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State v. Shepperson

March 18, 2008

STATE OF NEW JERSEY, PLAINTIFF-RESPONDENT,
v.
RODNEY SHEPPERSON, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Monmouth County, Indictment No. 04-05-1038.

Per curiam.

NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION

Submitted February 26, 2008

Before Judges Yannotti and LeWinn.

Defendant Rodney Shepperson appeals from an order entered on March 23, 2007, which denied his petition for post-conviction relief (PCR). We affirm.

Defendant was charged in Monmouth County Indictment No. 04-05-1038 with third-degree possession of a controlled dangerous substance, specifically cocaine, contrary to N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1). Defendant was tried to a jury before Judge Ira E. Kriezman.

At the trial, the State presented evidence which established that on January 4, 2004, at approximately 2:00 a.m., Officer Michael Cavallo of the Neptune City Police Department stopped defendant for speeding. Officer Cavallo approached the vehicle and asked defendant for his driving credentials. Defendant did not give the officer a driver's license but said that his name was "Rodney Batiste." He also provided the officer with a date of birth and social security number. Cavallo transmitted the information to the dispatcher, but the dispatcher was unable to confirm that defendant had a driver's license.

Cavallo returned to the vehicle and again asked defendant for his name and date of birth. Defendant gave the officer the same name but provided a different date of birth. Cavallo transmitted this information to the dispatcher. Again, the dispatcher could not confirm that defendant had a driver's license. Sergeant Louis Trocchio arrived on the scene to provide backup. Cavallo told defendant that he believed he was lying. At Cavallo's request, defendant agreed to go to the police station to be fingerprinted so that the police could confirm his identity.

Cavallo patted down defendant and he found no weapons. However, according to Cavallo, defendant showed him a "yellow circular type keychain" which defendant pulled out of the pocket in his pants. Defendant attempted to hand the key chain to Cavallo but Cavallo said that he did not need it and defendant put the key chain back in his pocket. Defendant was placed in the police vehicle and transported to the police station.

When they arrived at the station, defendant was escorted inside. Cavallo then checked the rear passenger seat of the vehicle where defendant had been sitting. Cavallo said that he was accustomed to checking the rear of his police vehicle "to make sure [that] nothing [was] left behind." Using his flashlight, Cavallo noticed the yellow key chain that defendant tried to hand him. Next to the key chain, the officer found what appeared to be crack cocaine located on the floor of the vehicle where defendant had been sitting. Defendant was arrested and transported to the Monmouth County jail.

Cavallo testified that, before defendant had been placed in the patrol car, he searched the rear of the vehicle for weapons and contraband. He also testified that no one other than defendant had been in the rear of his patrol car on January 4, 2004.

Defendant was found guilty of possession of cocaine, as charged in the indictment. Defendant's motion for a new trial was denied. Judge Kreizman sentenced defendant to four years of incarceration. Defendant appealed and raised the following argument:

THE ADMISSION OF TESTIMONY FROM PATROLMAN CAVALLO THAT THERE WAS "NO" DOUBT AS TO WHO POSSESSED THE CDS AND THE KEYCHAIN, OVER DEFENSE COUNSEL'S OBJECTION, CONSTITUTES REVERSIBLE ERROR IN VIOLATION OF DEFENDANT'S RIGHT TO DUE PROCESS OF LAW AND A FAIR TRIAL (U.S. CONST. AMENDS, V. VI AND XIV; N.J. CONST. (1947), ART. I, PARS. 1, 9 AND 10).

We affirmed defendant's conviction. State v. Shepperson, A-6735-04 (App. Div. May 26, 2006). Defendant filed a petition for certification with the Supreme Court, which was ...


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