in the Court of Appeals 25 May 2017
by Defendant from judgments entered 7 April 2016 and judgment
entered 8 April 2016 by Judge Gary M. Gavenus in Superior
Court, Madison County, No. 13 CRS 000248, after a jury trial
before Judge R. Gregory Horne on 4 and 5 April 2016.
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Special Deputy Attorney
General Daniel Snipes Johnson, for the State.
Michael E. Casterline for Defendant-Appellant.
Meadows ("Defendant") was convicted on 7 April 2016
of one count each of trafficking opium by sale, by delivery,
and by possession. The events leading to Defendant's
arrest and conviction occurred on 14 September 2011.
Factual and Procedural Basis
early September 2011, multiple sources informed the Madison
County Sheriff's Office that Defendant's husband,
Troy Meadows ("Troy"), was selling large quantities
of prescription pills. A confidential informant, Jeffrey
Chandler ("Chandler") told officers that Troy would
be obtaining pills on 14 September 2011, pursuant to a
prescription, for the purposes of illegal re-sale. Chandler
informed officers that he had obtained this information from
Jason Shetley ("Shetley") who, in the past, had
illegally purchased pills from Troy.
officers planned a controlled buy for 14 September 2011. The
plan was for Chandler to ask Shetley to purchase pills from
Troy, using bills provided by the Sheriff's Office, and
thereby obtain probable cause to search Troy's and
Defendant's house ("the Meadows home" or
"the house") on Rollins Road. Officers gave
Chandler $420.00 ("the buy money") on 14 September
2011 for the purchase. The buy money had been photocopied so
that individual serial numbers were recorded. Chandler
contacted Shetley to set up the purchase. Shetley was to make
the purchase with the buy money provided by Chandler, and
purchase twenty-five oxycodone pills for himself and fifty
for Chandler. At trial, Shetley testified he called Troy
about 9:00 a.m. on 14 September 2011 to tell him he wanted to
purchase seventy-five oxycodone pills. Chandler then met with
Shetley and Shetley's girlfriend, Catherine Davis
("Davis"). Chandler used approximately $20.00 of
the buy money to purchase gas for Shetley's car
("the car"). Chandler, Shetley, and Davis then
drove to the Meadows home.
County Sheriff's Detective Coy Phillips, now a captain
("Capt. Phillips"), was watching the house that
morning. Shetley entered the Meadows home at approximately
9:45 a.m., while Chandler and Davis waited in Shetley's
car. At trial, Shetley further testified that he never saw
Troy that morning - that he "just pulled up, went and
knocked on the door, and [Defendant] was in the kitchen and
told me to come in. She had the pills out [on the table]. I
bought the pills from her." According to Shetley,
Defendant told him she had already counted out the
seventy-five pills, and he then counted out twenty-five
pills, which he put in a pill bottle he had brought with him.
He then counted out an additional fifty pills, which he put
in a plastic baggie provided by Defendant. Shetley testified
that he gave Defendant payment, which she counted. Shetley
then left the house.
five minutes after Shetley entered the house, Capt. Phillips
observed him exit the house and return to the car. Shetley,
Chandler and Davis then drove away from the Meadows home.
Capt. Phillips continued to watch the house until a deputy
arrived "to secure [the house] because we were going to
execute a search warrant at [the house]." Shortly after
the car left the house, it was stopped by officers, including
Madison County Chief Deputy Michael Garrison ("Chief
Garrison"),  and the occupants were searched. Shetley
testified that, when he saw police approaching, he threw his
bottle of twenty-five pills out the car window, but that
Chandler held onto the plastic baggie that contained the
fifty pills. Officers recovered a plastic baggie containing
fifty oxycodone pills from Chandler, and recovered a bottle
containing twenty-five oxycodone pills from the side of the
road in the vicinity of the car. Officers had maintained
constant visual contact with Chandler from the time he was
given the $420.00 until the time they stopped and searched
the car and its occupants. One of the photocopied twenty
dollar bills was found in Shetley's sock, but the
remainder of the buy money was not recovered from the car or
its occupants. Shetley and Davis were arrested, and taken to
the Sheriff's Office.
Garrison testified he secured the house immediately after
arresting Shetley and Davis and, at that time, Defendant was
the only person at the house. Chief Garrison left the house
at approximately 10:00 a.m., while deputies remained to keep
the house and Defendant secure. Troy and Defendant's
daughter arrived sometime after 10:00 a.m., though the exact
times they were at the house are unclear. Chief Garrison
further testified he returned to the house just after 4:00
p.m. to execute a search warrant he had obtained, and that
the house and its occupants were continuously monitored until
the search of the house was completed, after 7:00 p.m.
According to Chief Garrison, Troy "did show up there [at
the house] and then we transported him back to the
[S]heriff's [O]ffice." Troy was also arrested that
day. Chief Garrison testified that "to the best of [his]
recollection, " Troy did not return to the house after
being transported to the Sheriff's Office. Capt. Phillips
testified that he interviewed Troy at the Sheriff's
Office from 4:29 p.m. until 7:16 p.m., and then returned to
the Meadows home. Capt. Phillips did not indicate in his
testimony that he brought Troy with him when he returned to
the Meadows home, and Defendant's counsel did not ask
Capt. Phillips that question.
Garrison testified that, after serving the search warrant, he
"identified a large quantity of narcotics and
medications on the dining room table." Items recovered
included "other pill bottles, empty pill bottles, white
pills and pink pills[, ]" and plastic baggies similar to
the one recovered from Chandler that contained the fifty
pills Shetley had purchased for him. Chief Garrison testified
that, after officers had searched the house for more than
three hours in an unsuccessful attempt to locate the
remainder of the buy money, he confronted Defendant directly.
Chief Garrison testified that he told Defendant: "I knew
my buy money was in the house and I wanted to get it."
According to Chief Garrison, Defendant "told me it was
in a pocket, a jacket pocket in the, I believe it was the
bedroom closet." Chief Garrison testified that officers
recovered $380.00 from "a blue jacket hanging in a
closet" that was later identified as the remaining buy
Garrison then identified State's exhibit 12 as an
envelope containing the $380.00 of buy money recovered from
the Meadows home. Chief Garrison read from the log sheet
attached to State's exhibit 12, and testified that the
log sheet "has [the] suspect['s] name, which is Troy
Meadows, the date and time recovered which is 9/14/11 at . .
. 7:01 p.m. It has Detective Matt Davis was the recovering
deputy. The description, it says, $380 U.S. currency
recovered from back bedroom, blue jacket pocket."
both Chief Garrison and Capt. Phillips testified they
believed Defendant was involved in the 14 September 2011
transaction, Defendant was not arrested until 22 July
2013. Defendant testified at trial,
contradicting the testimony of Chief Garrison and Shetley.
Defendant testified she had no knowledge of the drug
transaction, that she never saw Shetley that morning, and
that she did not know where the $380.00 was hidden until Troy
told her sometime after 6:30 p.m. The two containers of pills
were sent to the State Bureau of Investigation
("S.B.I.") lab to be analyzed by Colin Andrews, who
determined the pills were oxycodone, and described them in
his report as "a pill bottle containing 25 pink tablets
[and] a plastic bag containing 50 pink tablets."
Defendant was found guilty of all three trafficking charges
on 7 April 2016. Defendant appeals.
Ineffective Assistance of Counsel
argues she was denied effective assistance of counsel because
her defense counsel "elicited damaging testimony from
[Capt.] Phillips that Shetley was 'honest[, ]'"
and also failed to object to Chief Garrison's testimony
that "[Defendant] was as guilty as Troy
was." We disagree.
defendant's right to counsel includes the right to the
effective assistance of counsel. When a defendant attacks his
conviction on the basis that counsel was ineffective, he must
show that his counsel's conduct fell below an objective
standard of reasonableness." State v. Braswell,
312 N.C. 553, 561-62, 324 S.E.2d 241, 247-48 (1985)
(citations omitted). However,
if a reviewing court can determine at the outset that there
is no reasonable probability that in the absence of
counsel's alleged errors the result of the proceeding
would have been different, then the court need not determine
whether counsel's performance was actually deficient.
Id. at 563, 324 S.E.2d at 248-49. Because we hold
"there is no reasonable probability that in the absence
of counsel's alleged errors the result of the proceeding
would have been different, " we reject Defendant's
ineffective assistance of counsel ("IAC") arguments
without making any determination concerning whether
Defendant's counsel was actually deficient. Id.
at 563, 324 S.E.2d at 249.
Vouching for Shetley's Credibility
Defendant's first argument, her counsel questioned Capt.
Phillips concerning two interviews he conducted with Shetley
after Shetley's arrest:
Q. My question was, when you conducted that first interview
[on 14 September 2011], did you feel, leaving that interview
did you feel or form an opinion as to whether or not
[Shetley] was being honest with you?
A. Yes, sir, I did.
Q. So you felt after that first interview he was telling you
A. No, sir.
Q. So at that time you had an idea, hey, this isn't, this
doesn't make sense.
A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you during that first interview ask [Shetley] about
his drug use at the time?
A. Yes, sir, I did.
Q. And what was his response to, to whether or not he used
A. He said he didn't use drugs.
Q. And [Shetley] gave you another statement [on 16 September
2011], did he not?
A. He did, yes, sir.
Q. Did he at that time admit or deny having a drug problem?
A. At this point he admitted it, yes, sir.
Q. And again, [Shetley] admitted to you that he had a very
bad drug problem.
A. Yes, sir, he stated he had a pill problem.
Q. And based on your knowledge and experience as a law
enforcement officer, do people with drug problems typically
break into other people's houses to supply their habit?
Q. Did Mr. Shetley admit that to you?
A. Yes, sir.
Q. And you filled out this Officers Investigation Report as