Judges affirm man’s drug conviction

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A man stopped by police while driving through Vigo County for unsafe lane movement – and later convicted of Class A felony dealing in cocaine – couldn’t convince the Indiana Court of Appeals that his conviction should be overturned.

Terre Haute Police Officer Brent Long pulled over Walter Smith Jr.’s U-Haul on I-70 on June 17, 2011, and asked for assistance. Officers Matthew Carden and Philip Ralston came about two minutes later and saw Long writing a warning to Smith. Ralston took over completing the warning while Long took his K-9 dog Shadow around the truck. Shadow focused in on one part of the truck, leading Long to obtain a search warrant through a telephonic hearing.

The officers cut open the padlock on the U-Haul and found two brick-like packages that contained more nearly 2,000 grams of cocaine.

Smith sought a speedy trial, and his trial was set for Sept. 27, 2011. He filed a motion to suppress evidence and sought to strike witnesses due to the state’s belated discovery compliance. Long was killed a month after the traffic stop, but Ralston and Carden testified. Just before his trial was set to begin, Smith asked for more time because he was not ready for trial. He then sought discharge pursuant to Criminal Rule 4(B) at a hearing two days after his trial was set to begin; it was denied. Smith was convicted of the felony cocaine dealing charge.

In Walter E. Smith, Jr. v. State of Indiana, 84A04-1112-CR-637, Smith argued the trial court committed reversible error when it refused his tendered jury instruction regarding a defendant’s innocence; he was entitled to a discharge under Criminal Rule 4(B); and the trial court abused its discretion when it admitted evidence from the traffic stop.

Citing Robey v. State, 454 N.E.2d 1221 (Ind. 1983) and Simpson v. State, 915 N.E.2d 511 (Ind. Ct. App. 2009), the judges held that the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in refusing to use Smith’s tendered jury instruction because the substance of his instruction was covered by instructions given by the court.

The delay in bringing Smith to trial was chargeable to Smith and the trial court didn’t abuse its discretion in admitting the cocaine at trial because it was seized pursuant to a valid search warrant, the COA ruled. Smith didn’t offer any evidence to suggest the traffic stop or its length was unreasonable, or that the search warrant wasn’t supported by probable cause.



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