On appeal from the Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Essex County, Indictment No. 06-06-1765.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges S.L. Reisner and Baxter.
Defendant Inger Stevens appeals from her conviction, following a jury trial, for possession of a controlled dangerous substance (CDS), N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1); two counts of possession of CDS with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1); two counts of school zone CDS possession with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7; and CDS possession with intent to distribute within 500 feet of public housing, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7.1. We affirm.
Defendant was indicted based on her sale of drugs to an undercover police officer. The State's case rested on the testimony of the police officer to whom defendant sold cocaine in a public park in East Orange, and the testimony of a police detective who witnessed the transaction. No other witnesses testified at the trial. We review the trial evidence, focusing on those portions defendant alleges violated her rights under the Confrontation Clause.
At the beginning of her testimony, the undercover officer testified that she had a desk assignment, but from time to time she performed undercover assignments for the Vice Squad, also known as the "Enhance Safety Team." After she was asked how the narcotics purchase she made "came about," she responded that "[t]hey gave me information on an individual that they apparently had been watching and I made contact with that individual, met her at [the] park and made the transaction." The officer then described in some detail a conversation in which she told defendant that she wanted to buy cocaine, and defendant sold her "three small bags of cocaine" in exchange for $40.
On cross-examination, defense counsel repeated that "you said, I think, that they gave you information of an individual that they had been watching," to which the officer responded, "Right." Defense counsel then asked her if she knew "the name of that person when you left headquarters." The officer responded that "I knew her name . . . what she looked like and . . . what kind of vehicle she would be driving." At defense counsel's request, the officer confirmed that she got this information from Detective Hudson.
There was no objection or request that these answers be stricken. In fact, defense counsel continued to elicit similar information: "Okay. I just want to make this clear, it wasn't as if you were just sent to go into the park to see if you could purchase drugs for anybody. You were - had a particular target." The officer responded, "Yes." Later in the cross-examination, defense counsel repeated that the officer "knew the defendant, you knew her name, you had been given a description as to what she looked like," and counsel also elicited that the officer knew where defendant lived.
The State also presented testimony from Detective Hudson, who explained that his unit, the Enhance Safety Team, investigated "quality of life [crimes], robberies and violent crimes." Detective Hudson testified that he participated in a narcotics investigation at Oval Park, with the undercover officer. During that day's investigation, he used binoculars to observe defendant selling drugs to the undercover officer. In response to cross-examination questions as to whether he obtained information about defendant's vehicle after he saw the drug transaction, Hudson responded that "we had all of the information already, the plate number, registration, everything already." Defense counsel also specifically asked Hudson if he told the undercover officer whom to approach or whether he just asked her "to go to anybody in the park to see if they would sell [drugs to] her." Hudson responded, "Sir, this was an ongoing investigation." He also explained, without objection, that the officer had called defendant in advance to set up the meeting in the park. For the undercover officer's safety, the police did not arrest defendant right after the purchase. Instead, they arrested her on a different day, pursuant to a warrant.
In his summation, defense counsel once again repeated to the jury that the undercover officer had targeted defendant for this investigation and knew her name, description and address in advance. From that information, he argued that the failure of the police to arrest defendant immediately after the drug purchase cast doubt on the State's case. In response, the prosecutor argued in her summation that "[t]his isn't a conspiracy in the East Orange Police Department, this was an investigation and we do have proof." She also mentioned that the officers had testified "there was [an] ongoing investigation" and "at some later date . . . there was, in fact, an arrest."
Defendant's appeal rests on the following point presented for ...