in the Court of Appeals 30 January 2018.
by defendant from judgment entered 2 March 2017 by Judge
Susan E. Bray in Forsyth County No. 15CRS051950 Superior
Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney
General Matthew L. Liles, for the State.
E. Gerber for defendant-appellant.
March 2, 2017, a Forsyth County jury convicted Dennis Raynard
Steele ("Defendant") of trafficking cocaine.
Defendant asserts on appeal that (1) his Sixth Amendment
right to confront witnesses testifying against him was
violated, (2) the trial court abused its discretion by
admitting out-of-court statements of a confidential
informant, and (3) the trial court erred in denying his
motion to dismiss for insufficiency of the evidence. We
and Procedural Background
September 16, 2014, Investigator Jeremy Webster with the
Forsyth County Sheriff's Department's vice and
narcotics unit met with a confidential informant who had
previously provided reliable information to the department
several times. The informant told Investigator Webster that a
black male named "Dennis" was manufacturing and
selling cocaine, described Dennis as a stocky, dark-skinned
black male in his mid-thirties who was known on the streets
as "Black," and provided a phone number at which
Dennis could be contacted. According to the informant, Dennis
would sell crack cocaine packaged in plastic baggies for
twenty dollars. Typically, Dennis would sell one-tenth of a
gram of crack cocaine, but had sold as much as one-quarter
Webster set up a controlled purchase of crack cocaine from
Dennis. He had the informant call the phone number for
Dennis. The call was answered by a male subject, and the
informant arranged a meeting on September 17, 2014 to
purchase an eight-ball (one-eighth of an ounce or three and
one-half grams) of cocaine. Defendant drove a black Hyundai
registered to Tyrice Lenard Hauser to conduct the drug
transaction with the informant. Following the controlled
purchase, the informant provided Investigator Webster with a
plastic bag containing three and one-half grams of crack
of the narcotics unit subsequently became involved in a
multi-agency investigation in a neighboring jurisdiction,
and, therefore, made no significant progress in this case
until December of 2014 when Investigator Webster observed the
black Hyundai from the controlled purchase parked at a home
on Hanes Avenue in Winston-Salem. By this time, according to
the informant, Dennis continued to sell crack cocaine.
However, because Dennis was not accepting new customers,
investigators were unable to proceed further with an
January and February 2015, investigators conducted five
trash-pulls at 631 Hanes Avenue to gather additional
information, and found evidence of drug use and distribution.
The trash also contained dry cleaning tags with the name
"Dennis Still" and mail addressed to "Dennis
executed a search warrant at the Hanes Avenue location on
March 4, 2015. Defendant and Monchea Cunningham were exiting
one of the bedrooms when officers first entered the house.
Tyjuan Hauser was also found in the residence, along with a
two-year-old child. Investigators located digital scales and
a razor blade with white residue in the kitchen. Marijuana
and a plastic bag containing a capsule with white powder on
it were found in a bedroom which also contained mail
addressed to Tyrice Hauser. A receipt with Defendant's
name on it to a local pawn shop was found in the dining room.
investigators searched the bedroom of Defendant and
Cunningham, they observed an unlatched padlock on the door.
Defendant and Cunningham had the only keys to the padlock,
and used it to prevent others from accessing the bedroom. A
search of the room uncovered marijuana, mail addressed to
Defendant, two cell phones, a wallet containing
Defendant's driver's license, and more than $400.00
in cash. A box located near the nightstand contained latex
gloves, a pair of goggles, and two boxes of plastic baggies.
plastic bags containing cocaine and crack cocaine were found
in a dresser drawer, along with oxymorphone tablets. One bag
contained eighteen individual baggies of crack cocaine
packaged for sale. The total weight of the drugs and
packaging was 65.8 grams. Chemical analysis of the materials
showed 53.78 grams of cocaine were recovered from the
Crown Victoria registered to Defendant and the black Hyundai
registered to Tyrice Hauser that had been observed by
officers at the controlled buy were parked at the residence.
A medical invoice was found in the Crown Victoria addressed
to Defendant at 631 Hanes Avenue, Winston-Salem, North
the search of the premises, Defendant and Cunningham were
arrested. Defendant declined to speak with investigators.
However, while being processed at the jail, Defendant was
asked for his address. Defendant was unable to provide an
address, stating, "The one on my license. 5919 or 5919 -
5939 Clemmons - 5909 - whatever is on my license."
Defendant also told Corporal Michael Hudak that he wanted to
send a letter from the jail to his home, and asked Corporal
Hudak if he could write down the address listed on his
license because he was unable to remember the address.
waiting in the magistrate's office, officers overheard
Defendant speaking with another arrestee. The two discussed a
heroin dealer in Mocksville, and Defendant told the other
individual he had been arrested for a little crack, but
"he wasn't concerned because it was just a little
over two ounces." At the time, officers had not weighed
the cocaine, and could not have communicated to Defendant
that 53.78 grams, or 1.9 ounces, had been recovered from the
waived her Miranda rights and told officers she had
known Defendant for more than ten years. She admitted that
Defendant had keys to the residence at 631 Hanes Avenue, and
testified at trial that Defendant lived at the residence. She
also stated that she and Defendant had the only keys to the
padlock on the bedroom door, but denied knowledge of any
controlled substances in the residence, except marijuana.
Regarding the cocaine found in the bedroom, Cunningham told
investigators, "I didn't put it there."
August 17, 2015, the Forsyth County Grand Jury indicted
Defendant for trafficking in cocaine and possession of a
Schedule II controlled substance. Defendant was tried in
Forsyth County Superior Court, and the jury convicted
Defendant of trafficking cocaine. Defendant was sentenced to
thirty-five to ...