Heard: March 2, 2018.
received and sworn to in the Lawrence Division of the
District Court Department on April 19, 2016.
case was tried before Lynn C. Rooney, J.
R. Prendergast for the defendant.
R. Mello, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.
Present: Maldonado, Blake, & Desmond, JJ.
called upon to address whether there was sufficient
circumstantial evidence presented in this case to justify the
judge's denial of the defendant's motion for required
findings of not guilty. Concluding that the evidence was
sufficient, we affirm the defendant's convictions.
convicted the defendant of distribution of a class B
substance (G. L. c. 94C, § 32A[a.]) and committing a
drug violation near a park (G. L. c. 94C, § 32J). At the
close of evidence, the defendant moved for required findings
of not guilty, which the judge denied.
jury would have been warranted in finding the following
facts. At approximately 1:45 P.M. on April 15, 2016, members
of the Lawrence police department's narcotics unit were
patrolling in the area of a park, in response to recent
complaints about drug activity in the area, when a car with
Maine license plates stopped alongside the park and the
defendant got in the car. Based on their training and
experience, the officers were aware that many people come to
Lawrence from New Hampshire or Maine to buy narcotics,
generally in areas close to the highway, such as the park in
question. Once the defendant entered the car, it traveled
approximately 150 yards, turning once, before it stopped and
the defendant got out. Nothing in the way the parties acted
during that brief drive directly indicated a drug transaction
had taken place; no hand-to-hand exchange or similar action
was observed. Concluding that he had reasonable suspicion to
believe a drug transaction had just taken place, the officer
who was following the car conducted a motor vehicle stop. The
car did not immediately stop. Upon stopping, the driver of the
vehicle was observed moving around in the vehicle with a
clenched hand, such that the officer asked him to step out of
the car for safety purposes. That officer discovered two
"twists" of what was determined to be
cocaine clenched in the driver's hand.
recovering the cocaine, that officer radioed another officer
who was following the defendant and instructed him to arrest
the defendant. The officer did so, and in a subsequent search
of the defendant discovered fifty-six dollars in cash. Both
the driver of the vehicle and the defendant were in view of
police officers from the time the defendant entered the
vehicle until the time each was arrested.
addition to the testimony of the two officers, the jury also
heard from a State police trooper who offered expert
testimony regarding drug transactions. He opined that
"the most common scenario" of a street-level drug
transaction is that a person arrives from out of town, makes
a telephone call to place an order, and is instructed to go
to a certain location. Once there, either the drug dealer or
a "runner" for that dealer will meet the buyer and
"the delivery is usually concluded inside of the car,
either while the car is moving or while it remains
parked." The expert further testified that a "ride
to nowhere," such as the brief ride the defendant was
observed taking in the car, "very rarely [has] an
explanation other than that it was a drug deal."
Finally, the expert noted that a small ...