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State v. Washington

Decided: January 12, 1979.

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT
v.
SALLIE WASHINGTON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT



On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Mercer County.

Lora, Michels and Larner. The opinion of the court was delivered by Lora, P.J.A.D.

Lora

Defendant was tried to a jury and convicted of possession of heroin. A motion for a judgment of acquittal and alternatively for a new trial was denied, and she was sentenced to the Mercer County Detention Center for a term of nine months.

On appeal defendant contends that (1) she was denied a fair trial by virtue of the State's negligent destruction of evidence which precluded defense counsel from effectively cross-examining the State's witnesses; (2) the prosecutor committed reversible error by cross-examining defendant regarding her silence after arrest; (3) the State failed to prove chain of possession; (4) the trial judge's refusal to permit the defense to fully cross-examine the State's witnesses violated

defendant's right to cross-examination, and (5) the prosecutor's questioning of defendant as to her prior use of heroin was prejudicial and the trial judge erred in not granting defendant's motion for a mistrial.

We have reviewed the entire record and have concluded that with the exception of the issue of the destruction of the physical evidence of the narcotics, paraphernalia and the purses in which they were contained, the contentions of the defendant are clearly without merit. R. 2:11-3(e)(2).

The record shows that pursuant to a valid warrant and consequent searches and seizures by the Trenton Vice Enforcement Unit, Officer James Taylor headed for the middle bedroom on the second story of the three-story residence involved. Upon opening the door to the room, Taylor observed defendant throw a black purse out of the window. He yelled that stuff was being thrown outside, in order to alert his fellow officers to retrieve the purse. After securing the room, defendant and her companion, Taylor went to the window and spotted the purse in the alleyway.

In the meantime Officer Plumeri, having heard Taylor's shout, ran into the alleyway and picked up the purse. He described the purse as being about the size of a cosmetics case -- four or five inches long and about two or three inches high. In the purse Plumeri found a bottle cap with a bobby pin around it, four needles with plastic holders, a homemade syringe, seven aluminum foil packets containing a white powder substance, and a manila envelope containing some green vegetation. Plumeri subsequently gave the purse to Taylor, who corroborated Plumeri's testimony as to the contents of the purse.

Defendant testified she did not throw the black purse out of the window; that she threw only a manila envelope containing marijuana into the alleyway; and she denied owning the black purse, asserting it belonged to Larry Davis, who was apprehended along with defendant and several others during the raid.

After Taylor examined the purse he turned it over to Officer Hunt, who was in charge of evidence. Taylor then went into the front second-floor bedroom and confiscated a blue purse containing a homemade syringe and a hypodermic needle, all of which he turned over to Hunt. The officers then took all of the evidence and the suspects to police headquarters. There, when defendant saw the black purse and was told the police were attributing its possession to her, she denied that it belonged to her. She admitted the reefer was hers but not the other items in the purse and said she did not know how the reefer got in the purse. However, she did not at that time tell the police officers that the purse belonged to Larry Davis.

At headquarters Hunt separated all the evidence seized during the raid into five groups. Item B was made up of the seven aluminum foil packets found in the black purse. Hunt then gave the evidence and form requesting a State Police Laboratory analysis to Lieutenant Robert Shaw, the unit commander, who sent everything on to the lab where chemist Kenneth Kawalek tested and found that the Item B foil packets contained heroin. The ...


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