After a jury trial, James A. Purlee was convicted of possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana and unlawful use of a weapon. Purlee appeals both convictions, claiming insufficient evidence. We find that there was sufficient evidence to support the jury verdicts and affirm the judgment.
The evidence presented to the jury established that on the evening of October 1, 1989, Missouri State Highway Patrolman Timothy Rousset pulled over a brown van traveling eastbound on Interstate 44 outside Joplin. The van was going 62 m.p.h. in a 55 m.p.h. speed zone. Its occupants were James Purlee, the driver, and Mark Schmidt, who was riding in the front passenger seat. Trooper Rousset approached the driver's door. At his request, Purlee rolled down his window and produced an Illinois driver's license. Purlee stated that the van's cruise control had been set at 58 m.p.h. and that he was not aware the speed limit was 55 m.p.h. in that area. During this conversation Trooper Rousset detected a "very strong" odor of raw marijuana coming outside the window.
Trooper Rousset asked Purlee to accompany him to the patrol car. As soon as Purlee exited the van the officer handcuffed him, patted him down, and placed him under arrest for possession of marijuana. Trooper Rousset led Purlee behind the van and left him in the custody of a companion who had been riding in the patrol car. The officer then removed Schmidt from the vehicle, handcuffed him, arrested him, and also led him behind the van. Trooper Rousset informed Purlee and Schmidt that he smelled marijuana very strongly and asked them if they had marijuana in the vehicle. They each responded, "No." The officer then proceeded to search the van.
Trooper Rousset opened the double doors to the van's rear storage compartment. He found two large green duffel bags, one partially stuffed under the back bench seat and the other propped up and covered by two leather jackets. These bags contained a total of 86.29 pounds of raw marijuana, compressed into eight round, foot-wide "bricks." One of the leather jackets contained personal papers, including a car title and a bill of sale, belonging to Schmidt. The other leather jacket and a third jacket were empty. Trooper Rousset noticed a small blue and yellow zippered duffel bag in the rear of the van. This bag had some clothing and a postcard addressed to "James Purplee" at the same address later given by Purlee for the investigative arrest report. It did not contain any drugs.
Trooper Rousset then called a wrecker, took the marijuana to his patrol car, and subjected the van to a more detailed search. He found a loaded .38 caliber Smith & Wesson revolver lying on the floorboard between the two front seats and behind the van's engine console, closer to the driver's side. The officer testified that he did not see the weapon on his initial approach because it was only visible by entering the van and looking over the passenger seat. He also testified that the revolver was not covered up with any debris and that it could not be completely concealed under the van's pedestal-style captain's chairs. He admitted that Purlee had no drugs on his person, that his breath did not smell of marijuana, and that he behaved like a gentleman.
The jury found Purlee guilty of the class C felony of possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana, § 195.202, RSMo Supp.1989 (Count I), and of the class D felony of unlawful use of a weapon, § 571.030.1(1), RSMo 1986 (Count II). He was sentenced to concurrent terms of seven and five years, respectively, and fined $100.00.
Purlee challenges the trial court's denial of his motions for judgment of acquittal filed at the close of the State's case and at the close of all the evidence. Because he presented evidence in his own behalf after the State rested, Purlee waived any claim of error related to the denial of his motion at the close of the State's case. State v. White, 798 S.W.2d 694, 696-7 (Mo. banc 1990). For purposes of this review, the proper focus is whether the motion for acquittal made at the close of all the evidence should have been sustained. State v. McQuerry, 406 S.W.2d 624, 626 (Mo.1966).
On a challenge to the sufficiency of the evidence, the evidence and all reasonable inferences drawn therefrom are viewed in a light most favorable to the jury's verdict, disregarding all contrary evidence and inferences. State v. Davis, 814 S.W.2d 593, 594 (Mo. banc 1991), cert. denied, ___ U.S. ___, 112 S.Ct. 911, 116 L.Ed.2d 812 (1992). Appellate review is limited to determining whether there is sufficient evidence from which a reasonable juror might have found the defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. State v. Dulany, 781 S.W.2d 52, 55 (Mo. banc 1989). When the State's case is founded entirely upon circumstantial evidence, the facts and circumstances must be consistent with each other and with the hypothesis of defendant's guilt, and they must exclude every reasonable hypothesis of his innocence. But they need not be absolutely conclusive of guilt, and they need not demonstrate the impossibility of innocence. State v. Biddle, 599 S.W.2d 182, 192 (Mo. banc 1980), citing State v. Franco, 544 S.W.2d 533, 534 (Mo. banc 1976), cert. denied, 431 U.S. 957, 97 S.Ct. 2682, 53 L.Ed.2d 275 (1977).
Purlee's first point on appeal contends that the State did not produce sufficient evidence to convince a rational juror that he was aware of, or had access to, the marijuana hidden in the duffel bags in the van's rear storage compartment. To sustain a conviction for possession of a controlled substance, the State must prove (1) conscious and intentional possession of the substance, either actual or constructive, and (2) awareness of the presence and nature of the substance. Both possession and knowledge may be proved by circumstantial evidence. State v. Barber, 635 S.W.2d 342, 343 (Mo.1982).
The following four factors incriminate Purlee and support the jury's verdict. First and most importantly, Trooper Rousset testified that the odor of raw marijuana coming from the van was very strong. After denying that he has any particular ability to smell the drug, Trooper Rousset stated, "I think anybody could have smelled marijuana in the circumstances I have." The officer's prompt arrest of Purlee and Schmidt for possession of marijuana, before searching the vehicle and absent tangible evidence of the drug, underscores the strength of the aroma emanating from the van.
Purlee's professed failure to recognize any unusual odors after spending twelve hours inside the closed van apparently was not credible to the jury. This situation is analogous to that discussed in State v. Harris, 807 S.W.2d 528 (Mo.App.1991). There, the defendant asserted that he did not see a container of cocaine solution and a syringe, which lay at his feet for over two hours while he and a companion sat in a parked truck, even though he was observed bending down toward the floor. The court stated that accepting the defendant's reasoning "would have compelled the jurors to conclude either that he kept his eyes closed all night or that a miracle of spontaneous generation occurred when the rangers searched the truck." Id. at 530. Similarly, the evidence presented in this case allowed the jury to properly infer that Purlee was aware of the presence and nature of the contraband because of the inescapable odor of raw marijuana permeating the interior of the van. See State v. Adkins, 800 S.W.2d 28, 31 (Mo.App.1990).
Second, Purlee's duffel bag was found in the rear storage compartment of the van, next to two large bags containing 86 pounds of marijuana. The presence of a defendant's personal effects next to contraband supports an inference of access to the contraband. See State v. Stolzman, 799 S.W.2d 927, 932 (Mo.App.1990); State v. Dusso, 760 S.W.2d 546, 548 (Mo.App.1988). The presence of a large quantity of drugs coupled with ready access to the drugs tends to show conscious possession. State v. Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d 388, 396 (Mo.App. 1990); State v. Mischanko, 743 S.W.2d 867, 869 (Mo.App. 1987); cf. Barber, 635 S.W.2d at 344.
Third, Purlee admitted that he knew he was driving with a revolver lying next to his seat and within easy reach, although he claimed not to know whether it was loaded. The jury could have inferred that the weapon was intended to protect the van's valuable cargo during the long trip from Tucson to Collinsville, thus buttressing the inference that Purlee was in conscious, knowing possession of the marijuana. See Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d at 396; State v. Gibbs, 600 S.W.2d 594, 599 (Mo.App.1980).
Fourth, Purlee bought a one-way airline ticket to Tucson without making a return reservation, even though he intended to fly back within a week. Despite Purlee's testimony to the contrary, the jury could have inferred that the purpose of Purlee's trip to Tucson was to collect and transport a load of marijuana to his home town in Illinois.
These four factors establish that the jury's verdict was consistent with the most reasonable hypothesis, Purlee's guilt. It must be remembered that the circumstances "need not be absolutely conclusive of guilt, and they need not demonstrate impossibility of innocence."
Purlee's second point on appeal alleges that the State did not produce sufficient evidence to support the conviction for unlawful use of a weapon, because the weapon was not concealed from ordinary observation; or alternately, because Purlee was traveling in a continuous journey peaceably through the state.
Purlee was charged with violating § 571.030.1(1), RSMo 1986,
The relevant statutory exceptions are listed in § 571.030.3:
The test of concealment is whether a weapon is so carried as not to be discernible by ordinary observation. Bordeaux, 337 S.W.2d at 49. When the weapon is not fully covered or enclosed, the court of appeals has formulated the test as follows:
State v. Cavin, 555 S.W.2d 653, 654 (Mo. App.1977), citing State v. Miles, 124 Mo. App. 283, 101 S.W. 671, 672 (Mo.App.1907).
Moreover, when a loaded firearm is carried in a vehicle within easy reach of the occupants, "ordinary observation" is tested from the vantage point of an approaching officer:
State v. Pruitt, 755 S.W.2d 309, 313 (Mo. App.1988); and,
Gibbs, 600 S.W.2d at 597.
This Court has previously held that a loaded weapon lying on the floor of a vehicle so that it cannot be seen from outside the vehicle is concealed:
Patterson, 624 S.W.2d at 13; and,
Bordeaux, 337 S.W.2d at 49.
Trooper Rousset repeatedly testified that he did not and could not see the revolver from outside the van:
Q. When you took the Defendant out the driver's side, you didn't see a weapon?
A. No, sir.
Q. And, in fact, if the weapon was obscured from your view, it was either
A. By the chair, sir.
Q. Had you looked inside the van where the gun was later found, could you have seen it?
A. Only by entering the van and leaning over the seat to see it.
Q. Looking down through the windshield you couldn't have seen it?
A. Maybe if you were about ten feet tall you might have been able to, but [a] normal height person, no, sir.
Q. And that this gun was laying on the floor mat—
Q. —in plain view when you got in a certain situation?
Q. It was not covered up with any debris, paper, rags, or anything?
Q. You could clearly see it as you came in the door?
A. You had to actually look over the passenger side seat, yes, sir.
The emphasized language suggests that, far from being in plain view, the revolver was not discernible to an ordinary observer approaching the van and could be seen only from a single vantage point after entering the vehicle.
In present times, the unlawful use of firearms poses great danger to our citizens and law enforcement officers. This is particularly true in connection with the trafficking of drugs and with the increasing incidence of drive-by shootings in our cities. Our court of appeals has held that a weapon is concealed if it cannot be viewed by the ordinary observation of one approaching a vehicle.
Accordingly, we hold that a weapon being carried in a vehicle is concealed within the meaning of the unlawful use statute whenever the weapon is (1) not readily and practically visible to a person approaching the vehicle under ordinary circumstances and (2) within easy reach of any of the vehicle's occupants and (3) if the weapon is a firearm, it is operational and loaded, or if not loaded, ammunition is within easy reach of any of the vehicle's occupants. Therefore, the evidence presented to the jury was sufficient to support the conclusion that the revolver was concealed.
Purlee also contends that he was "traveling in a continuous journey peaceably through this state," § 571.030.3, RSMo 1986, and that this special defense requires a reversal of his conviction on the weapon charge.
Purlee correctly points out that once the accused raises the defense that he is within one of the exempted classes designated in the statute, the State has the burden of proving he is not within the exemption. Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d at 392-3. He then asserts that if the evidence was insufficient to submit the marijuana possession issue to the jury, "all facts lead to the conclusion that he was in fact traveling peaceably through the state." To Purlee's misfortune, however, the evidence presented was sufficient to submit Count I to the jury. We thus need to consider whether a
Our concealed weapon exemption for peaceful travelers dates back to 1874. State v. Mason, 571 S.W.2d 246, 249 (Mo. banc 1978) (Finch, J., dissenting). Both the exemption and its qualifier have survived a number of reenactments and amendments over the last century. Although this Court has not previously had occasion to contemplate the definition of peaceable travel, we agree that at a minimum the statute should not be construed as a license to carry a concealed firearm during the commission of a felony or a breach of the peace. Wilkerson, 796 S.W.2d at 394; State v. Cousins, 131 Mo.App. 617, 110 S.W. 607, 608 (Mo. App.1908); Miles, 101 S.W. at 672; see also State v. Murray, 382 So.2d 1372, 1373-4 (Fla.App.1980); Johnson v. State, 571 S.W.2d 170, 172 (Tex.App.1978). Therefore, we hold that the travelers' exemption does not extend to persons traveling through this state during the commission of a felony or for any unlawful purpose.
In this case, there was ample evidence from which reasonable jurors could have concluded that Purlee knowingly carried a concealed, loaded revolver within easy reach as he drove the van. Further, the evidence being sufficient to sustain the conviction of possession of more than 35 grams of marijuana, Purlee did not come within the statutory travelers' exemption. Accordingly, Purlee's second point is denied.
As his third and final point, Purlee alleges that the trial court erred when it sustained the State's motion in limine and precluded him from introducing an information charging Mark Schmidt with possession and transportation of marijuana and a docket sheet recording his guilty plea to these offenses. Purlee now suggests that the excluded evidence was admissible either as a declaration against penal interest or as testimony at a prior proceeding, although he made no attempt to introduce it at trial.
A ruling in limine is interlocutory only and is subject to change during the course of the trial. State v. Evans, 639 S.W.2d 820, 822 (Mo.1982). The motion in limine, in and of itself, preserves nothing for appeal. State v. Gray, 812 S.W.2d 935, 939 (Mo.App.1991). Accordingly, the proponent of the evidence must attempt to present the excluded evidence at trial, and if an objection to the proffered evidence is sustained, the proponent must then make an offer of proof. State v. Arbuckle, 816 S.W.2d 932, 938 (Mo.App.1991); State v. Oliver, 729 S.W.2d 560, 563 (Mo.App.1987); State v. Smith, 725 S.W.2d 631, 633 (Mo. App.1987).
In reference to the attempt of a criminal defendant to introduce a declaration of another against the declarant's penal interest, this is especially true. Both Chambers v. Mississippi, 410 U.S. 284, 93 S.Ct. 1038, 35 L.Ed.2d 297 (1973), and the Missouri cases decided under it, State v. Blankenship, 830 S.W.2d 1, 6-7 (Mo. banc 1992), and State v. Turner, 623 S.W.2d 4, 9 (Mo. banc 1981), cert. denied, 456 U.S. 931, 102 S.Ct. 1982, 72 L.Ed.2d 448 (1982), indicate that the question of whether these statements may be admitted is heavily fact-dependent. Only with a fully developed factual context can a trial judge make a ruling that requires the balancing of a number of relevancy, reliability, and other issues. Not wishing to limit our holding solely to this procedural issue, however, we have also reviewed this matter for plain error. We find that the trial court's ruling did not result in "a manifest injustice or miscarriage of justice" entitling Purlee to relief. State v. Hadley, 815 S.W.2d 422, 423 (Mo. banc 1991).
For the same reasons, a full factual record developed by an actual offer of evidence and offer of proof is needed to determine whether or not the requirements for identity of issues and identity of parties are met to admit evidence under the prior testimony exception. Even without such an offer, however, all indications are that evidence of Schmidt's guilty plea would not be admissible under that exception.
First, Schmidt's plea of guilty is not testimony from a prior case. The plea is not
Second, even if this could be treated as an offer of testimony from Schmidt's case, the exception requires that the evidence be offered on the same issue in both the prior case and the present case. This requirement is necessary if the cross-examination in the prior case is to be an adequate substitute for the absence of cross-examination in the present case. The identity of issues requirement is not met here because the issue in Schmidt's case was whether Schmidt had possession of the marijuana; the issue in the present case is whether Purlee had possession. Because joint possession is a viable alternative, these issues are not the same issues stated in differing ways; the issues in the two cases were clearly not the same.
Purlee's third point is denied. The judgment is affirmed.