Ex parte Bohannon

Citation564 So.2d 854
PartiesEx parte Donald Ray BOHANNON. (Re Donald Bohannon v. State). 87-59.
Decision Date29 July 1988
CourtSupreme Court of Alabama

James M. Byrd, Mobile, for petitioner.

Don Siegelman, Atty. Gen., and James B. Prude, Asst. Atty. Gen., for respondent.

ADAMS, Justice.

The defendant, Donald Ray Bohannon, was convicted of possessing in excess of 2.2 pounds of marijuana in violation of Ala.Code 1975, § 20-2-80. The trial court sentenced Bohannon to ten years in the state penitentiary and fined him $25,000.00. The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction, 515 So.2d 153 (1987), and we granted certiorari. We reverse.

Bohannon was arrested after the Mobile City Police searched his mobile home pursuant to a search warrant and found a number of bags of a green leafy plant presumed to be marijuana. A Mobile County grand jury indicted Bohannon, charging that:

Donald Ray Bohannon ... did ... possess in excess of 2.2 pounds of a controlled substance, to-wit: Marijuana, in violation of ... § 20-2-80 of the Code of Alabama.

Section 20-2-80(1) provides the following:

Except as authorized in chapter 2, Title 20:

(1) Any person who knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state, or who is knowingly in actual or constructive possession of, in excess of one kilo or 2.2 pounds of cannabis is guilty of a felony, which felony shall be known as "trafficking in cannabis." If the quantity of cannabis involved:

a. Is in excess of one kilo or 2.2 pounds, but less than 2,000 pounds, such person shall be sentenced to a mandatory minimum term of imprisonment of three calendar years and to pay a fine of $25,000.00.

Bohannon moved to dismiss the indictment on the ground that it failed to "fully and properly advise [him] of the offense he [was] called upon to defend." The court denied that motion and subsequently denied Bohannon's motion to suppress certain statements made at the time of his arrest and the physical evidence obtained during the search.

Bohannon waived his right to a jury trial. At trial, Clarence Willis, a toxicologist with the Mobile Police Crime Lab, testified about the tests he conducted on the evidence obtained in the search (specifically, State's Exhibit 3). 1 He testified that the bags contained both green plant material and seeds. Furthermore, he testified that he had emptied the plant material into a pre-weighed pan and determined that the weight of the plant material and seeds together--excluding the pan's weight--was 3.5 pounds. On voir dire, Willis testified as follows:


Q. Excuse me, sir. But did you put--take all the contents out of each of those six plastic bags and put it on a metal container and weigh them all at the same time?

A. No, they wer[e] weighed individually.

Q. All right, and you can, did this weighing before you conducted any tests on it to determine what the material was?

A. That's correct.

Q. Do you know the legal definition for the word marijuana?

A. I believe I do. It's plant material containing tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the substance for which these were tested.

Q. All right, I see. These bags here you took the contents out of them, one of the bags, put it on the metal container, weighed it and put it back in the plastic bag?

A. That's right.

Q. That it came from. That was before conducting any tests on any of the contents to see what it was chemically?

A. That's correct.

On direct examination, Willis's testimony continued:

Q. All right, now, based on the tests you ran, were you able to arrive at an opinion as to whether, as to what the substance was that was contained in those packages? That is, the contents of State's Exhibit 3-A?

A. Yes, I did.

Q. All right, and what is that opinion?

MR. BYRD: Object, Your Honor. No proper predicate has been laid; no proper definition of marijuana given by the witness and the mistaken assumption. All he needs to find is THC, and that's not the legal definition.

Also, the material is irrelevant, immaterial, and we renew our motion to suppress.

THE COURT: I will overrule the objection at this time.


A. Oh, all of the--all of the bags all--there are seven of them here, were positive for THC, and indicating that it was marijuana.

Q. All right, and so based on the tests and the samples that you, the samples that you tested, in your opinion, is the entire contents of these bags that were enclosed State's Exhibits 3-A, is that marijuana?

[Objection to the question was overruled.]

Q. What is your opinion as to the entire contents?

A. Based on the tests that were performed and the physical examination of all items in State's Number 3, which is this (indicating), 3-A, B, C, D, E--


Q. Okay, now, that's--

THE WITNESS: F and G. All items in No. 3 contain THC.

Q. All right, what is your opinion as to--you testified that there was approximately 3.5 pounds of green plant material. Based on the tests that you ran, what was that 3.5 pounds of green plant material?

MR. BYRD: Renew the objection on all grounds.

THE COURT: Overruled.

A. Each bag was tested, and each bag independently indicated the presence of marijuana. That is, plant material containing THC and physically identified as marijuana as well.


A. All the items--all the plant material contained in this trash bag (indicating) weighed 1,656 grams, or approximately 3 1/2 pounds.

Q. And it was 3 1/2 pounds of what?

A. Of marijuana.

The court also questioned the witness with regard to the exhibit:

THE COURT: Let me ask you: Regarding these individual packets which were taken from State's Exhibit 3-A; a number of things have items that look like seeds in them. Is that right? Do you know what those seeds are? Or did you ever test the seeds?

THE WITNESS: We never; we never germinated them. I don't know whether they were viable. There was the presence of the tops of plants and stems top to bottom, but we never tested the--we didn't test the seeds for producing a plant. They were added into the samples, but we didn't test them separately.

THE COURT: Did you test to see what kind of seed they were?

THE WITNESS: No, other than germinating them, we, as a rule, just didn't grow the plants, because most of the time, if they were--a lot of times they were infertile. If the material was nothing but seeds, we would take a sample of it and test it as such, as seeds, and occasionally you'd get--mainly, you'd get a response for a test for THC, but when it was, this much in there and as much plant material added with it, the seeds were invariably in the sample, but we didn't test them separately.

THE COURT: You tested everything except the seeds?

THE WITNESS: Oh, the seeds would be in the sample that we had taken or two or three samples from this, but as far as the seeds containing THC, it would be unlikely in the cases that I have seen, if you tested them.

Because most of the time they are dried out and they don't contain an awful lot.

As you go up from the bottom to the top of the plant, the THC content is usually highest in the flowering ends of the plant and lowest in the roots.

And it was the seeds, as an immature plant itself would not contain very much, if any.

On cross-examination, the questioning of Willis revealed the following:


Q. Mr. Willis, in State's Exhibit No. 3, you weighed it before the first exhibit you looked at in the green plastic bag, correct?

A. Right.

Q. All right, you said you weighed the contents of that plastic, those plastic bags inside that green plastic bag before you conducted any tests on them?

A. That's correct.

Q. All right, the dried infertile seeds that were in that exhibit, they were weighed also, weren't they?

A. They were.

Q. And they were not weighed separately from the rest of that exhibit, were they?

A. No, they weren't.

Q. So you don't know how much they weighed of that total weight of 1.656 kilograms that you gave us, do you?

A. No.

Q. They were a good number of stems in those bags, too, weren't they?

A. There were some, yes. They are--I don't know what percentage it would represent. They were some--there were quite a number of them present ....

Q. ... I don't know if you will be able to answer this, but if you know, if you removed all the dried, infertile seeds and all the stems from State's Exhibit No. 3, and weighed only what was left, would it weigh less than one kilogram?

A. I don't know, because I'd have to determine whether they were infertile or not.


Q. State's Exhibit No. 3 was made up mostly of seeds, wasn't it?

A. It's hard to say. It appeared to have a significant amount, but having not counted them or separated them, which would be a tedious task, it--I can't really say.

Q. Well, would you say that it's at least one-third seeds?

A. I don't know. They are more easily identifiable, because they're distinctive little pieces of the plant, whereas the fragments of the leaves are not.

Q. So it could have been any percentage, ten, twenty, fifty or ninety percent seeds. You just don't know?

A. I don't think I should guess at it.

On redirect, Willis testified that he did not conduct any tests on the seeds to determine if they were infertile, and if they were, how they became infertile.

Finally, on recross, Willis stated that his understanding of the "legal" definition of marijuana was that it was "cannabis sativa containing THC, and that it's necessary to show that it contains tetrahydrocannabinols."

The Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the conviction and we granted certiorari. Although several issues were presented for review, one issue is dispositive of this case: Was there sufficient evidence to prove that Bohannon was in possession of over 2.2 pounds of marijuana, in violation of Ala.Code 1975, § 20-2-80?

This Court has recently held that in order to convict a person for trafficking in marijuana pursuant to Ala.Code 1975, § 20-2-80, the State has the burden of proving that the defendant possessed in excess of 2.2 pounds of the drug. Ex parte Sellers, 519 So.2d 1292 (A...

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