State v. Cruz, 10761

CourtAppellate Court of Connecticut
Citation611 A.2d 457,28 Conn.App. 575
Decision Date11 August 1992
Docket NumberNo. 10761,10761
PartiesSTATE of Connecticut v. Francisco CRUZ.

Brian M. O'Connell, Hartford, for appellant (defendant).

James A. Killen, Asst. State's Atty., with whom, on the brief, were John T. Redway, State's Atty., and Bernadette Conway, Asst. State's Atty., for appellee (state).


HEIMAN, Judge.

The defendant appeals from a judgment of conviction, rendered after a trial to the court, of possession of less than four ounces of marihuana in violation of General Statutes § 21a-279(c) 1 and possession of drug paraphernalia in violation of General Statutes § 21a-267(a). 2 He claims that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his convictions. The trial court found the following facts. On February 28, 1990, Trooper Louis A. Ward was assigned to patrol Route 91 in the general area between the towns of Middletown and Cromwell. At approximately 2 a.m., Ward observed a red Camaro occupied by two individuals, neither of whom was wearing a seat belt. He followed the vehicle and observed it change lanes without signaling. Ward activated his emergency lights and stopped the Camaro without incident.

Ward exited his vehicle and approached the Camaro from the passenger's side. Trooper Raoul Palen also arrived and approached the Camaro from the driver's side. The defendant, the operator of the vehicle, was asked to produce his operator's license and the vehicle's registration. The defendant produced his license but failed to produce the vehicle's registration.

Both Ward and Palen found the defendant to be cooperative. In response to questions by the officers, the defendant stated that the vehicle belonged to a friend and that he was traveling from the Bronx, New York, to Willimantic. While speaking with the defendant, neither officer noted any odor of marihuana emanating from either the defendant's person or from the interior of the car. The defendant did not appear to be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Sergeant Gerald Pennington of the state police, the shift supervisor, arrived at the scene to observe his officers' use of investigative techniques, which had been the subject of recent training. Pennington approached the Camaro from the right rear. Using a 30,000 candlepower flashlight, he observed a marihuana seed in a pleat in the right rear seat cushion. The defendant was asked to exit the vehicle and to disclose the origin and destination of his trip. He repeated his explanation to Pennington. When asked about the ownership of the car, however, the defendant told Pennington that the Camaro was his, thus contradicting his previous statement that the vehicle belonged to a friend.

A search of the defendant's person revealed neither drugs nor weapons, but $1039.63. When asked about the presence of the marihuana seed, the defendant disclaimed any knowledge of it. The defendant admitted that he occasionally used marihuana, but asserted that he had not used any that night. The defendant consented to a search of the vehicle, which failed to disclose the presence of other marihuana, seeds or residue. While searching the vehicle, the officers found, in the center console of the vehicle, a package of "E-Z Wider" cigarette rolling papers.

The passenger, Abilio Garcia, also was asked to exit the vehicle. A search of his person revealed a paper towel containing a quantity of heroin in the front waist band of his trousers. 3 Subsequent investigation demonstrated that the seed was capable of germination and that the seized heroin weighed approximately nine-tenths of an ounce.

At the completion of the state's case-in-chief, the trial court granted the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal with respect to that count of the information charging him with aiding and abetting the possession of a narcotic substance with the intent to sell. It denied the motion with respect to the other two counts, and the defendant rested without presenting evidence. The trial court entered findings of guilty with respect to the two remaining counts of the information and sentenced the defendant in accordance with his conviction. This appeal followed.

The sole claim raised on appeal is that the trial court improperly denied the defendant's motion for judgment of acquittal on the charges of possession of marihuana and possession of drug paraphernalia because the evidence produced by the state was insufficient as a matter of law to support the findings of guilty. We agree.

To determine the sufficiency of the evidence to justify a conviction, we apply a two-fold test. State v. Uribe, 14 Conn.App. 388, 392-93, 540 A.2d 1081 (1988). First, we construe the evidence in the light most favorable to sustaining the trial court's verdict. State v. Haddad, 189 Conn. 383, 385, 456 A.2d 316 (1983); State v. Uribe, supra, 14 Conn.App. at 393, 540 A.2d 1081. We then determine whether, "from that evidence and all the reasonable inferences which it yields, a [trier of fact] could reasonably have concluded that the defendant was guilty beyond a reasonable doubt." State v. Uribe, supra.

The test for determining whether the evidence is sufficient to sustain a verdict is "whether the [trier] could have reasonably concluded, upon the facts established and the reasonable inferences drawn therefrom, that the cumulative effect of the evidence was sufficient to justify the verdict of guilty beyond a reasonable doubt...." (Internal quotation marks omitted.) State v. Haddad, supra, 189 Conn. at 387, 456 A.2d 316. When applying this test, the court must ensure that "[e]ach essential element of the crime charged must be established by proof beyond a reasonable doubt, and although it is within the province of the [trier] to draw reasonable, logical inferences from the facts proven, [it] may not resort to speculation and conjecture.... Where it cannot be said that a rational trier of fact could find guilt proven beyond a reasonable doubt, then, a conviction cannot constitutionally stand, as it is violative of due process under the fourteenth amendment.... [T]he burden rested upon the prosecution to prove the guilt of the accused, i.e., to prove each material element of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt." (Citations omitted; internal quotation marks omitted.) Id. at 387-88, 456 A.2d 316.

To prove either actual or constructive possession of a narcotic substance, the state must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew of the character of the drug and its presence, and exercised dominion and control over it. State v. Brunori, 22 Conn.App. 431, 435-36, 578 A.2d 139, cert. denied, 216 Conn. 814, 580 A.2d 61 (1990); State v. Parent, 8 Conn.App. 469, 473, 513 A.2d 725 (1986). Our courts have declined to find actual possession where the narcotics were accessible to others and were found in areas that were occupied by others. See, e.g., State v. Alfonso, 195 Conn. 624, 634-35, 490 A.2d 75 (1985) (drugs found in common area of an apartment were not possessed by the defendant); State v. Santiago, 17 Conn.App. 273, 278, 552 A.2d 438 (1989) (drugs found in a vehicle occupied by more than one person were not possessed by defendant). When the defendant is not in exclusive control of the area where the contraband is found, "it...

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18 cases
  • State v. Coleman, 12287
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • October 4, 1994
    ...evidence. State v. Young, 29 Conn.App. 754, 767, 618 A.2d 65 (1992), cert. denied, 225 Conn. 904, 621 A.2d 287 (1993); State v. Cruz, 28 Conn.App. 575, 578, 611 A.2d 457 (1992). We first construe the evidence presented at trial in a light most favorable to sustaining the verdict. State v. Y......
  • State v. Lee, s. 10836
    • United States
    • Appellate Court of Connecticut
    • September 24, 1993
    ...(Citations omitted;[32 Conn.App. 98] internal quotation marks omitted.) Id., 29 Conn.App. at 708-709, 618 A.2d 43; State v. Cruz, 28 Conn.App. 575, 579, 611 A.2d 457 To prove possession of a narcotic substance, the state must establish beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused knew of the ......
  • State v. Rhodes, SC 20070
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • March 27, 2020
    ...was observed "throw[ing] the paper bag from his car"), cert. denied, 248 Conn. 916, 734 A.2d 568 (1999). But cf. State v. Cruz , 28 Conn. App. 575, 580–81, 611 A.2d 457 (1992) (reversing defendant driver's conviction for possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia because d......
  • State v. Winfrey, 18716.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Connecticut
    • August 23, 2011
    ...Tomas D., 296 Conn. 476, 484 n. 14, 995 A.2d 583 (2010). 14. The defendant contends that his case is nearly identical to State v. Cruz, 28 Conn.App. 575, 581, 611 A.2d 457 (1992), in which the Appellate Court reversed a possessory conviction in a nonexclusive possession context. We are not ......
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