STATE v. THOMAS STOVALL, SC 19167

Judicial District of Fairfield

 

      Criminal; Whether Evidence was Sufficient to Support Jury’s Finding that Defendant Intended to Sell Narcotics Within 1500 Feet of Public Housing Project.  In the course of executing a search warrant at an apartment at the Green Homes public housing project in Bridgeport, the police discovered, inter alia, thirteen plastic ziplock bags containing crack cocaine inside a men’s jacket that was hanging in a closet.  The defendant, who was visiting the tenant at the time of the search, was charged with possession of narcotics with intent to sell within 1500 feet of a public housing project in violation of General Statutes § 21a-278a (b).  At trial, a police detective testified that the evidence seized from the apartment—including sixteen cell phones, small empty ziplock bags, two razor blades with narcotics residue and the thirteen ziplock bags containing crack cocaine—combined with the absence of a crack pipe or another device to ingest crack cocaine suggested that the drugs were being sold out of the apartment.  The tenant testified that, while she saw the defendant either at her apartment or around Green Homes a few times per week, she had never seen him sell drugs.  After being convicted as charged, the defendant appealed, contending, among other things, that the state failed to present sufficient evidence to prove that he had constructive possession of the drugs or that he intended to sell at Green Homes public housing project.  After rejecting the defendant’s constructive possession claim, the Appellate Court (142 Conn. App. 562) concluded that there was sufficient evidence that the defendant intended to sell the crack cocaine found in the jacket and that he intended to do so within 1500 feet of a public housing project.  The Appellate Court opined that it was within the province of the jury to credit the detective’s testimony over the tenant’s testimony.  The Supreme Court will now review the Appellate Court’s conclusion that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdict that the defendant intended to sell narcotics within 1500 feet of a public housing project.