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SAMPLE v. COMMONWEALTH




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SAMPLE

v.

COMMONWEALTH


COURT OF APPEALS OF VIRGINIA

Present: Judges Annunziata, Clements and Kelsey

Argued at Salem, Virginia

Record No. 2594-02-3

ALBERT WAYNE SAMPLE

v.

COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

 

MEMORANDUM OPINION[1]
BY JUDGE D. ARTHUR KELSEY

DECEMBER 9, 2003

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF GRAYSON COUNTY

J. Colin Campbell, Judge

R. Christopher Munique (Lacy, Campbell & Associates, on
brief),

for appellant.

Kathleen B. Martin, Assistant Attorney General (Jerry W.
Kilgore,

Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

A jury found Albert Wayne Sample guilty of possession of
Oxycodone, a Schedule II

controlled substance, with intent to distribute in violation of
Code ? 18.2-248(C). On appeal,

Sample contends that the evidence fails, as a matter of law, to
prove his intent to distribute beyond a

reasonable doubt. Finding no such error in the verdict, we
affirm.

I.

When examining a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence on
appeal, "the evidence

and all reasonable inferences flowing therefrom must be viewed
in the light most favorable to the

prevailing party in the trial court." Commonwealth v.
Hudson, 265 Va. 505, 514, 578 S.E.2d

781, 786 (2003) (citations omitted). That principle requires us
to "discard the evidence of the

accused in conflict with that of the Commonwealth, and regard as
true all the credible evidence

favorable to the Commonwealth and all fair inferences that may
be drawn therefrom." Craddock

v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 539, 542, 580 S.E.2d 454, 456
(2003) (citations omitted).

On April 22, 2003, a confidential informant told Glenn D. Hyatt,
chief investigator for

the Grayson County Sheriff’s Department, that a car had been
stolen in Maryland and would be

in the Grayson County area. The informant described the car as a
blue Ford Mustang, gave

Hyatt three specific locations where he might find it, and
stated that the car would contain two

bags of Oxycontin.

The next morning, Hyatt spotted a gray Mustang parked at the
residence of Mark Martin

Spicer, one of the locations provided by the informant. The
vehicle had Maryland tags. Hyatt,

who was off duty at the time, obtained the license plate number,
contacted the sheriff

department’s dispatcher by cell phone, and asked the
dispatcher to run the tags. Based on

information on the license plate number, the dispatcher advised
Hyatt that the vehicle had been

stolen.

Hyatt and three deputies approached the residence and verified
the Mustang’s VIN.

Hyatt testified that "you could tell that the vehicle had
been primered" with gray paint. The

officers knocked on the door of the residence a number of times
with no response. Hyatt then

looked inside the vehicle’s passenger compartment and found an
unmarked, white envelope in

the console containing 8 "OC/80" pills and 51
"Percocet/7.5" pills. At this point, Sample came

out of the front door of the residence. Sample stated that he
had been driving the vehicle and

gave Hyatt the keys. Hyatt then placed Sample under arrest for
possession of stolen property.

On the way to Hyatt’s car, Sample spontaneously stated that
all of the property inside the

vehicle belonged to him. Hyatt drove Sample to the sheriff’s
department while the three deputies

conducted an inventory search of the vehicle and waited for a
tow truck to remove the vehicle

from the residence. During the inventory, the deputies found a
blue, plastic bag in the trunk that

contained an unmarked, white envelope with 21 "OC/80"
pills and 115 "Percocet/7.5" pills.

Sample went to trial before a jury on an indictment alleging
possession of Oxycodone, a

Schedule II controlled substance, with intent to distribute in
violation of Code ? 18.2-248(C). At

trial, the Commonwealth presented a certificate of analysis from
the state forensics laboratory

demonstrating that all but four of the pills contained
Oxycodone. Testifying as an expert

witness, Hyatt explained that Oxycodone is a "major abused
drug" in the illegal narcotics trade,

with the Percocet tablets selling for $10 per pill and the
Oxycontin "OC/80" tablets selling for

$80 a pill. The total street value of the Oxycodone pills found
in the Mustang, Hyatt estimated,

totaled $3,980. Hyatt also testified that he read Sample his
Miranda rights and took a statement

from him. In it, Sample specifically denied possessing any of
the narcotic tablets in the

Mustang. When presented with a written statement incorporating
his answers, however, Sample

refused to sign it.

In addition, the Commonwealth presented the testimony of Troy
Schroeder, who stated

that on April 22 Sample and two other men had visited him. They
arrived in a dark colored

Mustang driven by Sample. During the visit, the men put the car
in Schroeder’s garage and

painted it primer gray. Schroeder assumed the vehicle was Sample’s.

After the trial court denied Sample’s motion to strike the
PWID charge, Sample presented

testimony from Spicer, the owner of the residence. Spicer
confirmed that he accompanied

Sample to Schroeder’s house in a blue Mustang and that they
painted the car gray. He stated that

Sample drove the vehicle, Spicer sat in the passenger seat and
Spicer’s brother sat in the back

seat. Spicer claimed that his cousin, Ronald Jones, may have had
access to the stolen car during

the early morning hours of April 23. According to Spicer, Sample
stayed at the residence with

him on the night of April 22 and parked the Mustang in his
driveway that night. Spicer

hypothesized that his cousin, Ronald Jones, who sometimes visits
in the middle of the night,

might have gotten drunk and slept in the Mustang. Spicer thought
he had heard a car door shut

during the early morning hours, but he never saw Jones in the
Mustang.

In closing argument, Sample’s counsel argued that the
defendant did not possess the

drugs. "I submit to you," counsel argued, "those
drugs could have been put there by Mr. Jones."

Sample, his counsel argued, "didn’t know there was [sic] drugs in that car." Sample’s counsel

also contended that no evidence suggested that whoever possessed
the drugs did so with an intent

to distribute. Finding neither argument persuasive, the jury
found Sample guilty of possession

with intent to distribute.

During the sentencing phase of the bifurcated trial, Sample took
the stand in his own

defense. He claimed he possessed all of the pills lawfully,
having been prescribed them for a

back injury. "I was on prescription pain medications,"
Sample testified, "until I was arrested for

this crime." He relied on the medicines solely for
"pain management," he explained, not as a

means to "get high or to have fun or to sell and make
money." Sample, however, produced no

copies of the prescriptions; nor did he provide any testimony
from any physician corroborating

his claim. The jury recommended, and the trial judge imposed, a
twenty-year prison sentence

and a $250,000 fine. Sample now appeals to this Court, claiming
only that the

intent-to-distribute element of his conviction lacks a
sufficient factual basis.

II.

When faced with a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence,
we "presume the

judgment of the trial court to be correct" and reverse only
if the trial court’s decision is "plainly

wrong or without evidence" to support it. Kelly v.
Commonwealth, 41 Va. App. 250, 257, 584

S.E.2d 444, 447 (2003) (en banc) (citations omitted); see
also McGee v. Commonwealth, 25

Va. App. 193, 197-98, 487 S.E.2d 259, 261 (1997) (en banc).

On appeal from a jury verdict, Code ? 8.01-680 requires that
"we review the jury’s

decision to see if reasonable jurors could have made the choices
that the jury did make. We let

the decision stand unless we conclude no rational juror could
have reached that decision." Pease

v. Commonwealth, 39 Va. App. 342, 355, 573 S.E.2d 272, 278
(2002) (en banc), aff’d, 2003 Va.

LEXIS 95 (Va. Oct. 31, 2003). Under this standard, a reviewing
court does not "ask itself

whether it believes that the evidence at the trial
established guilt beyond a reasonable doubt."

Jackson v. Virginia, 443 U.S. 307, 318-19 (1979) (emphasis in
original and citation omitted).

We must instead ask whether "any rational trier of
fact could have found the essential

elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt." Kelly, 41
Va. App. at 257, 584 S.E.2d at 447

(quoting Jackson, 443 U.S. at 319 (emphasis in original and
internal quotation marks omitted));

see also Hoambrecker v. Commonwealth, 13 Va. App. 511, 514, 412
S.E.2d 729, 731 (1992)

(observing that question on appeal is whether "a rational
trier of fact could have found the

essential elements" of the convicted offense). "This
familiar standard gives full play to the

responsibility of the trier of fact fairly to resolve conflicts
in the testimony, to weigh the

evidence, and to draw reasonable inferences from basic facts to
ultimate facts." Kelly, 41

Va. App. at 257-58, 584 S.E.2d at 447 (quoting Jackson, 443 U.S.
at 319).

To convict a defendant on the charge of possession of drugs with
intent to distribute, the

Commonwealth must prove that the defendant possessed illegal
drugs and that he did so with the

intent to distribute those drugs to others. See Code ?
18.2-248(C); Christian v. Commonwealth,

33 Va. App. 704, 716, 536 S.E.2d 477, 483 (2000) (en banc).
On appeal, Sample does not

contest that he possessed the drugs — only that he possessed
them with an intent to distribute.

Given the "difficulty of proving intent directly, the
Commonwealth may (and often must)

rely instead on circumstantial evidence." Craddock, 40 Va.
App. at 553, 580 S.E.2d at 461; see

also Askew v. Commonwealth, 40 Va. App. 104, 108, 578 S.E.2d 58,
60 (2003).

"Circumstantial proof of a defendant’s intent includes
the quantity of the drugs discovered, the

packaging of the drugs, and the presence or absence of drug
paraphernalia." Askew, 40

Va. App. at 109, 578 S.E.2d at 61 (quoting Shackleford v.
Commonwealth, 32 Va. App. 307,

327, 528 S.E.2d 123, 133 (2000) (citations omitted), aff’d,
262 Va. 196, 547 S.E.2d 899 (2001)).

These indicia of intent, however, must be contexualized to the
specific drug at issue. For

example, with non-prescription drugs like crack cocaine, the
packaging factor focuses on

whether the evidence involves multiple, small, retail-sized bags
containing individual rocks

(usually possessed by street-level distributors) or
conspicuously large, wholesale-sized blocks of

precut crack (typically possessed by dealers higher up the chain
of distribution). See generally

Roger D. Groot, Criminal Offenses & Defenses in Virginia
144-45 (4th ed. 1998). For illegally

distributed prescription drugs, however, the packaging factor
takes into account the presence or

absence of pharmacy pill bottles or other forms of
pharmaceutical packaging. A properly labeled

prescription bottle may support an exculpatory inference of
personal use. On the other hand, the

possession of large amounts of prescription narcotics in
unmarked, unlabeled envelopes or bags

may give rise to an inculpatory inference which, coupled with
other incriminating evidence, may

prove an intent to distribute.

In addition, the amount of drugs seized from an individual can
itself be a dispositive

factor. See, e.g., Hunter v. Commonwealth, 213 Va. 569, 570, 193
S.E.2d 779, 780 (1973)

(observing that quantity "is a circumstance which, standing
alone, may be sufficient to support a

finding of intent to distribute"). "‘Possession of a
quantity greater than that ordinarily possessed

for one’s personal use may be sufficient to establish an
intent to distribute it.’" Askew, 40

Va. App. at 109, 578 S.E.2d at 60-61 (quoting Gregory v.
Commonwealth, 22 Va. App. 100,

110, 468 S.E.2d 117, 122 (1996) (finding sufficient evidence of
intent to distribute based on

possession of seven small bags containing a total of 3.7 grams
of cocaine), and Iglesias v.

Commonwealth, 7 Va. App. 93, 110, 372 S.E.2d 170, 180 (1988) (en
banc
)). The amount may

be quantified in terms of weight, number of units, and street
value. See, e.g., Shackleford, 32

Va. App. at 327, 528 S.E.2d at 133.

The totality of the circumstances in this case supports the
rationality of the jury’s verdict

on the intent-to-distribute element of Sample’s conviction.
Sample had driven a reportedly

stolen car to Grayson County and then repainted the vehicle in
an effort at evasion. In the car,

Sample carried nearly $4,000 worth of addictive prescription
narcotics. The 195 tablets were not

packaged in prescription pill bottles or pharmacy bags, but
divided between two unmarked

envelopes. The quantity and street-value of the narcotics,
coupled with their non-pharmaceutical

method of packaging, provide a sufficient factual basis for the
jury’s finding that Sample

possessed the drugs with an intent to distribute.

Despite the incriminating evidence against him, however, Sample
contends the jury

arbitrarily disregarded the reasonable hypothesis of innocence
that he "possessed the medications

for his own personal use."[2]
We disagree. Sample’s own evidence excluded this possibility. His

only witness, Mark Spicer, asserted that the drugs likely
belonged to his cousin and were

somehow planted in the parked vehicle during the night. In his
closing argument, Sample’s

counsel argued this hypothesis and never once intimated the
factually inconsistent assertion that

Sample possessed the prescription pills for medicinal purposes.
Sample, his counsel argued,

"didn’t know there was [sic] drugs in that car."
Having taken this position at trial, he cannot now

assert on appeal a new hypothesis in an effort to vacate his
conviction. On appeal, "the issue of

exclusion of reasonable theories of innocence is limited to
those theories advanced by the

accused at trial." Hudson, 265 Va. at 514, 578 S.E.2d at
786.

Even if Sample had asserted the personal-use hypothesis at
trial, the jury would have had

ample reason to reject it. The Commonwealth "need only
exclude reasonable hypotheses of

innocence that flow from the evidence, not those that spring
from the imagination of the

defendant." Welshman v. Commonwealth, 28 Va. App. 20, 36,
502 S.E.2d 122, 130 (1998) (en

banc) (citations and internal quotation marks omitted); see
also Agee v. Commonwealth, 40

Va. App. 123, 128, 578 S.E.2d 68, 70 (2003). No evidence in the
guilt phase of the case

suggested that Sample had a physical condition warranting the
use of such powerful pain

medication or had a prior prescription from a physician. To the
contrary, in his post-arrest

statement to police, Sample denied possessing the narcotics for
any reason. Implicit in this

assertion is that he was not using the drugs for medicinal
purposes. The jury was at liberty to

disbelieve Sample’s outright denial of possession of the
narcotics, but nonetheless accept it as a

half-truth — an implicit admission that, at any rate, he did
not possess the pills for medical

reasons.[3]

Under settled principles, whether an alternative hypothesis of
innocence is reasonable is a

"question of fact." Pease, 39 Va. App. at 355, 573
S.E.2d at 278. A factfinder’s rejection of a

hypothesis of innocence "is binding on appeal unless
plainly wrong." Christian, 33 Va. App. at 715,

536 S.E.2d at 483 (citation omitted). We examine the
reasonableness of the hypothesis not in an

abstract sense, but at the level of specificity shown by the
unique facts and circumstances of the

case. See Hudson, 265 Va. at 516, 578 S.E.2d at 787. The
question then becomes whether a

"rational" factfinder, facing the evidence before it,
could have reached the decision that it did.

Pease, 39 Va. App. at 355, 573 S.E.2d at 278; see also Hudson,
265 Va. at 513, 578 S.E.2d at

785-86 (observing that the issue is whether a
"reasonable" factfinder could have rejected the

hypothesis of innocence).[4]

Based upon the record before us, we find that the jury’s
finding of guilt beyond a reasonable

doubt rests on a sufficient foundation of inculpatory evidence.
The rationality of the verdict extends

to the intent-to-distribute element of the conviction, as well
as the jury’s rejection of any reasonable

hypotheses of innocence that could be derived from the evidence.

III.

Finding the evidence of guilt sufficient to support the
intent-to-distribute element of Code

? 18.2-248(C), we affirm Sample’s conviction.

Affirmed.

 

Clements, J., dissenting.

On appeal, Sample does not dispute the finding that he
unlawfully possessed the

Oxycodone pills that are the subject of this case. He contends,
rather, that the Commonwealth

failed to meet its burden of proving he intended to distribute
the Oxycodone pills because no

expert testimony was offered to show that the quantity and
packaging of those pills was

consistent with distribution and inconsistent with personal use.
Such expert testimony was

necessary, he argues, because the facts and circumstances
regarding the illegal use and

distribution of Oxycodone are not within the common knowledge or
experience of the average

lay juror. I agree. I would hold, therefore, that the evidence
was insufficient for the jury to

convict Sample of possession of Oxycodone with intent to
distribute, in violation of Code

? 18.2-248(C). Accordingly, I respectfully dissent from the
majority’s opinion.

To sustain Sample’s conviction in this case, the Commonwealth
had the burden of proving

beyond a reasonable doubt that Sample intended to distribute the
Oxycodone pills found in his

possession. See Servis v. Commonwealth, 6 Va. App. 507, 524, 371
S.E.2d 156, 165 (1988)

("Where an offense consists of an act combined with a
particular intent, proof of the intent is

essential to the conviction."); Code ? 18.2-248(A), (C).
"Because direct proof of intent [to

distribute drugs] is often impossible, it [usually] must be
shown by circumstantial evidence."

Servis, 6 Va. App. at 524, 371 S.E.2d at 165. Circumstantial
evidence is sufficient to sustain a

conviction if it excludes all "reasonable hypotheses that
flow from the evidence." Hamilton v.

Commonwealth, 16 Va. App. 751, 755, 433 S.E.2d 27, 29 (1993).

"Circumstantial proof of a defendant’s intent includes
the quantity of the drugs

discovered [and] the packaging of the drugs . . . ."
Shackleford v. Commonwealth, 32 Va. App.

307, 327, 528 S.E.2d 123, 133 (2000), aff’d, 262 Va. 196, 547
S.E.2d 899 (2001). "[P]ossession

of a quantity greater than that ordinarily possessed for one’s
personal use may be sufficient to

establish an intent to distribute it." Monroe v.
Commonwealth, 4 Va. App. 154, 156, 355 S.E.2d

336, 337 (1987). Likewise, possession of drugs packaged in a
manner consistent with

distribution and inconsistent with personal use may indicate an
intent to distribute the drugs. See

Shackleford, 32 Va. App. at 327, 528 S.E.2d at 133; Monroe, 4
Va. App. at 156, 355 S.E.2d at

337 (noting that, "even if the substance is packaged for
distribution, there must be additional

evidence to preclude the inference that it was . . . in the
packaged form for personal use rather

than being held in that fashion for distribution").
"Expert testimony, usually that of a police

officer familiar with narcotics, is routinely offered to prove
the significance of the [quantity] and

packaging of drugs regarding whether it is for personal
use." Shackleford, 32 Va. App. at 327,

528 S.E.2d at 133.

Here, there was no direct evidence presented at trial that
Sample distributed or intended

to distribute the Oxycodone pills found in his possession. As
relevant to this appeal, the

circumstantial evidence presented by the Commonwealth
established that Sample illegally

possessed a total of 29 "OC/80" pills and 166
"Percocet/7.5" pills. Of those 195 pills, all but [5]

contained Oxycodone, a Schedule II controlled substance. The
pills were discovered inside two

unmarked, white envelopes in the car driven by Sample. One of
the envelopes was found in the

car’s front console, and the other was found in the car’s
trunk inside a plastic bag containing

clothes and other personal items. The envelope in the console
was open and contained 8

"OC/80" pills and 51 "Percocet/7.5" pills.
The envelope in the trunk was sealed and contained

21 "OC/80" pills and 115 "Percocet/7.5"
pills. Investigator Hyatt, who qualified as an expert

witness, testified that Oxycodone had become a "major
abused drug" in the "last few years" and

that the total "street value" of the pills found in
the car was $3,980.4

Investigator Hyatt, however, did not testify that the quantity
and packaging of the

Oxycodone pills in Sample’s possession were consistent with
distribution and inconsistent with

personal use. Indeed, the Commonwealth offered no evidence
regarding the significance of the

quantity or packaging of the Oxycodone pills.

The dispositive question, then, is whether the circumstantial
evidence presented by the

Commonwealth would permit the jury to reasonably infer, without
expert testimony, that Sample

intended to distribute the Oxycodone pills he illegally
possessed. Expert testimony is necessary

when the jury

"is confronted with issues which require scientific or
specialized

knowledge or experience in order to be properly understood, and

which cannot be determined intelligently merely from the

deductions made and inferences drawn on the basis of ordinary

knowledge, common sense, and practical experience gained in the

ordinary affairs of life."

Compton v. Commonwealth, 219 Va. 716, 726, 250 S.E.2d 749,
755-56 (1979) (quoting 31 Am.

Jur.2d Expert and Opinion Evidence ? 16 (1967) (footnote
omitted)). Conversely, "[e]xpert

testimony is not required, indeed is inadmissible, in cases in
which the facts and circumstances

are within the common understanding and experience of the
average[] lay juror." Nelson v.

Commonwealth, 235 Va. 228, 236, 368 S.E.2d 239, 244-45 (1988).

We have previously recognized the need for expert testimony in
cases such as this,

because a trier of fact’s "‘common experience’
teaches little or nothing" on the subject of the

"methodology used in selling controlled substances."
Morton v. Commonwealth, 13 Va. App. 6,

11, 408 S.E.2d 583, 585 (1991). In Hudak v. Commonwealth, 19 Va.
App. 260, 262-63, 450

S.E.2d 769, 771 (1994), for example, we found the issues with
which the jury was confronted

relating to the consumption and distribution of LSD were beyond
the jury’s realm of common

knowledge and experience. Because the Commonwealth offered no
expert testimony on those

issues to assist the jury, we found the evidence insufficient to
support the appellant’s conviction

for conspiracy to distribute LSD. Id. at 262-63, 450 S.E.2d at
770-71. Rejecting the

Commonwealth’s argument that the "appellant knew or
should have known that [the alleged

co-conspirator] was redistributing LSD because [the] appellant
sold [the alleged co-conspirator]

2,000 hits of LSD on one occasion," we held as follows:

[N]o testimony was introduced to prove [the alleged

co-conspirator’s] level of personal consumption, how often
[the

alleged co-conspirator] consumed LSD, how powerful one LSD

"dose" is, [or] how long unused LSD can be stored
before it loses

it potency . . . . Under the facts of this case, without more

compelling evidence in the record, expert testimony on these
issues

was necessary to establish that [the] appellant knew or should
have

known that [the alleged co-conspirator] was distributing LSD.

Without any expert testimony from the Commonwealth as to these

(and other related) issues, the jury was without evidence to

conclude that the 2,000 hits of LSD were not for [the alleged

co-conspirator’s] personal use.

Id. at 262-63, 450 S.E.2d at 771.

Plainly, the use and distribution of Oxycodone are matters that
lie outside the range of the

common knowledge and experience of an average lay juror,
particularly when, as here, the use

and distribution involved are purportedly illegal. In this case,
the Commonwealth presented no

evidence regarding Sample’s personal consumption of Oxycodone.
Likewise, the

Commonwealth presented no expert testimony regarding the potency
or typical dosage of the

Oxycodone pills found in Sample’s possession, the quantity of
Oxycodone pills normally

consumed or possessed by one illegally using that controlled
substance, or the respective

packaging methods typically used by those who illegally possess
Oxycodone pills for their own

use and those who illegally distribute Oxycodone pills to
others. Without expert testimony to

assist it in understanding those issues, the jury could only
speculate as to the significance of the

quantity and packaging of the Oxycodone pills in this case.[6]

I conclude, therefore, that expert testimony was required to
assist the jury understand the

significance, if any, of the quantity and packaging of the
Oxycodone pills found in Sample’s

possession in determining whether Sample intended to distribute
the pills or retain them for

personal use. The jury could not reasonably infer from the
evidence presented that the quantity

of Oxycodone pills illegally possessed by Sample and the
packaging of those pills were

consistent with distribution and inconsistent with personal use.
"Where an inference supporting

guilt is no more likely to arise from a proven fact than one
favoring innocence, the inference of

guilt is impermissible." Morton, 13 Va. App. at 11, 408
S.E.2d at 586.

For these reasons, I would conclude the Commonwealth failed to
prove beyond a

reasonable doubt that Sample had the requisite intent to
distribute the Oxycodone pills he

illegally possessed. See Patterson v. Commonwealth, 215 Va. 698,
699, 213 S.E.2d 752, 753

(1975) (holding that a finding of intent may not "be based
upon surmise or speculation"). I

would hold, therefore, that the evidence presented at trial was
insufficient, as a matter of law, to

sustain Sample’s conviction.[7]

Accordingly, I would reverse Sample’s conviction for
possession of Oxycodone, a

Schedule II controlled substance, with intent to distribute, in
violation of Code ? 18.2-248(C),

and remand the case for further proceedings, if the Commonwealth
be so advised.

 

FOOTNOTES:

[1]Pursuant to
Code ? 17.1-413, this opinion is not designated for publication.

 

[2]The dissent
appears to rest its conclusion on the hypothesis of innocence (on the

intent-to-distribute element of the charge) that Sample
illegally obtained and used these narcotics

outside the parameters of a physician prescribed regime of
medication. Sample, however, never

argued that hypothesis in the trial court. Indeed, his own
testimony during the penalty phase

directly asserted the opposite by claiming he obtained the
medicines pursuant to a prescription

for back pain and used these medicines in accord with the
recommended dosage for "pain

management." He specifically denied unlawfully obtaining or
using the pills to "get high."

Sample did not change course on appeal. Here, too, he has argued
only the hypothesis that he

possessed and used the pills as "medications." This
disconnect in the specific hypothesis under

review accounts for the dissent’s inability to find a
"basis in logic" for the inferences available

from the non-pharmaceutical packaging used to store the
medicines. Ante, at 14 n.5.

 

[3]The factfinder
need not decide between rejecting or accepting a witness’s testimony in

full, but may find it credible in part and incredible in part.
Montague v. Commonwealth, 40

Va. App. 430, 436, 579 S.E.2d 667, 669 (2003); see also Barrett
v. Commonwealth, 231 Va. 102,

107, 341 S.E.2d 190, 193 (1986) (recognizing that jurors
"have the right to reject that part of the

evidence believed by them to be untrue and to accept that found
by them to be true. In so doing,

they have broad discretion in applying the law to the facts and
in fixing the degree of guilt, if

any, of a person charged with a crime."); Rollston v.
Commonwealth, 11 Va. App. 535, 547, 399

S.E.2d 823, 830 (1991) (noting that a jury is not required to
"accept in toto an accused’s

statement, but may rely on it in whole, in part, or reject it
completely").

 

[4]Relying on
Hudak v. Commonwealth, 19 Va. App. 260, 450 S.E.2d 769 (1994), the

dissent contends that the conviction cannot stand absent expert
testimony. Hudak involved a

conspiracy charge, however, and the question on appeal dealt
only with the defendant’s

knowledge of his alleged co-conspirator’s drug distribution
activities. Hudak did not involve a

possession-with-intent charge and has never been cited as
providing guidance for the use or

disuse of expert testimony in such cases.

 

[5]The majority
also finds the following evidence relevant to the outcome of this appeal:

(1) that the car in which the Oxycodone pills were found had
been reportedly stolen and

repainted; (2) that, following the discovery of those pills,
Sample told Investigator Hyatt they

were not his; and (3) that Sample’s sole witness, Mark Spicer,
hypothesized that the drugs found

in the car might be his cousin’s. While this evidence may have
been relevant at trial to the

question of whether Sample illegally possessed the Oxycodone
pills, I believe it has little, if any,

bearing on the intent-to-distribute issue before us on appeal.

 

[6]Notwithstanding
the absence of expert testimony on the subject of packaging, the

majority concludes that the fact Oxycodone pills were found in
plain, unmarked, unlabeled

envelopes, rather than properly labeled prescription pill
bottles or pharmacy bags, supports the

inference that Sample intended to distribute the Oxycodone
pills. Such a conclusion is amiss, in

my view, not only because, as I noted above, it has no basis in
the common knowledge and

experience of an ordinary juror, but also because it has no
basis in logic. Again, the issue here is

not whether Sample illegally possessed the Oxycodone pills, but
whether, having illegal

possession of the pills, he intended to distribute them. Thus,
while I agree with the majority’s

opinion that "[a] properly labeled prescription bottle may
support an exculpatory inference of

personal use," I do not believe it necessarily follows that
keeping illegally possessed Oxycodone

pills in unmarked, unlabeled envelopes is indicative of the
possessor’s intent to distribute those

drugs rather than use them personally. Plainly, one who
illegally obtains Oxycodone pills for his

or her own use (e.g., by theft, purchase from an
unauthorized distributor, or with an invalid

prescription) would not normally have the wherewithal to then
place those pills in a properly

labeled prescription bottle or pharmacy bag.

 

[7]In reaching
this conclusion, I am not suggesting that expert testimony is required in

every case where the accused’s intent to distribute is at issue.
Here, however, as discussed

above, the particular facts of this case make such testimony
necessary.


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