State v. Sartin, No. 94-0037-CR

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
Writing for the CourtWILCOX
Citation200 Wis.2d 47,546 N.W.2d 449
Docket NumberNo. 94-0037-CR
Decision Date11 April 1996
PartiesSTATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent, v. Johnell SARTIN, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.

Page 449

546 N.W.2d 449
200 Wis.2d 47
STATE of Wisconsin, Plaintiff-Respondent,
v.
Johnell SARTIN, Defendant-Appellant-Petitioner.
No. 94-0037-CR.
Supreme Court of Wisconsin.
Argued Jan. 10, 1996.
Decided April 11, 1996.

Page 450

Appeal from the Circuit Court, Milwaukee County; John A. Franke, Judge.

[200 Wis.2d 48] For the defendant-appellant-petitioner there were briefs and oral argument by Ellen Henak, assistant state public defender.

For the plaintiff-respondent the cause was argued by Maureen McGlynn Flanagan, assistant attorney general, with whom on the brief was James E. Doyle, attorney general.

WILCOX, Justice.

This case is before the court on petition for review of an unpublished decision of the court of appeals, State v. Johnell Sartin, No. 94-0037-CR, 1995 WL 69245 (Wis.Ct.App. Feb. 21, 1995). The appellate court affirmed a judgment of conviction entered by the Milwaukee County Circuit Court, John A. Franke, Circuit Judge, after a jury found the defendant-appellant-petitioner, Johnell Sartin (Sartin), guilty of one count of possession of cocaine base with intent to deliver within 1,000 feet of a pool, party to a crime, contrary to Wis.Stat. §§ 161.14(7)(a), 161.41(1m)(cm)3, 161.49, and 939.05 (1991-92), and one count of possession of cocaine with intent to deliver [200 Wis.2d 49] within 1,000 feet of a pool, party to a crime, contrary to Wis.Stat. §§ 161.16(2)(b)1, 161.41(1m)(c)2, 161.49, and 939.05 (1991-92). Two issues have been presented for our review: (1) In order to convict Sartin of possession of cocaine and cocaine base with intent to deliver, was the State required to prove that the defendant knew the identity of the particular substance, or is proof of knowledge that the substance was controlled or illegal sufficient? We hold that in order to convict a defendant of possession of a controlled substance, the State was required to prove only that the defendant knew or believed that the substances which he possessed were illegal or controlled. The State is not required to prove the defendant's knowledge as to the exact nature or chemical name of the controlled substance; (2) Did the party to a conspiracy instruction erroneously deny Sartin due process of law by improperly relieving the State of its obligation, under State v. Smallwood, 97 Wis.2d 673, 294 N.W.2d 51 (Ct.App.1980), to prove his specific knowledge of the exact controlled substance involved? In accord with our holding as to the first issue, we find that Sartin's constitutional rights of due process have not been violated. The State is required only to prove that the defendant knew or believed that he possessed a controlled substance, and therefore, providing the jury with the party to a conspiracy instruction was not in error. Accordingly, we affirm the decision of the court of appeals.

The relevant facts of this case are undisputed. On January 28, 1993, Sartin's brother, Allan Mabra, called the local police and informed them that Sartin and [200 Wis.2d 50] three others were in the process of driving Mabra's car to Milwaukee to pick up a half kilo of cocaine. Mabra described the vehicle and provided the officer with the license number. Shortly thereafter, police officers spotted the vehicle parked in front of Sartin's residence at 3071 North 19th Street. Sartin was observed walking down the sidewalk and returning to the vehicle. The police pulled in front of the vehicle, and as they approached on foot, a passenger in the rear of the vehicle threw down a clear, knotted, plastic sandwich bag containing material that resembled cocaine. The police also witnessed Trunail B., a juvenile positioned in the front passenger seat, hurriedly stuff something into the vehicle's glove compartment.

Sartin and the three others were ordered from the vehicle, and a subsequent police search produced the contraband which formed the basis for the ensuing prosecution. A clear plastic bag was found on the floor near the rear passenger door, which held 20 Ziploc baggies containing crack cocaine rocks. A black and white bag with the brand name "Fila" was found in the glove compartment. The contents of the bag included small knotted plastic bags of cocaine base rocks, an electronic scale, and a bag of powder cocaine. When the defendant was arrested, the police discovered $300 in cash on him as well as a beeper. Subsequent investigation revealed that the beeper had received more than 400 calls in the past month.

After Sartin's arrest, he made a series of custodial statements in response to police questioning over the course of the next day. At trial, a Milwaukee detective testified that

Page 451

Sartin had told police that he had been given $270 to transport the Fila bag to a location in Milwaukee. Detective Jones stated that Sartin had admitted that he "thought that what he was given was [200 Wis.2d 51] probably illegal, that he suspect[ed] that the plastic bag contained either marijuana or cocaine." However, he denied any knowledge of the drugs found in the rear of the vehicle.

At the close of trial, the circuit court instructed the jury on the elements of the two drug charges. The court articulated that the first element of the possession charges was that the defendant possess cocaine base; second, the defendant knew or believed that the substance he possessed was cocaine base; third, the defendant possessed cocaine base with intent to deliver it. 1 The jury was provided with similar instructions with regard to the second count of possession of cocaine. The circuit court proceeded to give the standard jury instruction regarding party to a crime, as well as "aiding and abetting" and "conspiracy." The jury returned guilty verdicts on both counts, and the defendant received a seven-year sentence.

On appeal, Sartin claimed that the party to the crime instruction improperly relieved the State of its burden under Smallwood to prove that he knew the exact nature or chemical name of the controlled substance he possessed as party to a crime. The appellate court rejected this contention, stating:

We find this position to be without merit on the record before us. The trial court expressly instructed the jury that it could find Sartin guilty of possessing cocaine base with intent to deliver as a party to a crime only if the jury first found that the State proved by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that 'the defendant knew or believed that the substance[200 Wis.2d 52] he possessed was cocaine base.' The trial court used equally direct language to instruct the jury on count two, cautioning the jury that before it could return a guilty verdict, the jury had to find that the State proved by evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that Sartin 'knew or believed that the substance he possessed was cocaine.' Accordingly, we conclude that these instructions were legally sufficient and that Sartin's argument to the contrary is contradicted by the record.

Sartin, No. 94-0037-CR unpublished slip op. at 6. Having ruled that application of the jury instructions was appropriate, the court thereafter declined to address Sartin's ex post facto argument. Id. 2 The judgment of conviction was affirmed.

I.

A trial judge may exercise wide discretion in selecting jury instructions based on the facts and circumstances of the case. This discretion extends to both choice of language and emphasis. State v. McCoy, 143 Wis.2d 274, 289, 421 N.W.2d 107 (1988). "The court's [200 Wis.2d 53] discretion should be exercised to 'fully and fairly inform the jury of the rules of law applicable to the case and to assist the jury in making a reasonable analysis of the evidence.' " Id. (citing State v. Dix, 86 Wis.2d 474, 486, 273 N.W.2d 250 (1979)). Although the judge is granted such broad discretion, the question of whether the circuit court correctly instructed the jury is one of law which this court reviews de novo, without deference to the lower courts. State v. Wilson, 149 Wis.2d 878, 898, 440 N.W.2d 534 (1989). The State bears the burden of proving all elements of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. In re Winship, 397 U.S. 358, 90 S.Ct. 1068, 25 L.Ed.2d 368 (1970). "Language in a jury instruction that relieves the

Page 452

State of its duty to prove the element of intent beyond a reasonable doubt denies the defendant due process." Barrera v. State, 109 Wis.2d 324, 329, 325 N.W.2d 722 (1982).

The determinative question in the present case is whether the circuit court's instruction to the jury on party to a conspiracy improperly relieved the State of its obligation under Smallwood to prove Sartin's knowledge as to the exact nature or chemical name of the substance which he possessed. In addressing this question, we first consider to what extent the accused must be aware of the precise nature of the substance he or she possesses or delivers, in order to be prosecuted under Wis.Stat. ch. 161 (1993-94), the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (UCSA). This requires an analysis of the knowledge requirement as provided under the act.

Our decision in State v. Poellinger, 153 Wis.2d 493, 451 N.W.2d 752 (1990) represents the latest expression by this court of the knowledge requirement in a drug possession case. In Poellinger, we stated: "[T]o convict an individual of possession of a controlled [200 Wis.2d 54] substance, the State must prove not only that the defendant was in possession of a dangerous drug but also that the defendant knew or believed that he or she was." Id. 451 N.W.2d at 508. In reviewing Wisconsin precedent, the Criminal Jury Instructions Committee has recognized that there appears to be two fundamental aspects to the knowledge requirement: (1) knowing, conscious possession as opposed to accidental, unknowing possession; and, (2) knowing the nature of the substance knowingly possessed or delivered. (Emphasis added.) 3 The focus of our present review is on the secondary prong, the extent of the defendant's knowledge as to the exact nature of the substance possessed.

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39 practice notes
  • State v. Stietz, No. 2014AP2701-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2017
    ...their analyses. Head , 255 Wis. 2d 194, ¶44 (citing State v. Mayhall , 195 Wis. 2d 53, 57, 535 N.W.2d 473 (1995) ); State v. Sartin , 200 Wis. 2d 47, 53, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ; State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶7, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541.375 Wis.2d 583¶15 A jury must be instructed ......
  • State v. Morford, No. 01-2461.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 3, 2004
    ...two lines of cases on dictum); State v. Leitner, 2002 WI 77, ¶ 22 n. 16, 253 Wis. 2d 449, 646 N.W.2d 341 (same); State v. Sartin, 200 Wis. 2d 47, 60 n.7, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ("dictum is a statement in a court's opinion that goes beyond the facts in the case and is broader than necessary a......
  • Estate of Genrich v. Ohic Ins. Co., No. 2007AP541.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 7, 2009
    ...medical malpractice were dicta, as they were not necessary to the theory on which the court of appeals decided the case. State v. Sartin, 200 Wis.2d 47, 60 n. 7, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) (explaining that dictum "is a statement or language expressed in a court's opinion which extends beyond the......
  • County of Kenosha v. C & S Management, Inc., No. 97-0642
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 22, 1999
    ...¶36 A trial judge has great discretion in selecting jury instructions based on the facts and circumstances of the case. State v. Sartin, 200 Wis.2d 47, 52, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996). "This discretion extends to both choice of language and emphasis." Id. (citing State v. McCoy, 143 Wis.2d 274, 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
39 cases
  • State v. Stietz, No. 2014AP2701-CR
    • United States
    • Wisconsin Supreme Court
    • June 13, 2017
    ...their analyses. Head , 255 Wis. 2d 194, ¶44 (citing State v. Mayhall , 195 Wis. 2d 53, 57, 535 N.W.2d 473 (1995) ); State v. Sartin , 200 Wis. 2d 47, 53, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ; State v. Chew , 2014 WI App 116, ¶7, 358 Wis. 2d 368, 856 N.W.2d 541.375 Wis.2d 583¶15 A jury must be instructed ......
  • State v. Morford, No. 01-2461.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • February 3, 2004
    ...two lines of cases on dictum); State v. Leitner, 2002 WI 77, ¶ 22 n. 16, 253 Wis. 2d 449, 646 N.W.2d 341 (same); State v. Sartin, 200 Wis. 2d 47, 60 n.7, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) ("dictum is a statement in a court's opinion that goes beyond the facts in the case and is broader than necessary a......
  • Estate of Genrich v. Ohic Ins. Co., No. 2007AP541.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • July 7, 2009
    ...medical malpractice were dicta, as they were not necessary to the theory on which the court of appeals decided the case. State v. Sartin, 200 Wis.2d 47, 60 n. 7, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996) (explaining that dictum "is a statement or language expressed in a court's opinion which extends beyond the......
  • County of Kenosha v. C & S Management, Inc., No. 97-0642
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Wisconsin
    • January 22, 1999
    ...¶36 A trial judge has great discretion in selecting jury instructions based on the facts and circumstances of the case. State v. Sartin, 200 Wis.2d 47, 52, 546 N.W.2d 449 (1996). "This discretion extends to both choice of language and emphasis." Id. (citing State v. McCoy, 143 Wis.2d 274, 2......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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