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State v. Miller

January 10, 1997


Appeal from Superior Court of Mason County. Docket No: 93-1-00181-9. Date filed: 01/27/94. Judge signing: Hon. James B. Sawyer II. Original Opinion of February 8, 1995,

Authored by David H. Armstrong. Concurring: J. Dean Morgan, Carroll C. Bridgewater.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Armstrong

ARMSTRONG, J. -- A jury convicted Laura Miller of possessing marijuana and possession with intent to deliver. On appeal, she contends that her incriminating statement to the police is insufficient evidence to convict because no one saw her with the marijuana and she repudiated the statement at trial. We affirm.


Laura Miller was scheduled for an overnight visit with her husband, Jody, an inmate at the Washington Correctional Center in Shelton. Such visits are held in separate trailers, located on the prison grounds.

Prison officials suspected that Laura would bring drugs into the prison during the visit. The officials had been warned that, while at another institution, Jody had drugs delivered to him. Both before and after Laura's visit, prison officials searched the trailer with a drug sniffing dog. They discovered nothing. The officers also checked Laura and her bags before they allowed her into the trailer. Again, they discovered nothing.

Following the visit, prison officials performed a strip search of Jody and placed him on a dry cell watch to monitor whether he had ingested any substances. That evening, officers saw Jody put his hands near his mouth and chew. They ordered him to spit out what was in his mouth, two yellow balloons. Later, Jody started choking and spit out a balloon with a plastic bag containing marijuana. Jody's urine also tested positive for marijuana.

The next day, Laura returned to the prison for a supervised visit in the visiting room. Deputy Brooks informed Laura that he was investigating a drug violation and read Laura her rights. She agreed to give a written statement. Laura stated that, because she needed the money, she made arrangements to purchase marijuana and have Jody sell it inside the prison. Laura bought about $120 worth of marijuana from a friend in Spokane. She put the marijuana in plastic balloons and inserted them into her vagina. Once inside the visitation trailer, she placed the balloons in the bathroom area. Before she left the trailer the next morning, she told Jody where the balloons were.

Prison officials also interviewed Jody. Jody admitted having marijuana brought in through the visiting trailer because he owed another inmate for some heroin. Jody said the marijuana cost $120, but he refused to tell the prison officials how he got the drugs.

The State charged Laura with one count of possession of a controlled substance at a state prison and one count of delivery of a controlled substance. At trial, she denied bringing marijuana into the prison. She testified that she told the detectives that she had brought the drugs in because she was worried about her husband and was trying to protect him. The jury convicted her of both charges. Laura appeals.


Laura argues that there is insufficient evidence to convict her of possession and possession with intent to deliver. She maintains that, because no one saw her with the drugs, the only evidence presented was her admission to the police, which she repudiated at the trial.

Evidence is sufficient to support a criminal conviction if, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the State, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the offense beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Joy, 121 Wash. 2d 333, 338, 851 P.2d 654 (1993). All reasonable inferences must be drawn in favor of the State and interpreted most strongly against the defendant. State v. Salinas, 119 Wash. 2d 192, 201, 829 P.2d 1068 (1992).

The evidence, viewed most favorably for the State, established that the trailer was free of drugs before Laura's visit; Jody Miller had $120 worth of marijuana immediately after the visit with Laura; Jody admitted smuggling the marijuana into the prison; and Laura admitted bringing the marijuana to her husband. Laura's later denial of her confession did not remove the evidence from the case. Rather, it simply created a credibility issue for the jury. If we are to view the evidence in favor of the State, we must assume the ...

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