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State v. Pickersgill

Florida Court of Appeals, Fourth District

October 30, 2019


         Not final until disposition of timely filed motion for rehearing.

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for the Seventeenth Judicial Circuit, Broward County; Marina Garcia-Wood, Judge; L.T. Case No. 18-005887CF10A.

          Ashley Moody, Attorney General, Tallahassee, and Kimberly T. Acuña, Assistant Attorney General, West Palm Beach, for appellant.

          Carey Haughwout, Public Defender, and David John McPherrin, Assistant Public Defender, West Palm Beach, for appellee.

          FORST, J.

         The State appeals from a post-verdict judgment of acquittal. In response, Appellee Jamaal Pickersgill argues that this court lacks jurisdiction to consider the appeal. We disagree; we have jurisdiction. We further find the State presented competent substantial evidence to support the jury's verdict on all counts. Accordingly, we reverse.


         The State proceeded to trial against Pickersgill on charges of: (1) possession of tetrahydrocannabinols ("THC"); (2) possession of cannabis with intent to deliver/sell; and (3) resisting a police officer without violence. The trial evidence, taken in the light most favorable to the State, recounts the following events took place on the date of Pickersgill's arrest.

         Coral Springs Police Officers Monzon and Gomez stopped the car in which Pickersgill was a passenger for making an abrupt U-turn in front of their vehicle (which caused Officer Monzon to slam on the brakes of the patrol car), and because the car's driver and front passenger (Pickersgill) were not wearing seatbelts. Pickersgill exited the passenger side of the car and, ignoring Officer Gomez's command to get back in the car, took off running. Officer Gomez chased Pickersgill for about forty yards until Pickersgill stopped. After taking Pickersgill into custody, the officers detected an odor of marijuana coming from the stopped car. Officer Monzon testified: "I wasn't even near the car and you could smell it. As soon as you open[ed] the door, it hit you like a ton of bricks."

         The officers called for a K-9 unit, and the K-9 alerted to both rear doors of the vehicle and to the glove compartment. Seventy-two pre-rolled marijuana cigarettes ("blunts") and four bags of a green leafy substance were found in a backpack in the backseat, directly behind Pickersgill's seat. A wax substance was found in the glove compartment, directly in front of Pickersgill's seat.

         The marijuana cigarettes were packaged in individual tubes and marked with a sticker that read, "RX package in compliance with state and local laws and regulations." One of these cigarettes field tested[1] positive for marijuana. A sample from each bag containing the green leafy substance was also field tested and all of the samples tested positive for marijuana. Later forensic tests confirmed that the wax substance recovered from the glove compartment contained THC.

         Officer Monzon testified that Pickersgill voluntarily stated at the scene that the narcotics were his and, after being read his Miranda[2] rights, he then reiterated that "[e]verything in the vehicle" was his. Officer Gomez also testified that Pickersgill "was Mirandized on scene," waived his Miranda rights, and "took ownership" of the backpack, confessing that he was going to sell the marijuana. The officers did not obtain a written waiver of Miranda rights or record Pickersgill's statements at the scene.

         Both officers testified that Pickersgill made further admissions after arriving at the police station. Officer Monzon noted that, while he was reminding Pickersgill of his Miranda rights, Pickersgill interjected before the officer could finish and again stated, "[e]verything in the car is mine." Officer Gomez also testified that, at the station, Pickersgill said "everything was his." According to Officer Monzon, the recording of Pickersgill's statements at the police station was erased before Monzon requested it. Monzon did not know that the recording would not be preserved.

         Sean Grier, the driver of the car, was also taken into custody. He told police that he was helping Pickersgill "sell the narcotics in the vehicle." He was released at the time, having agreed to act as a confidential informant.

         After the State rested its case, Pickersgill moved for a judgment of acquittal on all three counts. Pickersgill argued in part that there was "no direct evidence that [he] was in direct possession" of the narcotics. Specifically, he asserted that because the cannabis was found in a backpack in the back of the car, and the THC was found in the glove compartment, he did not have exclusive control over those items. And, absent a video of his statements or a written waiver of Miranda rights- there was "just an allegation by two officers" without corroboration.

         In response, the State argued it proved both actual and constructive possession. The State pointed to Pickersgill's admissions to the officers that the drugs were his.[3] The trial court remarked that Pickersgill "allegedly" made the admissions and the statements were not corroborated by anything other than the officers' testimony. Noting the absence of a written statement or recording, the judge commented, ...

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