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State v. Henson

Court of Appeals of Washington, Division 1

November 12, 2019


          Mann, A.C.J.

         Raphael Henson appeals his conviction for violation of the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (UCSA), ch. 69.50 RCW. He argues that the court erred by admitting improper opinion testimony and that his counsel was ineffective. He also argues that the court should strike his deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) collection fee. We affirm Henson's conviction and remand to the trial court to strike the DNA collection fee.


         On November 9, 2016, several police officers were conducting an operation to buy illegal drugs in Seattle. When police are conducting operations to target an area with a high level of drug dealing, officers will buy drugs from a number of people, identify the sellers, and then later arrest the sellers.

         On November 9, 2016, a man sold methamphetamine to Detective Matthew Volpe, an undercover police officer, at a McDonald's. The man told Detective Volpe that his name was "Raggooey."

         Volpe tasked a uniformed deputy, Austin Peterson, to attempt to identify the man. RP 68-69. Peterson successfully obtained the man's identification and reported to Volpe that the man's name was Raphael Henson. Peterson provided Henson's middle initial and birthdate from his identification. Volpe then looked up a Facebook photo for Henson and verified that it was the same person that he had purchased methamphetamine from in the McDonald's.

         Henson was charged with one count of violation of the UCSA for allegedly delivering methamphetamine on November 9, 2016. Henson denied selling methamphetamine to Volpe. He said that he often lost his identification cards. Henson denied going by the nickname "Raggooey."

         Defense counsel moved in limine to suppress all opinion testimony.

The defense requests that the police officer witnesses be strictly limited to descriptions of what they personally observed and not extend any opinion unless their expert qualification to make such an opinion is established. Specifically, the defense requests that police officers not be permitted to testify that they saw gestures or behavior that was consistent with a drug transaction, but that officers limit their testimony to the facts of what they did or did not observe.

         The court granted this motion, to the extent that the officers could testify that based on their training and experience, certain behaviors were consistent with meth use. However, the officers could not testify that certain behaviors were consistent with a drug deal.

         Defense counsel also moved to exclude one officer, Detective Jeff Hancock, from testifying that he identified Henson from photographs. Defense counsel argued that it was opinion testimony for Hancock to testify he looked at Henson at the scene and then looked at identification photos and then confirmed that he is the same person. The State argued that Detective Hancock should be permitted to testify that in his opinion, Henson was the person involved in the drug sale based on his booking photo because issues involving identity or testimony in regards to identity are very probative. The trial court reserved ruling on the issue, noting that it hoped to have a decision by opening statements. The parties never revisited the issue and testimony commenced without any ruling or further objections.

         At trial, Detective Volpe testified that Deputy Peterson was able to identify Henson. The defense objected to this testimony, which was overruled. Detective Volpe testified that he had looked up Henson's Facebook page after the drug buy and recognized Henson as the man who sold him the drugs. Someone referred to Henson as "Raggooey" on the Facebook page. After Henson objected to hearsay testimony, the court gave a limiting instruction.

         Detective Robell Ghrmai was positioned inside the restaurant and he identified Henson in court as the person he observed speaking with Detective Volpe. Detective Gerald Meyer observed the interaction from a nearby vehicle and he identified Henson in court. Detective Chris Adams took several photos of Henson outside the McDonald's and he identified Henson in court.

         The State called Detective Hancock as the State's final witness. Detective Hancock testified about his identification of Henson. Detective Hancock observed the interaction between Detective Volpe and Henson from a parking lot using binoculars. Detective Hancock then looked up Henson's ...

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