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Griffin v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

February 12, 2015


Reconsideration denied March 26, 2015 -- Cert. applied for.

Page 515

Drug violation. Clayton Superior Court. Before Judge Benefield.

Judgment affirmed.

John W. Kraus, for appellant.

Tracy Graham-Lawson, District Attorney, Elizabeth A. Baker, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

McFADDEN, Judge. Andrews, P. J., and Ray, J., concur.


Page 516

McFadden, Judge.

After a jury trial, Patrick Griffin was convicted of cocaine trafficking and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute. He appeals, raising six claims of ineffective assistance of counsel and four other enumerations of error.

He argues that trial counsel rendered ineffective assistance by failing to object to a question about Griffin's invocation of his right to counsel and his right to remain silent; by failing to object when lab reports, evidence labels, and evidence tags listing his name went out with the jury; by allowing an imperfectly redacted search warrant and affidavit to go out with the jury; by failing to show that a woman, not Griffin, was the lessee of the apartment in which the contraband was found; by failing to object to a jury charge on the presumption of possession; and by failing to request a jury charge on sole constructive possession. None of these claims of ineffective assistance of trial counsel has merit.

Griffin also argues that the trial court expressed an opinion on a witness's credibility in violation of OCGA § 17-8-57. But the trial court's comments were part of a brief, friendly exchange that did not express an opinion on the witness's credibility. Griffin argues that the trial court erred by excluding references to two co-defendants' earlier acquittals. But Griffin was not entitled to present evidence of the [331 Ga.App. 551] acquittals. Griffin argues that the trial court wrongly excluded certain relevant evidence and wrongly included certain irrelevant evidence, but he has not shown an abuse of discretion. Finally, contrary to Griffin's argument, circumstantial evidence was sufficient to show that he knowingly possessed more than 28 grams of cocaine, and the evidence generally supports the convictions. We therefore affirm.

1. Sufficiency of the evidence.

Although it is Griffin's final argument, we begin with the sufficiency of the evidence. On appeal from a criminal conviction,

the evidence must be viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, and the defendant no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence; moreover, an appellate court does not weigh the evidence or determine witness credibility but only determines whether the evidence is sufficient under the standard of Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

Morris v. State, 322 Ga.App. 682 (1) (746 S.E.2d 162) (2013) (citation omitted). Viewed in this light, the evidence shows that on January 13, 2011, officers executed a search warrant at an apartment in Clayton County. Griffin and at least ten other people were inside the apartment. The officers found cocaine, marijuana, large sums of cash, digital scales, drug distribution paraphernalia, and guns throughout the apartment. Cocaine was being cooked into crack on the stove top. A bale of marijuana was in the open pantry. Officers found $4,335 on Griffin. In total, close to $30,000 in cash was found on the men who were present in the apartment. A co-defendant testified that, shortly before the police executed the warrant, Griffin asked someone to go buy some batteries, ostensibly for one of the digital scales, and Griffin provided the funds for the batteries.

A chemist with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation testified about the results of her testing of several of the multiple bags of contraband seized from the apartment, including one bag that contained a chunky, solid material that was 24.7 percent pure cocaine and weighed 61.45 grams and several bags of a powdered material that was 49.4 percent pure cocaine and together weighed 235.83 grams.

The state presented as similar transaction evidence Griffin's prior convictions for cocaine

Page 517

possession and marijuana possession. The state also admitted a statement Griffin made in connection with an incident in which he was not charged. Griffin admitted driving [331 Ga.App. 552] another person to a location where that person was intending to sell cocaine and watching that person weigh the cocaine in the back seat of his car.

Griffin's defense was that he was merely at the apartment to attend a party. But evidence, including Griffin's distinctively large clothing scattered in one of the bedrooms, a photograph of Griffin and his girlfriend found in that bedroom, and Griffin's admission that he " stayed" at that apartment with his girlfriend, linked Griffin to the apartment.

At the time of the crimes in 2011 and Griffin's trial June 11-15, 2012, former OCGA § 16-13-31 (a) (1) provided, in relevant part:

Any person who knowingly sells, manufactures, delivers, or brings into this state or who is knowingly in possession of 28 grams or more of cocaine or of any mixture with a purity of 10 percent or more of cocaine, as described in Schedule II, in violation of this article commits the felony offense of trafficking in cocaine.

( The statute has since been amended to delete the word " knowingly." See Scott v. State, 295 Ga. 39, 40-41 (1), (2) & n. 1 (757 S.E.2d 106) (2014).) OCGA § 16-13-30 (j) (1) provides, " [i]t shall be unlawful for any person to possess, have under his or her control, manufacture, deliver, distribute, dispense, administer, purchase, sell, or possess with intent to distribute marijuana." The evidence described above supports the jury's determination that Griffin committed the offenses of cocaine trafficking and possession of marijuana with intent to distribute.

Griffin argues that there was insufficient evidence that he had knowledge of the weight of the cocaine. See Scott, 295 Ga. at 42 (3). But such knowledge may be proved by circumstantial evidence. Freeman v. State, 329 Ga.App. 429, 432 (1) (765 S.E.2d 631) (2014).

Because the trafficking conviction in this case is based on the possession of a cocaine mixture that weighed far more than 28 grams, and because the evidence was overwhelming that [Griffin] had enough experience handling cocaine to know that the cocaine ... which, the jury ...

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