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State v. Ayodele

Court of Appeals of Iowa

August 16, 2017

STATE OF IOWA, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
OLADIMEJI A. AYODELE, Defendant-Appellant.

         Appeal from the Iowa District Court for Monona County, Steven J. Andreasen, Judge.

         Oladimeji Ayodele appeals his conviction for possession of a controlled substance, marijuana (second offense). REVERSED AND REMANDED.

          Zachary S. Hindman of Mayne, Arneson, Hindman, Hisey & Daane, Sioux City, for appellant.

          Thomas J. Miller, Attorney General, and Louis S. Sloven, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

          Considered by Vaitheswaran, P.J., and Tabor and Mullins, JJ.

          PER CURIAM

         Oladimeji Ayodele appeals his conviction for possession of a controlled substance, marijuana (second offense). He argues the district court abused its discretion in denying his mistrial motion grounded in the prosecutor's references to excluded evidence.

         I. Background Facts and Proceedings

         Iowa State Trooper Justin Sackett clocked a vehicle driving seventy-seven miles per hour in a seventy-mile-per-hour zone. Sackett activated his emergency lights. The vehicle started to slow down but did not stop immediately. Sackett observed "a lot of movement in the back of the vehicle" and saw "an object" being "thrown out the right rear passenger window." After the vehicle stopped, Sackett approached the rear, passenger-side occupant, who was later identified as Ayodele, and berated him for throwing out what the trooper perceived to be marijuana.[1] Sackett instructed Ayodele to exit the vehicle. He observed marijuana residue on Ayodele's shirt and smelled marijuana in the vehicle and, later, on Ayodele. He handcuffed Ayodele and placed him in his state vehicle. Sackett removed the remaining occupants and had a brief discussion with co-defendant Johnny Madison, who conceded there was probably marijuana inside.[2]The trooper searched the vehicle and found more marijuana.

         The State charged Ayodele with possession of marijuana (second offense). Ayodele filed a motion in limine seeking to exclude evidence that he threw marijuana out of the vehicle's window. The district court permitted evidence indicating something was thrown, but disallowed evidence reflecting the thrown substance was marijuana. The court's ruling was as follows:

[T]he State (counsel, witnesses, video or other evidence) shall be precluded from arguing, stating, opining, or otherwise suggesting that the object thrown out of the window of the vehicle was marijuana. Without sufficient evidence substantiating that it was marijuana, the probative value of such evidence is substantially outweighed by the danger of unfair prejudice to . . . Defendant Ayodele.
. . . [T]he State can play the video that depicts something thrown out of the window. Trooper Sackett can testify that he observed something thrown out of the window. The State, however, cannot play any audio/video that includes statements made by Trooper Sackett stating that the object appeared to be marijuana or describes the object as marijuana. Trooper Sackett may not testify that the object appeared to be marijuana. Trooper Sackett may not describe the object in any manner suggesting that it was marijuana (i.e. shape, size, color); and counsel for the State may not argue or imply to the jury that the object was marijuana. The evidence would simply be that an object that is unknown and unidentified was thrown out of the window of the vehicle.

         During trial, the prosecutor had the following exchange with Trooper Sackett regarding the thrown material:

Q. Okay. Did you—As you were riding behind the vehicle attempting to stop it, did you notice anything happen?

A. There was a lot of movement in the back of the vehicle and an object was thrown out the right rear passenger window.

Q. Now, without making any sort of conclusions on what that object was, were you able to tell whether it was liquid or solid?

...


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