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Pennington v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

June 27, 2018

PENNINGTON
v.
THE STATE.

          MCFADDEN, P. J., RAY and RICKMAN, JJ.

          McFadden, Presiding Judge.

         Charles Lee Pennington, Jr. appeals from his convictions for trafficking in methamphetamine (OCGA § 16-13-31 (f) (1)) and possession with the intent to distribute of a controlled substance near a school (OCGA § 16-13-32.4). He challenges the sufficiency of the evidence as to both convictions, but the evidence was sufficient to support them. He argues that the trial court erred in striking a prospective juror for cause, but he has not shown that the trial court abused his discretion in striking the prospective juror. Finally, he argues that the trial court erred in failing to charge the jury on an affirmative defense related to the offense of possession with intent to distribute near a school, but he was not entitled to that charge because he did not admit to having committed the offense. So we affirm.

         1. Sufficiency of the evidence.

         "On appeal from a criminal conviction, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the verdict, with the defendant no longer enjoying a presumption of innocence." Reese v. State, 270 Ga.App. 522, 523 (607 S.E.2d 165) (2004) (citation omitted). We neither weigh the evidence nor judge the credibility of witnesses, but determine only 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) (emphasis omitted).

         So viewed, the evidence showed that on September 25, 2014, law enforcement officers, based on a tip, went to property adjacent to an elementary school. Pennington was using a shed on the property as his residence. The shed was less than 100 feet away from the elementary school property.

         With Pennington's consent, the officers searched the shed, which was divided into a common area and two bedrooms. The shed appeared to be an active methamphetamine lab, and the smell of chemicals associated with methamphetamine production could be detected inside and outside the shed. Pennington showed the officers a vessel of a type used for manufacturing methamphetamine, which had been hidden behind a dresser in a common area and which contained methamphetamine residue. The officers also found in the common area a bottle of a substance used in methamphetamine production.

         In Pennington's room, the officers found numerous empty, unused plastic baggies of a type used in the distribution or storage of drugs, a used plastic baggie containing methamphetamine residue, and a glass pipe with methamphetamine residue on it. The officers also found in Pennington's room equipment and substances used in methamphetamine production. The officers found empty plastic baggies in the other bedroom and empty, discarded containers of substances used in methamphetamine production outside the shed.

         (a) Trafficking.

         Pennington argues that this evidence was insufficient to show that he committed the offense of trafficking in methamphetamine. We disagree. The state charged Pennington with trafficking pursuant to OCGA § 16-13-31 (f) (1), which pertinently provides that "[a]ny person who manufactures methamphetamine . . . commits the felony offense of trafficking methamphetamine" and sets the minimum punishment for such an offense if the quantity of methamphetamine involved is less than 200 grams. The evidence, which included the presence of equipment and supplies for the production of methamphetamine in both the common area and Pennington's room in the shed, authorized the jury to find Pennington guilty of trafficking in methamphetamine. See State v. Nankervis, 295 Ga. 406, 410-411 (3) (761 S.E.2d 1) (2014).

         (b) Possession with intent to distribute near a school.

         We also do not agree with Pennington's argument that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for possession of methamphetamine with intent to distribute near a school. OCGA § 16-13-32.4 (a) provides that

[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or possess with intent to distribute a controlled substance or marijuana in, on, or within 1, 000 feet of any real property owned by or leased to any public or private elementary school, secondary school, or school board used for elementary or secondary education.

         The evidence authorized the jury to find that Pennington was in possession of methamphetamine within 1, 000 feet of an elementary school. While only the residue of methamphetamine was found in Pennington's shed at the time of his arrest, there was circumstantial evidence that he had recently possessed methamphetamine, including the presence of equipment and ingredients for manufacturing methamphetamine and the strong odor of methamphetamine that permeated the shed. The state was permitted to prove that Pennington committed this offense on any date within the statute of limitations because the indictment did not allege that the date of Pennington's possession of methamphetamine was material. See Ledesma v. State, 251 Ga. 885 (1) (a) (311 S.E.2d 427) (1984). And there was evidence that he intended to distribute the methamphetamine that had been in his possession, including the presence of unused plastic baggies and the testimony of a law enforcement officer that such baggies often were used for the distribution of drugs. Although, in support of his sufficiency challenge, Pennington points to the absence of ...


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