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Lopez-Vasquez v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia

March 26, 2015

LOPEZ-VASQUEZ
v.
THE STATE

Page 219

Drug violation. Cobb Superior Court. Before Judge Grubbs.

Judson R. Knighton, for appellant.

D. Victor Reynolds, District Attorney, Amelia G. Pray, Assistant District Attorney, for appellee.

OPINION

Page 220

Barnes, Presiding Judge.

Jamie Lopez-Vasquez appeals from the order of the trial court denying his motion for new trial following his conviction for trafficking in methamphetamine and possession of methamphetamine. Lopez-Vasquez contends on appeal that the trial court erred in allowing the State to treat his co-defendant as a hostile witness, improperly restricting his closing argument, and also erred in its jury charge on the credibility of a witness. He also contends that trial counsel was ineffective and that the evidence was insufficient to sustain his conviction. Upon our review, we affirm.

1. When a criminal defendant challenges the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction, the relevant question is whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 319 (III) (B) (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

It is the duty of the jury, not this Court, to resolve conflicts in the testimony, weigh the evidence, and draw reasonable inferences from the evidence. As long as there is some competent evidence, even though contradicted, to support each fact necessary to make out the State's case, the jury's verdict will be upheld.

Page 221

(Citations and punctuation omitted.) Lomax v. State, 319 Ga.App. 693 (738 S.E.2d 152) (2013).

So viewed, the evidence demonstrates that an agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) received information that there was a large quantity of methamphetamine located in a suspected " stash" house on Glendale Circle in Smyrna. The DEA and [331 Ga.App. 571] the Marietta-Cobb-Smyrna Narcotics Unit surveilled the house, and on September 26, 2012, they observed Lopez-Vasquez leaving the house. A DEA agent stopped Lopez-Vasquez and explained to him that they were investigating suspected drug activity at the house. The agent accompanied Lopez-Vasquez to the house and, after ascertaining that Lopez-Vasquez and Martin Munoz-Olveda, a co-defendant, lived in the house, requested their permission to search the residence, which the men granted. Upon entering the residence, the agents discovered digital scales and " a large amount of methamphetamine residue" on the kitchen table. When the men said they could not open the locked bedroom doors and refused consent to search the rooms, the agents obtained a search warrant and retrieved 17 pounds of methamphetamine and other drug apparatus from one of the bedrooms. The room also contained papers with Munoz-Olveda's name. The agents also discovered a drink cooler containing methamphetamine oil in the garage. Lopez-Vasquez told agents that he slept on a sofa in the living room and did not use any of the bedrooms.

At trial, a DEA agent testified that a " stash" house is used to hold drugs for future distribution and that it is typically controlled and guarded by people staying there. He further testified that it was common for drug trafficking organizations to " rent a property and put a person in there to guard the stash house, and the provisions that are provided for that person ... [can] be a monetary stipend to help them with paying the rent or paying for the utilities." The agent testified that, as was typical with stash houses, the house was sparsely decorated and it had a security camera, and this was done so that the operation could be easily moved to another location.

Munoz-Olveda was tried jointly with Lopez-Vasquez, but entered a negotiated plea of guilty during the trial in exchange for his testimony as a State's witness. He was subsequently declared a hostile witness, and admitted during his testimony that the men's job was to watch over the drugs in the stash house, and that Lopez-Vasquez knew that the drugs ...


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