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State v. Petitt

Court of Appeals of Connecticut

December 5, 2017

STATE OF CONNECTICUT
v.
DARYL PETITT

          Argued September 19, 2017

          Daniel J. Foster, assigned counsel, for the appellant (defendant).

          James M. Ralls, assistant state's attorney, with whom, on the brief, were Richard J. Colangelo, Jr., state's attorney, and Susan M. Campbell, assistant state's attorney, for the appellee (state).

          Lavine, Elgo and Flynn, Js.

          OPINION

          FLYNN, J.

         Real evidence that plays an actual and direct part in the incidents giving rise to a criminal trial may be properly authenticated because it was found or seized at the crime scene. Where that real evidence is a narcotic substance, the state's proof of that narcotic character is properly authenticated by presenting testimony tracing the evidence from the time it was found or, in this case, purchased to the time it is offered in the courtroom with sufficient completeness to render it reasonably probable that what is offeredis the original and has neither been changed nor altered.

         The defendant, Daryl Petitt, appeals from the judgment of conviction, rendered after a jury trial, of three counts of illegal sale of narcotics in violation of General Statutes § 21a-277 (a). On appeal, the defendant claims the trial court abused its discretion in admitting into evidence crack cocaine from the second and third sales the defendant made to an undercover police officer, who could not authenticate the drugs because he made no distinguishing mark on the contraband. The defendant also claims that the trial court committed plain error by not striking from evidence the crack cocaine from the first sale the defendant made to the officer because the evidence was not first properly authenticated. He seeks reversal of all three counts and a new trial on each of them. We conclude that because the chain of custody was properly established for all three pieces of evidence, the trial court neither abused its discretion nor committed plain error in admitting them into evidence for the jury's consideration. We accordingly affirm the judgment.

         The following facts, which the jury reasonably could have found, and procedural history are pertinent to this appeal.[1] In the fall of 2013, a confidential informant informed Stamford Police Officer Michael Connelly that a man who went by the name ‘‘DP'' was selling crack cocaine. The informant provided Connelly with DP's cell phone number, which one could call to make arrangements with DP to buy drugs. Connelly identified DP as the defendant and, as officer in charge, proceeded to conduct an investigation using an undercover officer.

         The investigation consisted of three drug buys using money provided by Connelly, which were conducted by Waterbury Police Detective Maximo Torres acting as undercover officer. Torres wore a Kel monitoring device, which recorded and transmitted audio and global positioning system (GPS) information to other officers stationed nearby. After each sale, Torres met Connelly at a prearranged safe location and gave Connelly the drugs he purchased from the defendant.

         The first sale took place on October 29, 2013. On that date, Torres called the defendant and asked for $100 worth of cocaine. The defendant agreed to sell Torres the cocaine and had Torres meet him at a bodega. There, the defendant and a man the defendant introduced as his cousin got into Torres' car. During the ride, the Kel device recorded the defendant stating that he had three bags left to sell and that he sold ‘‘base.'' Torres drove the two to another location, where the cousin briefly left. The cousin returned with drugs that he then handed to the defendant. Torres drove the two back to the bodega, where the defendant gave Torres six pieces of cocaine in bags in exchange for $100. The defendant and the cousin left. Torres met police at the safe area, where he gave Connelly the six bags of cocaine that he obtained from the defendant. Connelly weighed, field-tested and secured the drugs in an evidence locker pending further testing at the state laboratory.

         The second sale occurred on November 5, 2013. Torres called the defendant, and they arranged to meet in downtown Stamford. Torres was met by the defendant and a woman he introduced as his girlfriend. Torres drove them to another location. While the three were in the car outside of the Stamford Police Department, the defendant exchanged six bags of cocaine with Torres for $100. Torres eventually drove the two to a restaurant and dropped them off. Torres met police at the safe area, where he gave Connelly the six bags of cocaine that he obtained from the defendant. Connelly weighed, field-tested and secured the drugs in a police property locker pending future testing at the state laboratory.

         The third sale also occurred on November 5, 2013. Torres called the defendant asking for $50 worth of cocaine. Torres picked up the defendant and his girlfriend at the restaurant and drove them to an apartment complex. Upon arrival, the defendant exchanged three bags of cocaine with Torres for $50. After dropping them off, Torres met police at the safe area, where he gave Connelly the three bags of cocaine the defendant had given to him. Connelly weighed, field-tested and secured the drugs in a police property locker pending future testing at the state laboratory.

         The drugs Torres purchased from the defendant, which had been weighed, field-tested, and secured by Connelly, later were delivered to the state laboratory by Stamford Police Officer Terry Lauf on June 17, 2014. Vivian Texidor, a forensic science examiner at the state laboratory, was assigned to analyze the drugs to confirm that they indeed were narcotics. She opened the packaging on June 23, 2014, but did not test the drugs until June 30, 2014. After taking photos of the drugs and weighing them, Texidor performed tests and determined that the drugs were cocaine in freebase form.[2]After testing, Texidor sealed the drugs in bags, labeled them and initialed them. At trial, Texidor identified the drugs by the label and her initials.

         The defendant was charged with three counts of illegal sale of narcotics. Following a jury trial, he was convicted on all counts, and was sentenced to a total effective sentence of twelve years of imprisonment, followed by five years of special ...


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