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State v. Taylor

Supreme Court of Idaho

September 19, 2014

STATE OF IDAHO, Plaintiff-Respondent-Cross Appellant,
v.
MATTHEW STEVEN TAYLOR, Defendant-Appellant-Cross Respondent

2014 Opinion No. 98.

Appeal from the District Court of the Fourth Judicial District of the State of Idaho, Ada County. Hon. Richard D. Greenwood, District Judge.

The judgment of the district court is affirmed in part and reversed in part.

Nevin, Benjamin, McKay & Bartlett, LLP, Boise, for appellant. Dennis A. Benjamin argued.

Honorable Lawrence G. Wasden, Attorney General, Boise, for respondent. Kenneth K. Jorgensen argued.

J. JONES, Justice. Chief Justice BURDICK, and Justices EISMANN, W. JONES, and HORTON CONCUR.

OPINION

Page 32

[157 Idaho 187] J. JONES, Justice

This appeal arises from the conviction of Matthew Taylor for conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver

Page 33

[157 Idaho 188] a controlled substance; conspiracy to deliver or possess with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia; and delivery of a controlled substance. After the jury returned a guilty verdict, Taylor filed a motion to acquit and a motion for a new trial. The district court denied the motion to acquit, as well as the motion for new trial on the delivery charge, but granted the motion for a new trial on the conspiracy charges, holding that the jury should have been instructed that mistake of law is a defense to conspiracy. We affirm in part and reverse in part.

I.

BACKGROUND

In September 2011, in response to a tip regarding suspicious activity, the Boise Police Department began investigating a warehouse in Boise leased by a man named Morgan Alley. The police conducted surveillance of the warehouse, observing who came and went, and seized trash discarded outside the warehouse on multiple occasions. Upon obtaining a warrant, Detective Joseph Andreoli searched the warehouse and found synthetic cannabinoids and the materials necessary to manufacture products containing synthetic cannabinoids.[1] Andreoli testified that the warehouse contained " all of the items necessary" to manufacture synthetic marijuana, " including chemical; plant material; acetone, which is used as a solvent; and tobacco flavoring." The warehouse also contained " the packaging materials, such as the small plastic containers, lids, and sticker labels" necessary to package a finished synthetic marijuana product. In fact, the warehouse was set up in an assembly line fashion and contained synthetic marijuana in various stages of completion. The warehouse also contained finished synthetic marijuana products in small plastic containers labeled with stickers reading " Twizted Potpourri."

During the course of the investigation, the police expanded their surveillance to include the Red Eye Hut, a Boise store owned by the limited liability company for which Morgan Alley was the registered agent. Detective Andreoli stated that the Red Eye " appeared to be a head shop" [2] due to the nature " of the items for sale inside." The shop contained various types of pipes, concealment containers, grinders, digital scales, drug testing kits, and " body-cleansing solutions to defeat drug tests." One evening, Detective Andreoli visited the Red Eye in an undercover capacity and purchased three containers of Twizted Potpourri from Matthew Taylor. Testing showed that two of these containers contained JWH-019 and the other contained AM-2201. Both JWH-019 and AM-2201 are synthetic cannabinoids. Thereafter, the police executed search warrants on the warehouse and the Red Eye, seizing approximately 30,000 containers of Twizted Potpourri from the warehouse and over 9,000 containers of Potpourri and 340 pipes from the Red Eye.

Taylor was subsequently charged with conspiracy to manufacture, deliver or possess with intent to deliver a controlled substance in violation of Idaho Code sections 37-2732(a), 18-1701, and 37-2732(f); conspiracy to deliver or possess with intent to deliver drug paraphernalia in violation of Idaho Code sections 37-2734B and 18-1701; and delivery of a controlled substance in violation of Idaho Code section 37-2732(a). His case was consolidated with co-defendants Morgan Alley, Tashina Alley, Cadee Peterson, Charlynda Goggin, Hieu Phan, and Tonya Williams. Prior to trial, Taylor moved to dismiss all charges against him arguing that the State could not prove that he knew the Twizted Potpourri contained a controlled substance. The district court denied this motion.[3]

Page 34

[157 Idaho 189] Taylor proceeded to jury trial along with three other defendants including Goggin. Taylor was convicted on all counts, as was Goggin.[4] Taylor then filed a motion pursuant to I.C.R. 29 for judgment of acquittal on all charges and a separate motion for new trial. The district court issued a memorandum decision denying the motion for acquittal and denying a new trial on the delivery count, but granting a new trial on the two conspiracy counts because it did not instruct the jury that a mistake of law is a defense to conspiracy. Taylor timely appeals the order denying his motion to acquit and denying his motion for a new trial on the delivery charge. The State cross-appeals from the order granting a new trial on the conspiracy charges.[5]

II.

ISSUES ON APPEAL

I. Did the district court err when it denied Taylor's motion to acquit for insufficient evidence?
II. Did the district court err when it denied Taylor's motion for a new trial on the delivery charge?
III. Did the district court err when it granted Taylor's motion for a new trial on the conspiracy charges?

III.

ANALYSIS

Taylor contends that the district court erred in denying his motion for acquittal on the delivery and conspiracy charges. He argues in the alternative that the district court erred in denying his motion for a new trial on the delivery charge. The State cross-appeals, arguing that the district court erred in granting a new trial on the conspiracy counts. These issues will be addressed in turn.

A. Motion to Acquit

Taylor contends that the district court erred in denying his motion to acquit because there was insufficient evidence to support his convictions. Under I.C.R. 29, the district court may set aside a jury verdict and enter judgment of acquittal " if the evidence is insufficient to sustain a conviction."

The Fourteenth Amendment of the United States Constitution guarantees the right to due process, and the U.S. Supreme Court has held that as a part of that due process, " no person shall be made to suffer the onus of a criminal conviction except upon sufficient proof--defined as evidence necessary to convince a trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt of the existence of every element of the offense."

State v. Adamcik, 152 Idaho 445, 460, 272 P.3d 417, 432 (2012) (quoting Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 316, 99 S.Ct. 2781, 61 L.Ed.2d 560, (1979)). Nonetheless, " [a]ppellate review of the sufficiency of the evidence is limited in scope." State v. Herrera-Brito, ...


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