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Smith v. State

Court of Appeals of Georgia, Fifth Division

June 17, 2019

SMITH
v.
THE STATE. THE STATE
v.
RENO.

          MCFADDEN, P. J., MCMILLIAN and GOSS, JJ.

          McMillian, Judge.

         Co-defendants Justin Alan Smith and Jason Dale Reno were each convicted by a jury of trafficking methamphetamine following a traffic stop of a car owned by Smith but driven by Reno.[1] In Case No. A19A0089, Smith appeals the denial of his motion for new trial, asserting that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction and the trial court erred in denying his motion for directed verdict. In Case No. A19A0092, the State appeals the trial court's ruling reversing the jury's verdict on the trafficking charge on the ground that the evidence against him was insufficient as a matter of law to support his conviction. Because we find that the evidence was sufficient to support the convictions of each of the defendants on the trafficking charge, we affirm in Case No. A18A0089 and reverse in Case No. A19A0092.

         The evidence at trial, viewed in the light most favorable to the verdict, [2] showed that on June 20, 2015, a deputy with the Franklin County Sheriff's Office conducted a traffic stop of a vehicle driven by Reno on Interstate 85 ("I-85"). Reno told the deputy that he did not have a driver's license, and a record search reflected that Reno's license had been suspended. Smith told the deputy that the car belonged to him, and a check of the vehicle tag reflected that the car belonged to his mother.[3]During the traffic stop, the deputy detected the odor of marijuana and observed that Reno appeared unusually nervous. Reno admitted that he had marijuana in his pocket, and he handed it to the deputy. When the deputy asked if there was anything illegal in the vehicle, Reno said that he had a "blunt" in a compartment in the passenger-side door.

         During a search of the vehicle, the deputy discovered the marijuana "blunt" in the passenger door and a shoe box in the trunk of the car containing a pistol, ammunition, and a bag with a substance that later field tested positive for methamphetamine. Smith said that the box and the gun belonged to him but denied that the bag was his. Subsequent analysis determined that the bag contained 55.68 grams of methamphetamine.

         Smith testified at trial and denied that he had put the methamphetamine in the car or that he sold methamphetamine. He stated that the drugs belonged to a former roommate, who had two prior methamphetamine-related convictions. Smith said that the day before the traffic stop, he had allowed the roommate to use his car for a short period, but the roommate had returned the car much later than agreed upon. When the roommate finally did return with the car, Smith immediately drove away without allowing the roommate the opportunity to remove anything from the vehicle.

         After Smith and Reno were convicted, each filed motions for new trial. Smith's motion was denied, while Reno's motion was granted. These appeals followed.

         Case No. A19A0089

         Smith argues on appeal that the trial court erred in denying his motions for directed verdict and for new trial because the State's evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for trafficking in methamphetamine.

         Our Supreme Court has held that:

[t]he standard of review for the denial of a motion for a directed verdict of acquittal is the same as for determining the sufficiency of the evidence to support a conviction. When reviewing the sufficiency of the evidence, the proper standard for review is whether a rational trier of fact could have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. This Court does not reweigh evidence or resolve conflicts in testimony; instead, evidence is reviewed in a light most favorable to the verdict, with deference to the jury's assessment of the weight and credibility of the evidence.

(Citations and punctuation omitted). Smith v. State, 304 Ga. 752, 754 (822 S.E.2d 220) (2018). On appeal, Smith no longer enjoys the presumption of innocence, and we must affirm the verdict if there is any evidence to support it. Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307 (99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560) (1979).

         The crime of trafficking in methamphetamine is defined under OCGA § 16-13-31 (e), as follows:

Except as authorized by this article, any person who sells, delivers, or brings into this state or has possession of 28 grams or more of methamphetamine, amphetamine, or any mixture containing either methamphetamine or amphetamine, as described in Schedule II, in violation of this article ...

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