In August, Judge Inman of the North Carolina Court of Appeals issued an opinion in State v. Evans, upholding the conviction of the defendant for several drug charges relating to his alleged operation of a marijuana growing farm in Iredell County, NC. One of the central legal issues in Evans’s appeal was the admissibility of expert testimony concerning the weight of the marijuana found at the operation. Evans had attempted to introduce expert witness testimony by Dr. Frederic Whitehurst challenging the State’s contention that all of the evidence was statutorily defined as marijuana, which would have cast doubt on the weight measurement the State claimed.
The State’s chemist claimed that she had weighed the marijuana after removing all the mature stalks, despite inconsistent trial testimony. The NC statutory definition of marijuana states that it “shall not include the mature stalks”. N.C. Gen. Stat. § 90-87(16). However, the detective who removed the marijuana from the scene stated, according the Court of Appeals, “that he placed everything ‘above the root ball’ in a bag and sent it to the lab” and then the State’s chemist testified at trial “that she weighed everything in the bag”. State v. Evans, 2018 N.C. App. LEXIS 838, 9-10.
The testimony of the chemist and detective gave credence to the idea that the chemist did not actually remove the mature stalks before weighing the marijuana, thus giving an excessive weight measure. When Dr. Whitehurst was finally able to weigh the marijuana himself, he found that around 28% of the amount provided was mature stems, seemingly further supporting the idea that State’s chemist had not followed NC law in which parts of the marijuana to include in her measure.
The Court of Appeals, however, disallowed his testimony because: “Despite what Defendant argues on appeal, Dr. Whitehurst was not seeking to testify as to whether or not the material weighed by the State fell within the definition of marijuana. Rather, he was prepared to testify only about the weight of the substance in November 2013, more than a year after the date relevant to the trafficking charges. The trial court ruled that such testimony was irrelevant to the weight of the substance on the day it was seized, which. . . is the applicable date under the statute.” Id. at 17.