By:St. Clair Sazam Hull
(CHARLESTOWN NEVIS)- The Magistrate Court in Charlestown, District C Nevis resumed its normal sitting on Tuesday, June 27, 2016 before Her Honor, Magistrate Yasmine Clarke.
The matter before the Court was that of Patreicia James of Cherry Gardens who was charged with possession of cannabis with intent to supply. She pleaded not guilty to both charges.
According to Police Prosecutor, Eurita Percival, on Friday, November 13, 2015, a search was conducted at the house of the accused at Cherry Gardens. Percival noted, that during the search a large amount of cannabis was discovered which amounted to four hundred and thirty-six (436) pounds. She told the Court, that the estimated street value of the drugs was valued at 5.2 million Easter Caribbean dollars. As a result of that find, the accused was taken into custody and charged.
The Prosecution’s first witness was Constable George. He stated that on Friday, November 13, 2015; he and other members of the task force visited the home of the defendant. George pointed out, that this was done after they had received information that the accused was suspected to be in the possession of illegal drugs. He indicated that they entered and conducted a search on the property of Ms. James and found a large amount of cannabis.
During cross-examination, lawyer for the defendant Ms. Natasha Gray, asked Constable George how many officers went inside the home of the accused besides him and Sergeant Phipps. George said that he could not remember the exact number of officers that went inside. Ms. Gray also questioned the officer about who else was residing in the house at the time and if the defendant was the only occupant when they carried out the search. The officer indicated that he had no idea if Ms. James was the only person who was living there at the time. When asked if the accused was hesitant about opening the room, Officer George noted that the defendant opened the door willingly without hesitation.
Gray also questioned George about the bags and the red bucket that were inside the room and if any other items were present alongside those two items. The Constable told the Court, that he was unsure if more items were there besides the items that were retrieved. When asked if he saw what was inside the bags the officer pointed out that they were some white crocus bags and what they contained was conspicuous. The lawyer asked the witness if pictures were taken as to where the items were positioned. George noted that pictures were taken but he was uncertain as to who took them. The lawyer told the officer that he was not being totally honest.
She stated that when Sergeant Phipps told the defendant that the items that were in the bags were ‘weed’ that is when the accused said, “Okay its weed”. The lawyer also noted that the bales that were found were not opened at the house of the accused but they were opened at the police station. Ms. Gray told George that he could not say for a fact that Ms. James knew what was in the bags. The officer said that when Ms. James was asked by Sergeant Phipps what was in the bags, she replied and said weed.
The Prosecution’s second witness was Sergeant Phipps. She told the Court that based on intelligence and investigations carried out, her and other members of the Royal St. Christopher and Nevis Police Force traveled to Nevis from St. Kitts and executed a search on the property of the accused at Cherry Gardens. Phipps noted that a member of the unit knocked on the front door and a female voice came from inside the house and asked, “Who it is”? She stated that a member answered and said Police and we have a warrant to search the house. Phipps indicated, that the accused opened the door a little bit and asked to see the warrant. She stated, that the warrant was shown and read to the defendant and she opened the door wider and they entered the house.
Sergeant Phipps stated that upon entering the house, members of the unit began clearing the house. The officer told the Court, that the house consisted of three bedrooms, but the bedroom on the left was locked and she asked the defendant for the key and she complied. Phipps said that before she unlocked the door, she inquired from the defendant who was the owner of the house. The defendent said that her mom had died and left the house for her. The officer stated that she proceeded and opened the door and saw several white plastic bags, one taped package and a bucket. Phipps told the Court, that a strong scent of marijuana was coming from the room and she told the defendant, that she suspected that the Crocus bags and containers in the bucket to be cannabis.
The officer indicated that she cautioned the defendant and asked her what the Crocus bags, taped bales and bucket contained and she said weed. Phipps said she asked the defendant what is weed and she said marijuana. Phipps said that she asked the defendant how they got in there and she responded by saying that a tall black man knocked on her door one night and put them in the room. The officer told the Court that the accused said she didn’t knew who the tall black man was. Phipps further stated that she told Ms. James that she was under arrest for the possession of cannabis with the intent to supply. She stated that they continued to search the house and the accused told them that they were not going to find anything else.
Sergeant Phipps pointed out, that the search lasted for an hour, and eleven (11) Crocus Bags, nine (9) boxes, one bucket were found. The items recovered along with the defendant were transported to the Cotton Ground Police Station. She told the Court that they were all emptied and counted in the presence of the accused. She indicated that the total amount came to seventy (70) packages and the contents were placed back into the Crocus bags also in the presence of the accused. The officer told the Court that the bags were then sealed with exhibit tape and the defendant was invited to sign to give verification that the drugs belonged to her. Phipps noted that later that same evening, she formerly charged and cautioned the defendant. The officer said that on Saturday, November 21, 2015 the drugs were taken to St. Kitts to be tested. She said that it weighed four hundred and thirty-six (436) pounds.
During cross-examination, Ms. Gray asked Phipps if Ms. James was under surveillance before the search was conducted. Phipps noted that she was in Nevis the preceding Tuesday Prior to the search but she had traveled back to St. Kitts on Wednesday. Gray asked Phipps if the accused gave them any trouble when they went to the house and Phipps said the accused did not give them any trouble whatsoever she only asked to see the warrant. The officer said Ms. James also did not give any trouble when she was asked to unlock the bedroom door. Ms. Gary asked the officer why did she ask the accused if it was ‘weed’? Phipps replied that she asked in order to understand what is ‘weed’.
The lawyer told Phipps that she was unsure as to what was in the bag and that is why she asked the defendant the question. Ms. Gray also asked Phipps if any inquiries were made about the tall black man that she told the Court the accused had talked about. Phipps said no inquires were made about that person. When asked about if pictures of the items were taken the officer said she took pictures with her phone during the search. When asked to present them the officer stated that she was not a certified photographer. Ms. Gray told the officer that there were ways and means of having those photos produced and it was also not difficult in getting a certified photographer.
The accused Patreicia James, also gave evidence from the docket. She told the Court that she was back and forth between Jessups and Cherry Gardens at the time of the incident. She stated that when she got home on the day in question she heard knocking on the door and when she opened the Police said that they had a warrant to search the house. She said one of the officers read the warrant to her and she let them inside. Ms. James indicated that there was a locked bedroom and they asked her for the key and they opened the door and asked her if she knew what was in the Crocus bags. The accused noted that she told the officers that they were placed in the room and she did not know what was in them and she only became aware when the police took out the cannabis at the police station. The defendant said the room was been used as a storeroom.
During cross-examination, Prosecutor Percival asked the accused if she was the one who gave the tall black man permission to bring drugs to her house and the accused said she did not know it was drugs. Percival also asked James if she is the only one who has keys to her house and James indicated that she was the only one with keys. When asked how long the drugs were at her house before she went back there, the accused told the Court that she was back and forth between Jessups and her residence in Cherry Gardens. Percival also asked the accused, if the person who placed the stuff there was related to her, James said that the person is a friend of hers.
In her closing statement to the Court, the defense lawyer pointed out that the defendant had no knowledge that cannabis was in her house. She said that the defendant did not deny that the drugs were not found at the house she occupied, but the evidence placed before the Court, did not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she had knowledge or requisite knowledge. The lawyer indicated, that if there were two contrasting evidence, then the benefit ought to be given to the defendant. She stated that given the circumstances under which the packages were received by Ms. James, the Court should dismiss the charges.
In making her decision, Her Honor stated that what she found interesting was that a person was going to drop off something at her house and you are not going to ask what is was. The Magistrate pointed out that it did not matter how close you and a person may be, you must check to see what they are leaving at your house. Her Honor also said that if a scent was in the house that is not usually there you will automatically check to see what the scent is and where it is coming from. Her Honor told the defendant that she had knowledge of what was at her house and she was guilty as charged.
Counsel for the defendant, pleaded with the Court to have mercy on the accused. She indicated, that the accused was 21 years old with three young children who are solely dependent on her. Ms. Gray told the Court, that the accused had no previous convictions or running with the law prior to this matter. The lawyer said that what the accused was found guilty of was something of utmost seriousness, but everyone deserves a second chance to redeem oneself. She respectfully asked the Court to impose a fine on the defendant with reasonable time in which to pay it.
The accused was fined one hundred thousand dollars to be paid in six months. Failure to comply will be resulted in two years imprisonment.