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Friday, September 11, 2015

Ind. Decisions - COA upholds conviction of man who allegedly swallowed bag of crack

Carson Gerber of the Kokomo Tribune reported yesterday:

The Indiana Court of Appeals upheld the conviction and sentencing Wednesday of a Michigan man who swallowed a bag of crack cocaine during a traffic stop last year by Kokomo police.

Charles A. Clark, 42, was found guilty of obstruction of justice and resisting law enforcement in January and sentenced to three years in prison after a jury determined he swallowed the crack to avoid a drug investigation.

The decision turns out to be an unpublished opinion from yesterday, Charles A. Clark v. State (NFP), by Chief Judge Vaidik, who writes:
Charles A. Clark was stopped by the police for crossing the center line of the road. During the stop, the officers saw a baggie of what appeared to be crack cocaine under the open driver’s-side door and placed the baggie on the hood of the patrol car. A struggle ensued while the officers were handcuffing Clark, and Clark moved toward the baggie on the hood. When the struggle ended, the baggie was gone with only a wet spot that looked like saliva in its place.

Clark was convicted of Class D felony obstruction of justice, and the trial court sentenced him to three years. Clark now appeals, arguing that the evidence is insufficient to support his conviction and that his three-year sentence is inappropriate.

Because it is reasonable to infer that Clark ate the baggie, we conclude that the evidence is sufficient to support his conviction for obstruction of justice. We also conclude that Clark’s three-year sentence is appropriate given the nature of the offense and his character. We therefore affirm the trial court. * * *

According to Sergeant Kelley, it “appeared” that Clark “had taken the baggie and put it in his mouth, used his mouth to go up on the top of the hood, swipe it and swallow it.” Sergeant Kelley called out that Clark had eaten the evidence. All three officers saw that the baggie of evidence was gone and in its place was what appeared to be a smear of saliva and mouth marks.

Officer Maynard asked Clark to open his mouth several times; although Clark initially refused, he eventually complied. A search of the hood and the surrounding area yielded nothing. Later that night, Officer Maynard obtained a search warrant for the contents of Clark’s stomach. Officer Maynard took Clark to St. Joseph Hospital, but the doctor was unable to retrieve anything from his stomach. Accordingly, the baggie and its contents were never recovered. * * *

Clark represented himself at trial. * * *

Although Clark asserts that it is “mere speculation” that he ate the baggie, the facts adduced at trial show otherwise: the baggie was on the hood of the car, Clark was on the hood of the car, and as soon as the struggle between Clark and Officer Maynard ended, the baggie was gone with only a wet spot that looked like saliva in its place. It was not unreasonable for the jury to infer from this that Clark ate the baggie. We therefore find that the evidence is sufficient to support Clark’s conviction for obstruction of justice.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 11, 2015 02:18 PM
Posted to Ind. App.Ct. Decisions