In 2020, Sergeant Jack Miller began surveilling Dale Green‘s home based on a confidential informant’s tip that someone at the residence was selling narcotics out of a vehicle in front of the home. Miller received a tip that someone named “Marco” was in front of the residence dealing drugs out of an SUV. Along with other officers, Miller went to the residence in an unmarked police vehicle that was very obviously a police car.
Miller pulled up to the residence and observed five to six individuals in the yard. He said he noticed Green in particular because Green seemed to pay close attention to the car, then calmly stood up and dropped an item on the porch. Miller then approached Green, patting him down along with the other individuals on the scene.
When patting him down, Miller found keys in Green’s pocket and asked how he arrived at the house. Green explained his girlfriend dropped him off and, when asked about the keys in his pocket, said “Oh, she must be back.” Miller then hit the lock button on the keys, causing the horn on a Nissan across the street to sound off. Greene attributed the car to his girlfriend, again stating that she must have returned.
Miller sought to contact her, but Green explained he did not have her phone number. Additionally, Miller testified that he found $276 dollars in Greene’s pocket in small denominations. He testified that in his experience street level dealers have a large amount of cash in small denominations because they sell narcotics in small amounts.
After the pat-down, Miller used a drug-sniffing dog on the scene to check if the Nissan gave off a narcotic odor. The dog alerted on the passenger side of the car. Green then allowed officers to search the car. Another officer, Sergeant John Witham, conducted the search. He discovered a loaded firearm in the center console along with a debit card with Green’s name on it and an activation sticker still on the card.
He then searched the trunk and discovered papers showing Green paid for service and insurance on the Nissan, an accident report and insurance paperwork indicating Green was the driver and owner of the car, and a fax Green sent. Witham did not discover any drugs, drug paraphernalia, or drug residue during his search.
Witham also discovered a bag of crack and powder cocaine at the foot of the porch. He found the bag after approaching the residence and noticing a bunch of individuals around the yard area. He further testified that while at the house, he observed a scale on the trunk of a vehicle parked at the home.
Among Green’s witnesses was his sister-in-law, Shmoyia Adams. She testified that Green drove a Nissan Altima and allowed others to use it; for example, she and her sister both used the car. She also explained that others would leave personal belongings in the car that did not belong to Green. Specifically, she testified on the day Greene was arrested, she saw her brother, Travarrius Adams, put a firearm in the arm rest, close the lid, and fail to take it out when he got out of the car on Harrison Street, the street where Greene was arrested.
He was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm and possession of cocaine with intent to distribute and sentenced to 40 months. On appeal, he argued the evidence was insufficient to find him guilty of the drug and firearm charge. The 5th affirmed.
Based on the evidence presented at trial, a reasonable jury could have concluded that the bag of drugs an officer found in front of the porch of a house was the same item another officer observed Green drop in front of the porch after police vehicles pulled up to the house. Thus, the evidence sufficiently supported the jury’s verdict on the drug possession offense.
A reasonable jury likewise could have determined that Green constructively possessed the firearm discovered in the closed center console of a vehicle parked within 30 yards of the house. The car contained multiple documents indicating that Green drove and paid for service and insurance for the car. His own witness admitted that it was primarily his car.
An officer found keys to the car while patting Green down. Green then gave implausible answers when asked why he had the keys. Moreover, a credit card bearing Green’s name was located in the center console along with the firearm. This evidence supports conclusions that Green had dominion and control over the vehicle and that he had knowledge of and access to the firearm. See Meza.
The jury was free to disbelieve Green’s witness’s testimony that she drove and parked the car in front of the house on the day of Green’s arrest and that her brother left the gun in the vehicle. For these reasons, the evidence sufficiently supported the jury’s determination that Green knowingly possessed the firearm.