Hamilton v. State, 112118 AKCA, A-11956
|Opinion Judge:||SUDDOCK, JUDGE.|
|Party Name:||ANTONIO SCHERELL HAMILTON, Appellant, v. STATE OF ALASKA, Appellee.|
|Attorney:||Kelly R Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant. Ann B. Black, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.|
|Judge Panel:||Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock, Superior Court Judge.|
|Case Date:||November 21, 2018|
|Court:||Court of Appeals of Alaska|
UNPUBLISHED See Alaska Appellate Rule 214(d)
Appeal from the Superior Court Trial Court No. 3AN-13-3062 CR, Third Judicial District, Anchorage, Kevin M. Saxby, Judge.
Kelly R Taylor, Assistant Public Defender, and Quinlan Steiner, Public Defender, Anchorage, for the Appellant.
Ann B. Black, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards, Attorney General, Juneau, for the Appellee.
Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock, Superior Court Judge. [*]
Probation officers conducted a search of the bedroom that probationer Antonio Scherell Hamilton shared with his girlfriend. That probation search, and an ensuing follow-up search by police officers, revealed a small rock of cocaine in a glass container, as well as "spice," a synthetic cannabinoid that was legal at the time.
Hamilton was charged with possession of cocaine. Because he was also on bail release in an unrelated criminal case, Hamilton was charged with violating the bail condition that he obey all laws.
Before trial, Hamilton's attorney asked the superior court to preclude the State from introducing evidence of Hamilton's possession of spice. The trial judge denied this motion, finding that the presence of the spice in Hamilton's bedroom was relevant to explain the officers' actions after their arrival at the house. The judge further reasoned that, because possession of spice was not illegal at the time, this evidence was not unduly prejudicial to Hamilton.
Hamilton was found guilty at trial, and he now appeals. For the reasons that we explain in this opinion, we conclude that the evidence of Hamilton's possession of spice bore little relevance to the cocaine possession charge, that this evidence was more prejudicial than probative, and that it should have been excluded under Alaska Evidence Rule 403. Accordingly, we reverse Hamilton's conviction for possession of cocaine.
Background facts and proceedings
Hamilton, who was on probation, lived with his girlfriend Ashlee Estell at the home of Estell's father. Probation Officers Joshua Hooyer and Justin Brozovsky went to the house to conduct a random search, as permitted by Hamilton's conditions of probation. Estell's father allowed the probation officers to enter, and he directed them downstairs to Hamilton's bedroom. As the officers approached Hamilton's bedroom, they smelled a strong odor of spice.
Hamilton was present in the bedroom. Officer Brozovsky searched the bedroom and quickly found a bindle containing a three-quarter-inch-long rock of cocaine in a small speckled glass candle holder sitting atop a television stand. The bindle was readily visible within the glass container. A subsequent search of the room by police officers revealed a container of spice under clothing in a laundry hamper, and a glass pipe in a nearby shoe.
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