On appeal from Superior Court of New Jersey, Law Division, Passaic County, Indictment No. 09-01-00116.
NOT FOR PUBLICATION WITHOUT THE APPROVAL OF THE APPELLATE DIVISION
Before Judges A. A. Rodriguez and Reisner.
Following a jury trial, defendant, Quadir Williams, was convicted of third-degree possession of heroin, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-10a(1); third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-5a(1) and b(3); third-degree possession of heroin with intent to distribute in a school zone, N.J.S.A. 2C:35-7 and 2C:35-5a; and fourth-degree resisting arrest by flight, N.J.S.A. 2C:29-2a(2). After appropriate merger of the possessory offenses, Judge Ernest M. Caposela granted the State's motion for a mandatory extended term pursuant to N.J.S.A. 2C:43-6f, and imposed a ten-year term with a five-year parole disqualifier. The judge also imposed a concurrent eighteen-month term on the resisting arrest conviction.
Only one witness testified, City of Paterson Police Department Officer Edwin Morillo. He was called by the State as a fact witness. According to Morillo, on August 8, 2008, at 11:00 a.m., he and his partner Sal Macolino were investigating in plain clothes and driving an unmarked police vehicle. The focus of their investigation was a 249-unit apartment building on East 19th Street. After several minutes, Morillo and his partner saw two men, subsequently identified as defendant and co-defendant, Gyasi Allen, exiting the apartment building. Defendant and Allen walked up and down the street for ten to twenty minutes, then they crossed the street and paced back and forth along a fence bordering an empty parking lot. Defendant and Allen looked down at the ground. Defendant bent down and picked up a small black plastic bag. While defendant was holding the black bag in his hand, he and Allen walked to an empty adjacent building. Defendant placed the black bag beneath a fence at the corner of the vacant structure.
Suspecting criminal activity, Morillo and Macolino went to the back of the apartment building, just in case defendant and Allen ran inside. The officers went out the front of the apartment building. Defendant and Allen remained standing in front of the building. The plastic bag was six to eight feet away from them. The officers casually exited, with their police badges around their necks and holding police radios. Defendant and Allen saw them and ran away in different directions.
Morillo chased defendant, shouting at him to stop. Defendant continued running. Defendant reached into his pocket, took items out, and threw them on the ground as he ran. Morillo saw that one of the items was a small white object. Morillo tackled defendant and subdued him. As he took defendant to a police vehicle, Morillo retraced the path of the chase and recovered the items defendant had thrown on the ground, i.e., money and a deck of heroin containing eight glassine envelopes.
Following a search of defendant, Morillo found $7,695 in his possession. Morillo returned to the apartment building to meet Macolino, then went to the fence where defendant had been seen placing the black bag. The officer retrieved the bag there, which contained fifty-three glassine envelopes of heroin.*fn1
Defendant and Allen were arrested and later indicted. Defendant was tried by himself. He presented a defense but no witnesses.
On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Morillo several questions regarding knowledge about the process of selling illicit narcotics. These questions asked Morillo to draw upon his expertise as a police officer. The following exchange is illustrative. Defense counsel cross-examined Morillo on his expertise about scenarios that the officer had encountered with respect to street sales of narcotics:
[DEFENSE COUNSEL]: At other times, you have seen situations where it's like an open bazaar. Cars are pulling up, people are running out to the street, they're talking -- the -- the guy on the street talking to the -- to the driver or passenger of the car, correct? [MORILLO]: It -- in -- every case is different -- every case is different and --
Q. I'm -- I'm trying to draw on your nine years of experience --
Q. -- so that we can perhaps tell this jury what it is that you look for when you are ...