Before McMILLIN, P.j., Herring, And King, JJ.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: McMILLIN, P.j., For The Court:
DATE OF JUDGMENT: 01/22/1997
TRIAL JUDGE: HON. MIKE SMITH
COURT FROM WHICH APPEALED: PIKE COUNTY CIRCUIT COURT
DISTRICT ATTORNEY: DUNNICA O. LAMPTON
NATURE OF THE CASE: CRIMINAL - FELONY
TRIAL COURT DISPOSITION: DEFENDANT CONVICTED OF CONSPIRACY TO COMMIT THE CRIME OF UNLAWFUL DISTRIBUTION OF COCAINE AND SENTENCED TO TWENTY YEARS IN MDOC AND FINED $500,000
¶1. Sue Martin has appealed her conviction of conspiracy to distribute cocaine. She raises two issues on appeal. First, she claims that the State was permitted, over defense counsel's objection, to argue an incorrect theory of the law of conspiracy during summation, the result of which was to deny her a fair trial. Secondly, she claims that the trial court erred in admitting certain post-arrest jailhouse statements purported to have been made by her or by other co-conspirators with whom she was conversing. We conclude that the first issue is without merit. We further conclude that the trial court erred in admitting evidence of the defendant's jailhouse conversation, but find that the error did not serve to deprive Martin of a fundamentally fair trial. Therefore, we affirm her conviction.
¶2. The evidence of a conspiracy to distribute illicit drugs consisted primarily of a number of witnesses who testified to repeated instances of purchasing crack cocaine at a bar operated by Martin in Pike County. The evidence demonstrated that persons desiring to purchase cocaine could, with little difficulty, purchase the drug from Martin, from her sister who was often at the bar, or from another female employee of the establishment. There was additional evidence that tended to show that Martin's brother was involved in supplying the drugs that were sold at the bar. From the nature of the testimony of the various witnesses for the prosecution, the jury could reasonably draw the inference that Martin was complicit in those sales that were actually consummated by those other individuals mentioned, and thus, conspiring with them for that purpose.
¶3. Martin countered this evidence by testifying in her own defense and telling the jury that she had a severe case of drug dependency that had grown so bad that she was basically unable to function beyond efforts to accumulate sufficient money to buy more drugs, whereupon she would dispatch one or both of two trusted individuals to purchase drugs from a source unknown to Martin. According to Martin, she and these individuals would then consume the drugs in the company of each other. She did not specifically deny any drug trafficking at her business, but denied any involvement in it, relying primarily on her drug-induced incapacity as an explanation for her failure to deal with any such activity that may have occurred.
¶4. On this evidence, the jury returned a ...