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State v. Martinez

Supreme Court of Rhode Island

July 7, 2016

State
v.
Jonathan Martinez.

         SOURCE OF APPEAL: Providence County Superior Court (P2/14-989AG) JUDGE FROM LOWER COURT: Associate Justice Robert D. Krause

         ATTORNEYS ON APPEAL:

          For State: Christopher R. Bush Department of Attorney General

          For Defendant: John F. Cicilline, Esq.

          Present: Suttell, C.J., Goldberg, Flaherty, Robinson, and Indeglia, JJ.

          OPINION

          Maureen McKenna Goldberg Justice.

         This case came before the Supreme Court on May 4, 2016, pursuant to an order directing the parties to appear and show cause why the issues raised in this appeal should not be summarily decided. The defendant, Jonathan Martinez, appeals from a judgment of conviction after a jury found him guilty of one count of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, one count of possession of a firearm while in possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Before this Court, the defendant argues that the trial justice erred in not permitting him to present either an opening statement to the jury or oral argument in support of his motion for judgment of acquittal. He also challenges a portion of the jury instructions and a statement made by the trial justice to the jury regarding the availability of transcripts during their deliberations. After hearing the arguments of counsel and examining the memoranda filed by the parties, we are of the opinion that cause has not been shown, and we proceed to decide the appeal at this time. We vacate the judgment of conviction entered by the Superior Court.

         Facts and Travel

         The facts of this case are straightforward. During the course of a three-week surveillance of 30-32 Frederick Street in Providence, a narcotics detective from the Providence Police Department observed defendant-the target of the investigation-enter and exit the multi-family residence approximately five or six times. The detective also observed numerous individuals entering the premises and departing soon after-a pattern consistent with retail narcotics activity. On August 20, 2013, armed with an arrest and search warrant, detectives stopped defendant's vehicle less than a mile away from the premises, after having observed him leave the building and drive away with two men. The detectives arrested defendant and his passengers-his co-defendant, Felix Ramos (Ramos), and another individual. At that time, detectives seized a set of keys from defendant's person that subsequently unlocked an exterior door and a bedroom door in the apartment located on the second floor of 32 Frederick Street.

         Thereafter, the detectives executed the search warrant for the second-floor apartment. Their search of the kitchen uncovered three bags of cocaine, which together weighed 0.5 grams, and a plate containing 5.2 grams of loose crack cocaine. In the bedroom-where the door was unlocked by using one of the keys seized from defendant-detectives discovered a gun case containing a loaded semi-automatic handgun and a receipt for the gun with defendant's name on it. From another bedroom, detectives seized three bags of heroin, which weighed a total of 1.7 grams. The bags had been stored in a small box containing loose rice, which-according to the testimony of the detective who seized it-often is utilized by drug dealers to keep heroin dry before sale. Also in that bedroom, detectives found two bottles of clonazepam and diazepam, which were prescribed to individuals other than defendant and Ramos. The detectives also seized from the apartment a digital scale, two .45-caliber ammunition rounds, two boxes of sandwich bags and a glass bottle containing several "piece[s] of plastic from * * * sandwich fold-top bag[s], "[1] a 100-gram weight, a calculator, large sums of cash, [2] and a suspected cutting agent.[3]

         The state charged defendant with three counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 21-28-4.01(a)(4)(i) (count 1-heroin; count 2-cocaine; and count 3-clonazepam); one count of possession of a firearm while possessing a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in violation of G.L. 1956 § 11-47-8(c) (count 4); and one count of conspiracy to possess a controlled substance with intent to deliver, in violation of § 21-28-4.08 (count 5).

         A jury trial was held in Providence County Superior Court in November 2014. At trial, after the prosecution presented its opening statement, defense counsel indicated that he intended to address the jury as well. The following exchange ensued at sidebar:

"THE COURT: Are you anticipating putting any evidence on? "[DEFENSE]: I ...

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