Searching over 5,500,000 cases.


searching
Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.

Commonwealth v. Lewis

Appeals Court of Massachusetts, Bristol

October 31, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
VAUGHN LEWIS.

          Heard: January 7, 2019.

          Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on March 12, 2009. A motion to withdraw a plea of guilty, filed on March 1, 2017, was heard by Robert C. Cosgrove, J.

          MarySita Miles for the defendant.

          Robert P. Kidd, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Present: Agnes, Sacks, & Ditkoff, JJ.

          DITKOFF, J.

         The defendant, Vaughn Lewis, pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, G. L. c. 94C, § 32 (a.), and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, G. L. c. 94C, § 32A (c0 . A Superior Court judge allowed the defendant's motion to withdraw his guilty plea with respect to the cocaine charge based on the malfeasance of chemist Annie Dookhan, [1] where Dookhan was one of the certifying analysts, but denied the motion with respect to the heroin charge, where the heroin was tested in a different laboratory by an analyst other than Dookhan. The defendant now appeals from the partial denial of his motion. Concluding that the judge acted within his discretion in determining that the guilty pleas were divisible, and that the defendant is not entitled to the conclusive presumption of government misconduct based on the non-Dookhan heroin certificates, we affirm.

         1. Background.

         Based on information provided by a confidential informant that the defendant was operating a drug distribution service out of a first-floor apartment, the New Bedford police began conducting surveillance. After the informant made a controlled purchase of cocaine from the defendant at the apartment, an officer obtained a search warrant.

         On the evening of February 18, 2009, officers conducted surveillance in preparation for the execution of the warrant. The officers observed the defendant exit the front door of the apartment building and get into a car parked in front of the building. The operator of the car drove it away, and the officers followed. The officers stopped the car and placed the defendant in custody. Pursuant to the warrant, an officer searched the defendant and recovered $465, one plastic bag of suspected heroin from his coat pocket, and a set of keys.

         The officers used the keys found on the defendant to gain access to the first-floor apartment. During a search of the apartment's kitchen, the officers found one plastic bag of suspected heroin in the butter compartment of the refrigerator, multiple baggies containing residue, and a digital scale. In one of the bedrooms, the officers located more baggies, a bottle of inositol that the officers believed to be a cutting agent, a drug ledger, five tablets of Klonopin, and a probation receipt, mail, and utility bills that indicated the defendant was living in the apartment. Outside the apartment, in a closet, the officers found a plastic bag containing eleven individual bags of suspected cocaine and two plastic bags of a suspected cutting agent next to a dog collar and dog food. The defendant owned and cared for dogs at his apartment. In the basement of the building, officers recovered a loaded .22 caliber firearm and a loaded .45 caliber firearm. A total of $2, 470 was seized from the defendant as a result of the search.

         The bag that contained suspected cocaine and the two bags that contained a suspected cutting agent were sent to the William A. Hinton State Laboratory Institute (Hinton laboratory) for analysis. The Hinton laboratory issued three drug certificates. Each certificate identified the substances -- including the bags of a suspected cutting agent -- as cocaine. Dookhan had signed each certificate as an assistant analyst. The suspected heroin recovered from the defendant's person and from the refrigerator in the apartment was tested and certified as heroin by Michele Manzello, an analyst at a State laboratory in Worcester (Worcester laboratory).[2]

         A grand jury returned indictments charging the defendant with trafficking in twenty-eight grams or more of cocaine, G. L. c. 94C, § 32E (b) (2); possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, subsequent offense, G. L. c. 94C, § 32 (b); possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute, subsequent offense, G. L. c. 94C, § 32A (d); possession of Klonopin, G. L. c. 94C, § 34; and four firearm charges.[3] Prior to the plea hearing, the defendant moved to dismiss the firearm charges based on a lack of evidence that the defendant possessed the weapons found in the basement, a common area in the apartment building. A print lifted from one of the firearms excluded the defendant, and none of the items found near the firearms was attributable to the defendant. The defendant's motion to dismiss the firearm indictments was allowed without objection from the Commonwealth. Immediately after, the defendant pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with the intent to distribute and possession of cocaine with the intent to distribute in exchange for the elimination of the subsequent offense portions of those charges and the entry of a nolle prosequi on the possession of Klonopin charge and the trafficking cocaine charge. Consistent with the parties' agreement, the judge imposed concurrent sentences of five years to five years and one day on the two convictions.

         On March 1, 2017, the defendant filed a motion to withdraw his guilty plea to the cocaine charge because of Dookhan's misconduct at the Hinton laboratory. At the hearing on the motion on June 23, 2017, the Commonwealth announced that it did not oppose the defendant's motion. At this point, the defendant orally moved to dismiss the cocaine charge and to withdraw his guilty plea to the non-Dookhan heroin charge.[4] The Commonwealth opposed the withdrawal of the guilty plea on the heroin charge. On October 26, 2017, a Superior Court judge, who also had been the plea judge, allowed the motion to withdraw the guilty plea to the ...


Buy This Entire Record For $7.95

Download the entire decision to receive the complete text, official citation,
docket number, dissents and concurrences, and footnotes for this case.

Learn more about what you receive with purchase of this case.