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State v. Puckett

Decided: April 4, 1960.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RALPH WESLEY PUCKETT, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



Price, Sullivan and Foley. The opinion of the court was delivered by Price, S.j.a.d.

Price

[67 NJSuper Page 366] Defendant seeks to reverse his conviction in the County Court, Law Division, based on the verdict of a jury which found that on November 16, 1958 he unlawfully possessed narcotics in violation of the provisions of R.S. 24:18-4. Defendant contends that: (a) his conviction, as a disorderly person, entered on November 17, 1958 in the municipal court on his plea of guilty of being a user of narcotics in violation of N.J.S. 2 A:170-8, barred his present conviction for possession of the drug; (b) his written confession of guilt of possessing narcotics, received in evidence at the trial of the instant case, was the product of coercion and its admission therefore constituted prejudicial error; (c) his conviction was against the weight of the evidence; (d) his counsel made an unwarranted and prejudicial concession at trial; and (e) two persons (he

and one Milton L. Sims, arrested with him under the circumstances hereinafter outlined) cannot legally be convicted of possessing the same narcotic specimen.

The factual situation revealed by the record is that, on November 16, 1958 at 6:40 P.M., a state trooper, Herder, stopped defendant who was then driving his car in Newark in a southerly direction on the New Jersey Turnpike. Sims was in the automobile at the time. Two other members of the state police arrived promptly and Puckett and Sims were taken to a police station and the car searched. Under a floor mat on the driver's side of the car was found a cellophane packet containing a white powder later diagnosed as heroin. Some hypodermic needles, a syringe, a charred teaspoon, a headache powder and four or five empty bottles labelled paregoric were also found in the car.

Statements were taken from Puckett and Sims and were typewritten and signed the same evening. The statement, concededly signed by defendant and admitted in evidence over his objection, was as follows:

"Statement of: Ralph Wesley Puckett, 1595 Beecher St., Atlanta, Ga. -- W-M-30

Taken at: N.J. State Police Station, Turnpike, Newark, N.J.

Time & Date: 10:50 P.M., Sunday, Nov. 16, 1958 -- E.S.T.

Questioned: Det. 2› V. Galassi and Inv. T. Tyrrell #970, N.J. State Police.

Witness: Tpr. C. Herder #1369, S.P., Newark, N.J.

Q. Ralph Wesley Puckett, I am Inv. Tyrrell and this is Det. Galassi, both of us members of the N.J. State Police. It is our duty to ask you some questions with regard to the circumstances surrounding the apprehension of you on the N.J. Turnpike, Newark, Essex County, N.J., this date, while operating a 1951 Pontiac sedan, reg. 1-95121-Ga., in which was found a packet containing a white powder, appearing to be heroin, by Tpr. Herder. I tell you at this time that whatever you say must be entirely on your part and without the use of force, fear, threat or promise of (sic) lienency [ sic ] on our part. I further tell you that anything you say can and may be used for or against you or any other person or persons in a criminal prosecution. Ralph Wesley Puckett, are

you willing to make a statement under the conditions (sic) outline [ sic ] above? A. Yes.

Q. What is your full name, age and address? A. Ralph Wesley Puckett, 1595 Beecher St., Atlanta, Ga. Thirty.

Q. Will you now tell me, in your own words, what happened? A. Sims and myself left Florida about Sunday and drove (sic) thru [ sic ] to New York. Arrived in New York last night. And was looking to buy some heroin because he was sick from using paregoric. We saw two men who looked like junkies and I asked them did they know where we could score for some heroin. We went and copped. We fixed that and scored the following day for enough stuff to last us two or three days and was headed out of New York City and were stopped on the turnpike.

Q. Who owns the car which you were driving? A. I do.

Q. Will you describe this car? A. '51 Pontiac, two tone light grey, Georgia registration.

Q. (Det. Galassi) I show you a package containing white powder which was found under the floor mat on the driver's side of the car you were operating and I ask you is this the package you bought in New York City? A. Yes.

Q. How much did you pay for this package A. One hundred and eighty dollars.

Q. How much of the one hundred and eighty dollars did you pay? A. I ...


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