Winthrop & Weinstine’s recent successful appeal has resulted in a pro bono client, Dominic Sam, being released from prison. Sam was arrested in the summer of 2013, along with his passenger, while driving a car he had borrowed from another friend. A state trooper ran the license plates when the client drove by, and saw that the vehicle’s registration tabs had expired and that the owner’s license had been suspended, so he stopped the vehicle. After the passenger made suspicious movements, the trooper discovered alcohol, methamphetamine, and a loaded handgun in the vehicle. The trooper affirmatively testified that Sam had not made any suspicious movements during the stop, and that no contraband was found on his person.
Despite this, the client was convicted on three separate counts, but his controlling offense was possession of methamphetamine with a firearm enhancement, which carried a three year mandatory minimum sentence. The team argued to the Court of Appeals that the evidence presented at trial was insufficient to support the client’s conviction. Specifically, they argued that the state failed to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the client was in constructive possession of either the drugs or the gun. Based on the facts proven at trial, they argued there was simply not enough evidence to permit the jury to conclude that the client knew that any of the contraband was in the car, at least not until the vehicle was pulled over. Most of the evidence strongly pointed toward the passenger, but it was also quite possible that the owner had left the contraband in the car as well.
On February 17, the Court of Appeals rendered a published decision agreeing with the team’s position, and reversed the client’s convictions. The prosecutor agreed not to appeal the case any further, and Sam was released from prison on February 19, 2015 at 1:01 pm. The client had been incarcerated since June 28, 2013.
The team, whose tireless dedication has resulted in justice for our client, included: Reid Golden, Tom Boyd, Martha Engel, Amber Kraemer, Sofia Lykke, Matthew Robinson, and Quin Seiler.
This case was featured on MyFox9 News. To view the segment, please click here.