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State v. Sinrud

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

October 2, 2017

STATE OF WASHINGTON, Respondent,
v.
AUTUMN RENE SINRUD, Appellant.

          Appelwick, J.

         A jury convicted Sinrud of possession of a controlled substance and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver. Sinrud contends that the jury instructions amounted to a comment on the evidence. Under the law of the case doctrine, she contends that the evidence was insufficient to show possession and possession with intent to deliver. We find that the evidence is sufficient. But, we agree with Sinrud that the jury instructions were a judicial comment on the evidence. We reverse and remand for a new trial.

         FACTS

         Police served a search warrant on Autumn Sinrud's residence on March 5, 2014. Sinrud resided there with three roommates: her mother and a couple that she knew through a mutual friend. As they entered, the police heard footsteps upstairs and a toilet flushing. They saw Sinrud walking away from the side of the upper floor that contained the bathroom. The police discovered a bag of heroin in the toilet. Next to the toilet, they found a lockbox containing approximately 14 grams-a half ounce-of methamphetamine. They found no drugs on Sinrud's person. But, they found small plastic baggies and $3, 800 in cash in her room. In other rooms, including rooms occupied by her roommates, the police found other controlled substances.

         Sinrud was charged with possession of a controlled substance (heroin and methamphetamine), and possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (methamphetamine). A jury found her guilty as charged. Sinrud appeals.

         DISCUSSION

         Sinrud makes three arguments. First, she argues that under the law of the case doctrine, the evidence was insufficient to satisfy the elements as stated in the jury instructions. Second, she argues that the trial court commented on the evidence. Third, Sinrud argues, and the State concedes, that the possession conviction violates double jeopardy. In a statement of additional grounds for review (SAG), she argues that the trial court should have excluded a witness from the court room, a witness's testimony was unreliable, and the State committed discovery violations.

          I. Sufficiency of Evidence

         We first address whether the evidence was sufficient to support Sinrud's convictions for possession and possession with intent to deliver. For this argument, she relies on the law of the case doctrine. Under the law of the case doctrine, jury instructions not objected to become the law of the case. State v. Hickman, 135 Wn.2d 97, 102, 954 P.2d 900 (1998).[1] Accordingly, the State assumes the burden of proving otherwise unnecessary elements of the offense when such elements are included without objection. Id.

         When determining whether there is sufficient evidence to prove the added element, the court asks whether, after viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to the prosecution, any rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt. Id. at 103.

         Here, the "to convict" instructions for both the possession and possession with intent to deliver charges stated that Ms. Sinrud must have "knowingly" possessed methamphetamine or heroin. The State did not object to the to convict instructions. Thus, the State was required to prove that Sinrud knowingly possessed the controlled substances. Sinrud's sufficiency challenge assigns error to only the knowledge requirement that would apply under the law of the case doctrine. That is, she does not challenge the sufficiency of the evidence for the statutory elements of possession, or possession with intent to deliver. Rather, she challenges only the sufficiency of the evidence that she knew the identity of the substances.

         Count I, possession of a controlled substance, involved heroin or methamphetamine. A reasonable juror could infer from the evidence that Sinrud knew that the heroin and methamphetamine were in fact heroin and methamphetamine.

         Sinrud's roommate, Samantha Smith-Thomas, testified that she smoked methamphetamine with Sinrud. When asked whether her roommates ever gave her methamphetamine, Smith-Thomas stated that "I believe everybody did." She also testified that Sinrud would keep a "big scale" in her room.

         The police found 14 grams of methamphetamine in the lockbox in the bathroom, which was where Sinrud was located when police arrived. Everett Police Officer Jarrod Seth testified that this was a half ounce, which is a "typical sale amount." They found $3, 800 in cash in Sinrud's room, and Clint Lucci, a member of the Snohomish County ...


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