The second jury trial, the re-trial, of Tina Carrillo ended mid-week with a swift and sure guilty verdict, much to the relief of Deputy DA Caitlin Keane, who was beginning to doubt the sanity of Mendocino jurors when the first trial hung-fire last month, with three jurors voting Not Guilty.
Deputy DA Keane, like myself, lives in Ukiah and knows what it is like to be surrounded with tweakers carrying on round the clock every day with complete disregard for anyone who might have a job and would like to get some sleep. There’s no on but themselves and their go powder to the tweaker, and they’re always on the prowl for something to steal, something they can sell or trade for more meth.
It is important to include this introductory paragraph of biography in my report, because it is at the very core of not only the meth problem in general, but of this case, specifically. Having lived next to a meth dealer for most of last year, I can say that I had no bias toward tweakers until then. Live and let live was my motto; let them do what they will as long as they don’t infringe on my rights, your basic Yankee creed of Freedom & Pursuit of Happiness For All. But the problem is that they did infringe on me. They not only kept me awake all night, they threatened me when I complained about it. Then they began to harass me, sneaking around my yard and jolting my trailer late at night or in the early pre-dawn, running away chuckling. They stole my two brand new RV batteries, threw their trash in my yard, stole from my kitchen garden, took over my parking space… Need I go on?
So Ms. Keane, the prosecutor of this meth dealer, Ms. Carrillo, shared my complaints about meth dealers and their clients, while the defense lawyer, Jonathon Opet of the Office of the Public Defender, who lives up on pastoral Peachland with KZYX newsperson Valerie Kim and their baby daughter. In the somnolent Anderson Valley where tweak is as prevalent as it is everywhere, but our tweakers stay home and tweak quietly. Up in Peachland,
Opet has a very idealistic and sympathetic perspective on the drug, namely, that meth shouldn’t even be illegal; that law enforcement persecutes and tries to ensnare innocent users, and that they should be free to live any way they want – and if anyone has a complaint about noise, or theft, or threats, the meth use should be left out of the equation.
It was this argument, more than anything, that got the first jury to hang. Mr. Opet's soulfully passionate idealism is disarming, and this trait lends credence to his persuasive skills – he used to be a court reporter for a Bay Area newspaper, incidentally, until he saw how easy lawyering was, what simpletons most attorneys are (and how they complain that the bar exam should be made even easier) – and now he is what’s known as an Activist Lawyer, convinced that we live in a brutal Police State.
This time around, however, Mr. Opet was instructed by Judge Ann Moorman that he would not be allowed to use the meth-shouldn’t-be-illegal and cops-are-villains arguments.
During the trial, Ms. Carrillo wore an oversize black tee-shirt with a white zombie version of Marilyn Monroe on the front, depicting the great American beauty as an empty eye-socket, rotting mouth and nostrils, scraggly cobwebs for hair. This of course is a metaphor among tweakers, this Night of the Living Dead motif, and every time the jury came in or out of the courtroom, Ms. Carrillo stood to greet them draped in this Halloween costume (sobre gustos no hay nada escrito — no accounting for taste), and one wonders whether Mr. Opet advised his client that her fashion statement was likely to work against her with the jury.
It’s hardly unusual for a tweaker to be so out of touch with reality, so unconscious of formal proprieties. The drug causes the mind to run in an inane loop, an ever more vicious circle as the addiction worsens and the dosage increases, until a typical tweaker’s vocabulary is reduced to “Like I fuckin’ like said, Dude, I fuckin’ said like fuck! Like fuckin’ like, Dude! Fuckin’ like I fuckin’ said, Dude….”
At least Opet didn’t put her on the stand to further incriminate herself.
With a large and growing number of people addicted to this evil substance, the ruling classes needn’t worry about any kind of grassroots movement, revolution, or even any coherent protest.
Officer Ronald Donohue of the Ukiah Police Department pulled Ms. Carrillo over for having a brake light out. She was on driving along Perkins Street, February 19th at about 8:30 in the evening. Carrillo was acting very nervous and when asked why, she admitted she didn’t have a driver’s license. So Officer Donohue asked her to step out of the car, and asked if she had anything illegal on her person or in the car. She responded by looking down at her pocket and, sheepishly said, “It’s in there.”
Donohue pulled out a bag of a white crystalline substance which, from long experience, he suspected was meth. It was a small amount, called a $40-sack, 4/10ths of a gram, a common break-down for street sales. In another pocket, Donohue found the big bag, 24.9 grams
Deputy DA Keane: “Did you ask her where she got it?”
Donohue: “I did, and she said she found it in the parking lot at Slam Dunk Pizza.”
Keane: “Did you ask what she was doing with it?”
Donohue: “Yes, she said she was going to keep the small bag for herself – she said she does a little meth once in a while – and gives the rest to her sister, who would know what to do with such a large amount.”
Note here that the commonest defense since the passage of Prop. 47, which makes possession of meth for personal use a misdemeanor, was not resorted to: i.e., that it was intended for personal use. Around the courthouse it has become a common joke whenever a judge asks how much meth a defendant had, and when the amount is obviously something only a wholesale distributor would have, some smart aleck will quip, “Personal use,” and even the tweakers in the gallery who plan to use the same outrageous excuse will crack up.
Carrillo’s defense was that she found this huge ground score, just under an ounce. of meth, and although she’s a user, she only wanted a small street-sales sized bag for herself, and was planning to turn the rest over to her sister who would know where to turn it in to the authorities— which, I must say, is more laughable than the “personal use” defense. This along with the signature zombie tee-shirt, made the whole case so pitiful it was no longer even funny, however.
Keane: “Anything else?”
Donohue: “Yes, she had $479 in various denominations.”
Then Detective Philips took the stand to tell how he downloaded the text messages on Carrillo’s cellphone, and printed them out for the jury to read.
Next, Sergeant Peter Hoyle was brought in to explain – for a second time, the obvious.
Deputy DA Keane: “How long have you been in law enforcement?”
Sgt. Hoyle: “For over 40 years.”
Keane: “Your honor, I’d ask the court to designate Sergeant Hoyle as an expert witness.”
Judge Moorman: “Voir dire, Mr. Opet?”
Attorney Opet: “Have you ever received a degree of any kind in your field of work [Under Cover Law Enforcement (UNCLE)]?”
Hoyle: “I’ve never even heard of one.”
Opet: “So the answer is no?”
Opet: “How long have you worked with informers?”
Hoyle: “My whole career.”
Opet: “Does that comprise your whole experience?”
Hoyle: “It certainly helps, but it’s not restricted to that.”
Opet: “That’s all I have.”
The legendary Hoyle is not a guy a defense attorney wants to spend much time sparring with. Hoyle chews them up, spits them out. And he knows more about dope than dopers.
Judge Moorman: “The witness will be designated as an expert in drug sales. Ladies and gentlemen [of the jury], what that means is that Sergeant Hoyle will be allowed to give his expert opinion on any questions of drug sales.”
Keane: “What is a common amount of methamphetamine, for a single dosage?”
Hoyle: “It has certainly changed over the years, but what has become an accepted amount for a single dose would be one-tenth of a gram.”
Keane: “How is it usually sold?
Hoyle: “In gram increments.”
Keane: “Do users often also sell it?”
Hoyle: “Yes, they often do. If you are a user…”
Hoyle: “It is a user’s goal to use what’s referred to as ‘free dope’ and what that means…
Hoyle: “What that means is if you buy an ounce for $400 and you break it down into eighths, that is eight eighths, of 3.5 grams each, which are called eight-balls, and you sell four of these for $100 each, you have made your money back and still have four eighths left over for yourself.”
Keane: “When determining whether a person is selling methamphetamine or possessing it for personal use, what do you typically look for?”
Hoyle: “The amount. If a person has, for instance a pound, chances are it’s for sale.”
Some smart aleck in the gallery couldn’t resist quipping “Personal use, I’m sure!” and sniggering under his breath.
Judge Moorman whirled on this impertinent fool, and sent him packing for the hallway. Which reminds me: Just after jury selection, one of the jurors had been taken into the judge’s chambers with the lawyers, and the other jurors were waiting in the jury box, when a lawyer came in and asked what was going on. “A jury trial,” I said. “They’ve got one of the jurors in there water-boarding the poor bastard.”
A cop standing by explained it was re-trial.
The lawyer quipped, “Do it over until you get it right, huh?”
Just then a furious Judge Moorman, having overheard us, came storming out of her office and ordered us all into her office. She banged the door shut and demanded to know who it was too stupid to know the jury was not supposed to know this was a re-trial!
I snitched on the cop – who had always helped me out when I was having trouble with the tweakers next door — and was let go.
A few minutes later the lawyer came out, muttering that his vacation had just been cancelled. Then came the cop, looking like he’d had his nose rubbed in the carpet.
The judge mounted the bench and asked the jurors what they’d overheard, and it turned out they hadn’t been paying us any mind, but talking among themselves…
Where were we? Oh, yes – Sgt. Hoyle was on the stand.
Hoyle: “Also indicative of sales would be packaging materials, some of which are commercially made one-inch-by-one-inch square zip-lock bags. But these are not as common as they used to be. Now we find more often small squares cut from plastic shopping bags. Then there are scales, cutting agents, pay-and-owe sheets.”
Keane: “Have you been involved in cases where P&O sheets, and scales, and packaging materials are not found?”
Hoyle: “Yes, and it’s more common than not…”
Hoyle: “People are aware that if they are found with all these things it will be incriminating…”
Hoyle: “So they’ll keep these things elsewhere.”
Keane: “I’m showing you what’s been marked as People’s Exhibit No. 5 – have you reviewed these text messages?”
Hoyle: “I have, yes.”
Keane: “If I could draw your attention to page 2, box 45 – what does that say?”
Hoyle (putting on his readers): “It’s from a person called Sophie and it says, ‘Are you home yet?,’ and then number 44 says ‘Sí’ which is Spanish for yes. Then 43 says, ‘what ya doin’?’ 42: ‘I only had 10’; 41: but I come down, can you hook me up & I’ll pay you some money when I get some’ this is Sophie, again. And 40 says, ‘you know I’m good for it, always have been in the past’.”
Opet: “Objection. Relevance.”
Keane: “How is this relevant?”
Hoyle: “It shows that there is a relationship of trust established between the owner of the cell phone and ‘Sophie’ and that she has bought drugs from her before, and that the drugs were fronted – that is given to her with the expectation of being paid at a later time.”
Moorman: “Your objection is overruled, Mr. Opet.”
Keane: “Are there additional messages?”
Hoyle: “Yes. Here’s ‘Hilda’, box 17: ‘I’ll be back soon’; 16: ‘I’ll see you when I see you’; 15: ‘No, Babe. I need some shit now!’”
Opet: “Objection. What’s the relevance of all this?”
Keane: “Why is that relevant, Sergeant?”
Hoyle: “People who use and sell methamphetamine are not going to say ‘meth’ on the phone; so they’ll have a code for it. When they call up and say – as they do here -- and say they need some ‘shit,’ they’re not asking for feces…”
Hoyle: “In my experience, they’re not asking for feces, but drugs – I’ve seen it [‘shit’] used for methamphetamine and heroin and other hard drugs, but never for feces – and never for anything else, but hard drugs.”
Keane: “What, then, is your opinion as to the use of the methamphetamine in this case?”
Hoyle: “Well you have two different amounts here. First, you have the four-tenths of a gram, packaged for street sales; then you have the nearly 25 grams, which is 3.5 grams, an eight-ball, short of an ounce; so you have the common selling size missing, and the $40-sack all packaged up and ready for sale, so…”
Keane: “So what is your opinion?”
Hoyle: “That it was being possessed and transported for purposes of sale.”
(I missed Mr. Opet’s cross-examination, in order to follow the case of the gun runners from Reno and the Reynolds sentencing, but I have it somewhere in my notebooks from the first trial and will dig it out and provide it later for the entertainment value – it was nearly as good as Omar Figueroa’s turn at grilling of the Old Pro, Pete Hoyle.)
During closing arguments, Mr. Opet said that it was reasonable to conclude that the meth was found in a parking lot and that his client only wanted a tiny amount for herself and was going to do the right thing with the rest — give it to her sister, who would know what the right thing was — and that he had caused Sgt. Hoyle to admit on cross that it was possible (this I found hard to credit) ‘shit’ in the text messages on Carrillo’s cell phone referred to something other than the meth she was accused of selling.
The jury was back in about 10 or 15 minutes with the guilty verdict.
* * *
UKIAH, Wed., May 10. -- A Mendocino County Superior Court jury returned from its deliberations around the noon hour with a guilty verdict against Tina Carrillo, age 49, of Hopland.
Carrillo was found guilty by jury of transporting methamphetamine for the purpose of sales, a felony.
This is the second trial for this defendant on these facts. During the first trial, the prior jury was hung 9 to 3 for guilt on whether the defendant had committed the methamphetamine crime. However, that prior jury was able to unanimously agree that, while driving with the methamphetamine, the defendant was also driving on a suspended driving license and she did not have an ignition interlock device installed on the vehicle she was driving. After the prior jury was excused, the Court found true that the defendant had also suffered a prior conviction within the last five years for driving on a suspended license. The defendant was also on probation at the time of all the aforementioned offenses. The trial judge found true that Carrillo was in violation of the terms of her probation. All of crimes for which the defendant now stands convicted were referred to the Adult Probation Department for a background study and sentencing recommendation. Sentence will be imposed on June 7, 2017 at 9 o'clock in the morning in Department B of the Ukiah courthouse. Any person interested in this case or this defendant is welcome to attend that hearing.
The prosecutor who presented the People's evidence and argued the circumstances and law to this week's jury was Deputy District Attorney Caitlin Keane. The investigating law enforcement agencies were the Ukiah Police Department and the California Department of Justice crime lab in Eureka. The judge who presided over the three-day trial was Mendocino County Superior Court Judge Ann Moorman. (District Attorney Press Release)