By Darren Chaker
The court determined in People v. Shockman, Court of Appeal (Fourth District), Case # D056138, under Evidence Code section 1101, subdivision (b), a prior offense is admissible to show identity where the prior offense shares common, distinctive features so as to support an inference that the same person committed both. By jury trial, appellant was convicted of transportation, possession for sale, and possession of methamphetamine.
In the evidence presented, undercover narcotics officers arrested Collier for selling methamphetamine and then used his cell phone to call the phone's listed contacts and request delivery of more methamphetamine. Peary responded and agreed to deliver the drugs. At the arranged delivery spot, appellant was observed and was detained.
Peary was then located and found in possession of a quantity of methamphetamine wrapped in a black cocktail napkin. Appellant's residence was later searched and pieces of black cocktail napkins and other drug paraphernalia were located. At trial, appellant presented a defense that he knew nothing about the methamphetamine and that it was solely Peary's.
The prosecution was allowed to present evidence of appellant's prior drug conviction where the drugs were wrapped in a blue cocktail napkin, and co-defendant's counsel was allowed to cross examine appellant regarding the offense. The appellate court found no error in presenting this evidence. The identity of the person who supplied the methamphetamine was a disputed issue. Under Evidence Code section 1101 subdivision (b), evidence of a prior conviction is admissible to show identity. Agreeing with the trial court, the appellate court found that the unusual and unique nature of the modus operandi for drug packaging that appellant utilized gave the prior conviction a substantial level of probative value that outweighed any prejudice.