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State v. Castine

Supreme Court of New Hampshire, Rockingham

August 21, 2019

THE STATE OF NEW HAMPSHIRE
v.
JAMES CASTINE

          Submitted: June 18, 2019

          Gordon J. MacDonald, attorney general (Sean R. Locke, assistant attorney general, on the brief), for the State.

          David M. Rothstein, deputy director public defender, of Concord, on the brief, for the defendant.

          LYNN, C.J.

         The defendant, James Castine, appeals his convictions and sentences following a jury trial in the Superior Court (Delker, J.) on three counts of sale of a controlled drug. See RSA 318-B:2, I (2017). On appeal, the defendant challenges: (1) the sufficiency of the evidence to support his convictions; and (2) the trial court's consideration at sentencing of evidence that he was the leader of a drug enterprise. We affirm.

         I

         The jury could have found the following facts based upon the evidence at trial and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom. In early 2017, a sheriff's deputy with the Rockingham County Drug Task Force entered into a cooperation agreement with an individual who had been arrested for possessing heroin. This confidential informant (CI) told the deputy that he could purchase heroin from the defendant. The CI agreed to conduct three controlled drug buys from the defendant.

         All three drug buys, which occurred on separate days, were executed in the same fashion. First, the CI arrived at the Epping police station and met with the deputy and other law enforcement officers. At their direction, the CI, using his cellphone, called the defendant and requested the purchase of a set quantity of drugs from him at the defendant's residence, which was a garage. Following the cellphone call, the deputy searched the CI and his vehicle. After confirming that neither money nor drugs were on the CI or in his car, the deputy gave the CI the money he needed to purchase the drugs.[1] The CI then drove from the police station to the defendant's residence, followed by the deputy in another car. Once at the defendant's residence, the CI exited his car and entered the garage through a side door. The deputy, who was located nearby, witnessed the CI exit his car and enter the garage. Two other law enforcement officers watched from across the street.

         After entering the garage, the CI asked the defendant for the drugs he had requested. The defendant weighed and packaged the drugs, and handed them to the CI, who gave the defendant the money that had been supplied to him by law enforcement. Two other individuals, a male and a female, were present when the first two sales took place. During the third sale, only the female was present.

         After the exchange, the CI entered his car and called the deputy to tell him that he had the drugs. Next, the CI drove to the Epping police station, followed by the deputy. Once at the police station, the deputy collected the drugs from the CI and searched both the CI and his car. After the deputy confirmed that there were no additional drugs or money on the CI or in his car, the CI related to the deputy what had happened inside the garage. The drugs purchased from the defendant were tested, and all three samples were determined to contain a mixture of fentanyl and cocaine. Both the CI and the deputy testified that they were unable to differentiate between heroin and fentanyl.

         After hearing testimony from the CI, the deputy, and the criminalist who tested the drugs, the jury found the defendant guilty on all three counts. At sentencing, the trial court imposed two consecutive stand-committed sentences of seven-and-a-half to 15 years on the first two drug convictions, and a consecutive suspended sentence of seven-and-a-half to 15 years on the third drug conviction. This appeal followed.

         II

         We first address the defendant's argument that the State presented insufficient evidence to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Our standard of review of sufficiency claims is well established. "When considering a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, we objectively review the record to determine whether any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt, considering all the evidence and all reasonable inferences therefrom in the light most favorable to the State." State v. Roy, 167 N.H. 276, 292 (2015) (quotation omitted). It is the defendant who bears the burden of demonstrating that the evidence was insufficient to prove guilt. Id. Where, as here, the State presents both direct and circumstantial evidence of guilt, "a sufficiency challenge must fail if the evidence, including the jury's credibility determinations, is such that a rational trier of fact could find guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, even if the evidence would support a rational conclusion other than guilt if the jury had resolved credibility issues differently." State v. Saunders, 164 N.H. 342, 351 (2012). "The evaluation of witness credibility and the weight given to witnesses' testimony [are] issues for the jury to resolve." State v. Oakes, 161 N.H. 270, 276 (2010) (quotation omitted).

         Viewing the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom in the light most favorable to the State, we hold that the evidence was sufficient for a rational trier of fact to have found, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the defendant was guilty of selling a controlled drug on three occasions. See Roy, 167 N.H. at 292. Here, the jury heard evidence that, on three occasions, the CI requested heroin from the defendant and that law enforcement provided the CI with the money to purchase the heroin. The jury also heard the CI's testimony that, on three occasions, he met with the defendant to complete the drug purchases and, on those occasions, the defendant gave the CI drugs in exchange for the money supplied to the CI by law enforcement. Finally, the criminalist testified that the drugs purchased from the defendant tested positive for fentanyl and cocaine. Based upon this evidence and all reasonable ...


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