Tag Archives | drug crimes

Statement of Confidential Informant Improperly Admitted in Drug Trafficking Trial

An Ohio Court of Appeals found that the statement of a confidential informant that the defendant had sold him drugs should not have been admitted at a drug trafficking trial on unrelated charges.

The case is State v. Robinson, 2012-Ohio-6068.

The defendant was convicted of possession of crack cocaine, trafficking of crack cocaine, and having a weapon under disability.

The facts started in 2008.  A Detective of the Toledo Police Department received information from a confidential informant of drugs being sold at a location that Clifford Robinson was at.  The police conducted surveillance researched past crime reports at the location which led them to believe that drug trafficking was taking place.

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Identification at Court Hearing ‘Concerns’ Court, But Not Enough to Lead to Suppression

An Ohio Court of Appeals (Twelfth District) rejected an argument that a identification that took place at a preliminary court hearing was impermissibly suggestive and should, as a result be suppressed.

The case is State v. Ward-Douglas, 2012-Ohio-4023.

The defendant was convicted of felony charges of making or presenting forged prescriptions for painkillers at pharmacies.  The state claimed that, as a course of conduct during 2008 and 2009, 15 false or fraudulent prescriptions for Percocet or Vicodin were written from one physician’s prescription pad and presented to pharmacies in either Warren, Butler, or Hamilton counties on an almost monthly basis.

The validity of the eyewitness identification was key to the case.  There were four witnesses, two witnesses from a West Chester pharmacy in Butler County and two from a Parkside Drive pharmacy in Warren County, who could potentially provide identification testimony because they viewed the perpetrator and the vehicle she was driving at the respective pharmacy drive thru.

The detective prepared a photo lineup of six African American women, including the defendant.  One witness identified the defendant “with 50% certainty.”  Another witness identified the suspect with “100% certainty.”  The detective then pointed out the suspect.

Six months later, the detective requested that the witnesses appear at a preliminary court hearing for the defendant “to see if they could make a better identification.”  Both witnesses confirmed the identification after the court hearing.

The court of appeals held that the identification process was not unconstitutional because it was not “so impermissibly suggestive as to give rise to a very substantial likelihood of misidentification.”  The court said:  “we conclude that the photo array or lineup procedures outlined by law enforcement in this case were not impermissibly or unduly suggestive.”

The court did express some “concern about the  identification at the court hearing.  However, these concerns were not enough to warrant suppression of the identification.  The court said:

we conclude that the identification previously provided by the witnesses possesses sufficient aspects of reliability, there appears to be no likelihood of misidentification under the totality of the circumstances, and no prejudice . . . Before [the defendant] appeared in municipal court in front of the two . . . pharmacy witnesses, both of those witnesses observed the perpetrator sufficiently during the crime to provide a physical description to law enforcement and offered some degree of identification at the photo lineup. 

The court noted in support of this conclusion that one of the witnesses had provided a description of the suspect that matched the defendant and had said she was 100% certain of the identification made during the photo lineup.  Notable, the other witness said that that the “court appearance did not change her feelings about her level of certainty, and she was not asked to identify the perpetrator at trial.”