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COA upholds drug conviction

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The Indiana Court of Appeals rejected a man’s argument that his charges should be dismissed or he deserved a mistrial, finding sufficient evidence to support his dealing in cocaine conviction.

In Ronyai Thompson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A05-1106-CR-323, Ronyai Thompson raised three arguments on appeal: that the trial court abused its discretion when it denied his motion to dismiss the charges against him under Indiana’s statute barring successive prosecutions; that the trial court improperly denied his Batson challenges; and that evidence was insufficient to support his Class A felony dealing in cocaine conviction.

Police had a house under surveillance, believing that drug transactions were happening there. While observing the home, police saw a man – later determined to be Thompson – driving to and from the duplex. When police decided to contact the people inside the home, they saw Thompson inside. After talking to Thompson, police determined he was the man driving the car and that his driving privileges had been suspended. After a search of the home, Thompson was charged in one case with driving while suspended; he was charged with various drug offenses and driving while suspended under another cause number.

He pleaded guilty to the driving while suspended charge in the first case and was later convicted of dealing in cocaine in the other case. At the trial under the second cause number, he tried to have the charges dismissed based on the state’s successive prosecution statute. He also challenged the state’s peremptory challenges of two African-American jurors.

The COA concluded that it may have been better for the state to join all the charges against Thompson, but that there was no evidence that the driving while suspended offense in the first case was part of a single scheme or plan with the drug offenses in the second case. With regards to the Batson challenges, other jurors who were not African-American were struck from the jury for similar reasons as the two African-American jurors. The judges found the trial court didn’t err when it allowed the state to use its peremptory challenges to strike the two African-American members of the venire.

Finally, the judges concluded sufficient evidence existed of Thompson’s constructive possession of cocaine to support the conviction.

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