Justin Mungia drove from San Antonio to Seattle for a concert where Mr. Lewis was scheduled to perform. Mr. Garza rented a car in San Antonio to drive the three to Seattle.

         [¶4] As they prepared to return to San Antonio, Mr. Lewis told Mr. Garza that he had been given five pounds of marijuana by someone he had met in Seattle which he had put in their rental car. Mr. Lewis wanted to take it to San Antonio, but Mr. Garza initially refused. After Mr. Lewis promised Mr. Garza half the marijuana, Mr. Garza allowed him to bring it back to San Antonio in the rental car. Before leaving Washington, Mr. Garza stopped in Spokane to buy marijuana, which he and Mr. Mungia shared while Mr. Lewis slept. In Sheridan, Wyoming, Mr. Lewis took over driving. About 30 minutes later, just outside Buffalo, Trooper Richard Burridge stopped Mr. Lewis for speeding.

         [¶5] When Trooper Burridge approached the car, he could smell "fresh marijuana." Trooper Burridge had Mr. Lewis get out of the car first and then go to the rear of the car. When Trooper Burridge asked Mr. Lewis whether they had any marijuana in the car, Mr. Lewis stated, "Ain't got no weed," but he admitted that they had smoked some marijuana back in Spokane.

         [¶6] Trooper Burridge then questioned Mr. Garza, who admitted that the small amount of marijuana he purchased in Spokane belonged to him. After Trooper Burridge told Mr. Garza that he was going to search the car, Mr. Garza confessed to the five pounds of marijuana in the trunk.[1] When Trooper Burridge and his partner searched the car, they found a black trash bag with "five individual pounds of marijuana[.]" Trooper Burridge testified that "[i]t was obvious that it was marijuana to me." Agent Louey Williams with the Division of Criminal Investigation sent the drugs to Cheyenne for analysis.

         [¶7] At trial, the State called Dr. Ella Kubicz, a state crime lab chemistry unit supervisor, to testify about the analysis of the five pounds of marijuana. Dr. Kubicz supervised Courtney Vito, an analyst in the crime lab, who analyzed the drugs. Dr. Kubicz testified that Ms. Vito's report, Exhibit 500, showed that the substance Agent Williams had sent to Cheyenne contained THC and weighed more than three ...


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