Supreme Court Reduces Davidson County Drug Conviction for Lack of Sufficient Evidence

April 19, 2013

In a unanimous opinion, the Tennessee Supreme Court today affirmed but modified the drug conviction of a Davidson County defendant after determining that the evidence was insufficient to support a conviction for possession with intent to sell cocaine found in the residence of a co-defendant.

Bobby Lee Robinson and two co-defendants took part in a drug sale, which was arranged by police through a confidential informant. Police confronted the three defendants when they arrived at the location for the drug sale. Robinson, who was sitting in the front passenger seat of the co-defendant’s truck, threw a bag that appeared to contain a white, rock-like substance into the back seat of the vehicle.

During a search of the vehicle, police found two small bags in the front seat within reach of Robinson, one containing 101.3 grams of crack cocaine and another containing 51.2 grams of powder cocaine. A later search of the co-defendant’s home revealed an additional 11.4 grams of crack cocaine, 282.1 grams of cocaine, and various items of drug paraphernalia, some of which were in plain view. Although Robinson was seen leaving the residence accompanied by his two co-defendants, he did not live in the residence. The State consolidated the weight of the cocaine, and Robinson was convicted of possession of drug paraphernalia and possession with intent to sell 300 grams or more of cocaine, a Class A felony.

The Supreme Court concluded that the evidence was sufficient to sustain Robinson’s conviction for possession with intent to sell the cocaine found in the co-defendant’s truck. The Court held, however, that the evidence of Robinson’s connection to the co-defendant’s residence was insufficient to permit a jury to reasonably conclude that Robinson had control over the cocaine and drug paraphernalia in the residence.  The Court modified Robinson’s conviction for possession with intent to sell 300 grams or more of cocaine to possession with intent to sell between 26 and 299 grams of cocaine, vacated Robinson’s conviction for possession of drug paraphernalia, and returned the case to the trial court for resentencing. 

To read theState of Tennessee v. Bobby Lee Robinson Opinion,authored by Justice Janice M. Holder, visit the Opinionssection of TNCourts.gov.