Philadelphia criminal defense lawyer Zak T. Goldstein, Esquire recently won a full acquittal in the case of Commonwealth v. D.V. following a bench trial in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas. The case involved charges of Possession with the Intent to Deliver and Knowing and Intentional Possession of a controlled substance.
In D.V., police officers alleged that they set up a narcotics surveillance in the Kensington area. Two veteran narcotics officers parked their car at an area known for a high level of drug sales and began watching the corner. Shortly thereafter, they claimed to have seen the defendant standing at the intersection right near their car. The defendant then allegedly engaged in three hand to hand transactions with alleged buyers in which the officers claimed that they saw the defendant accept money from the individuals, cross the street to what appeared to be a stash location, retrieve small objects consistent with drug packaging, and then provide those objects to the alleged buyers.
All three alleged buyers left the area shortly after the hand-to-hands and were promptly stopped by backup officers and found to be in possession of various controlled substances like heroin, crack, and marijuana. After arresting the buyers, the officers attempted to arrest D.V.. They claimed, however, that as they pulled up, D.V. took off running. They chased him and caught him after he fell. When they arrested him, he apparently had matching drugs and a large amount of money on him. They also recovered additional drugs from the stash location.
D.V. retained Attorney Goldstein for trial and elected to have the judge decide the case instead of a jury. Although the officer’s testimony, if believed, certainly would have been enough evidence to convict D.V. due to the number of alleged transactions and the presence of matching drugs on the buyers and seller, Attorney Goldstein was able to destroy the officer’s credibility on cross-examination.
First, Attorney Goldstein highlighted that the claimed locations of the arrests of the buyers made absolutely no sense because they were all allegedly arrested within eyesight of the corner where the defendant was supposedly selling drugs. Thus, if the defendant had really been out there selling drugs, he would have seen the buyers get arrested and been able to leave before engaging in more sales.
Second, Attorney Goldstein highlighted discrepancies between the officer’s testimony at the preliminary hearing and at trial. At the preliminary hearing, the officer testified that he had not been able to see the defendant actually reach into the stash location because it was behind a building, but he knew that it was used as a stash from prior arrests. At trial, he claimed that he could actually see into the location and see the defendant pick up objects.
Third, Attorney Goldstein highlighted the fact that D.V. sustained severe injuries to his face and teeth when arrested. Although the police claimed that these injuries occurred as the result of a fall, it was clear from photos taken shortly taken after the incident that it was unlikely that D.V. was injured from falling. Further, the officers’ explanations for the injuries were inconsistent and contradictory on cross examination.
Finally, Attorney Goldstein introduced evidence that one of the backup officers involved in the case had recently been arrested by the Pennsylvania State Police and that other officers had previously been suspended for police brutality allegations.
After the judge viewed the injury photos, heard the cross-examination, and saw that the police story just did not add up, the judge concluded that she had reasonable doubt and found D.V. not guilty of all charges.
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