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Arizona Defendant Asks for Reversal of Drug Conviction, Citing Dealer’s Testimony as Inappropriate at Trial

In a June 2023 case before the Arizona Court of Appeals, the defendant argued that his conviction for the sale or transportation of dangerous drugs should be reversed. According to the defendant, the trial court’s use of his drug dealer as a witness during the seven-day trial was inappropriate, and the conviction should therefore be vacated. The court carefully reviewed the defendant’s argument, but it eventually disagreed and affirmed the guilty conviction.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the defendant and his adult son participated in an exchange of methamphetamine with their dealer, a woman they had worked with in the past. The drug deal took place in the dealer’s car, but once the dealer’s supplier joined the group, the deal went awry. Police officers came to the scene, and the defendant and his son both fled. Officers caught up to the defendant, arrested him, and later interrogated him regarding the series of events. The defendant pled not guilty to the offense, telling the officers that he had given the dealer money for “something”, not for anything related to drugs.

The defendant’s case went to trial, and the dealer testified for the State under an immunity agreement. She confirmed that she had worked with the defendant and that they were, indeed, exchanging methamphetamine on the day in question.

A jury found the defendant guilty, and he promptly appealed.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant took issue with the drug dealer’s testimony at trial. According to the defendant, the drug dealer was just as guilty as he was, and the State was “putting her charges on him” by offering her immunity and presenting her testimony to the jurors. It was unfair, said the defendant, for the jury to hear her version of events without having to properly consider her role in and responsibility for the ordeal.
In its opinion, the court took note of the drug dealer’s criminal history and her actions in connection with this case. When reviewing the trial court’s record, the court of appeals noted that she was also subject to cross-examination and that the jury was made sufficiently aware of her history of dealing drugs. Therefore, there was no unfairness that resulted from the trial court’s allowing her to testify, and her testimony did not bias the jury against the defendant.

With this in mind, the court denied the defendant’s appeal and ordered that his conviction remain in place.

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