On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County.
J.h. Coleman, Arnold M. Stein and Conley. The opinion of the Court was delivered by Arnold M. Stein, J.A.D.
[262 NJSuper Page 232] Defendant was found guilty of conspiracy to distribute cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:5-2; distribution of the cocaine, N.J.S.A.
2C:35-5; distribution of the cocaine within 1,000 feet of school property, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7; and employing a juvenile in the distribution of the cocaine, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-6. For the conviction for employing a juvenile in drug distribution, the trial Judge sentenced defendant to a ten-year prison term with a five-year parole ineligibility period. He merged the conspiracy and drug distribution counts into the school zone count and imposed a concurrent five-year term with a three-year parole ineligibility period. Fines, penalties, fees and a driver's license suspension were also imposed. We reverse the conviction for employing a juvenile in drug distribution and affirm the conviction on the remaining count.
The State introduced evidence that defendant and a seventeen-year-old juvenile made a sale to an undercover detective. The detective was heading upstairs to an apartment in the building where defendant and the juvenile were standing in the hallway. The juvenile asked the detective what he wanted. The detective asked if he could get a "40," and the juvenile handed him a tinfoil folio containing cocaine. The detective handed defendant $40 in bills which had previously been photo-copied. When defendant was arrested with the juvenile a short time later, he had $130 in his possession, $40 of which were the prerecorded bills. The State offered the city map as proof that the transaction took place within 1,000 feet of an elementary school.
Defendant did not testify in his own behalf. He produced a friend who testified that he had observed an unidentified female buy drugs from a Joe Williams who later handed money to defendant. The juvenile involved with defendant in the transaction testified that he never entered the building where the sale took place. The jury was obviously unconvinced by defendant's version of the incident.
Defendant raises the following contentions in his brief on appeal:
COMMENTS MADE BY THE PROSECUTOR DURING HER OPENING ARGUMENTS WERE IMPROPER AND DEPRIVED THE DEFENDANT OF A FAIR TRIAL.
IT WAS ERROR FOR THE COURT TO ADMIT INTO EVIDENCE THE UNAUTHENTICATED MAP DEPICTING DRUG-FREE SCHOOL ZONES.
THE COURT ERRED IN FAILING TO GRANT DEFENDANT'S MOTION FOR A JUDGMENT OF ACQUITTAL WITH RESPECT TO COUNT IV OF THE INDICTMENT (USE OF A JUVENILE IN A DRUG DISTRIBUTION SCHEME). (Not Raised Below.)
We agree with defendant's contention that his conviction on count IV, using a juvenile in a drug distribution scheme, was unsupported by sufficient evidence because the State failed to prove that defendant ...