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Parrish v. Commonwealth

Court of Appeals of Virginia

March 16, 1999

RONALD A. PARRISH
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF VIRGINIA

FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF THE CITY OF PETERSBURG James F. D'Alton, Jr., Judge

Mary Katherine Martin, Senior Assistant Public Defender (Office of the Public Defender, on brief), for appellant.

Daniel J. Munroe, Assistant Attorney General (Mark L. Earley, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: Judges Benton, Willis and Lemons Argued at Richmond, Virginia

MEMORANDUM OPINION [*]

DONALD W. LEMONS JUDGE.

Ronald A. Parrish appeals his conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine, a violation of Code § 18.2-256. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was not sufficient to support his conviction. Because we hold that the evidence was sufficient to find that Parrish conspired to distribute cocaine, we affirm his conviction.

I. BACKGROUND

On December 5, 1996, Investigator Robert Elkins of the City of Petersburg Police Department was working in an undercover narcotics operation. He parked his vehicle near the center of the street just before the intersection of Shore and Wilson Streets and saw Ronald A. Parrish standing near the middle of the street. Parrish approached his vehicle and "asked me what I needed." Elkins told Parrish he needed "a dime or a twenty, " referring to ten or twenty dollars worth of cocaine. Parrish then asked him for a ride up the street to "Green Lantern, " but Elkins refused.

Elkins "crept the car up a little bit" on Shore Street, when a second vehicle pulled ahead of him. A passenger, later identified as Edward A. Hines, Jr., exited the second vehicle and the car drove away. Parrish told Elkins "[h]old on a minute, " and Parrish jogged over to Hines. Elkins remained seated in the vehicle. Parrish "went over to [Hines]" and "stopped and spoke to [Hines] a minute -- or I observed [Parrish and Elkins] appearing to be talking." Parrish and Hines looked over in Elkins' direction. Elkins stated that "both [Parrish and Hines] walked back over to my vehicle where I was stopped in the road." Parrish "[was] standing less than five inches away from . . . Hines" and "both stood outside of my half open window together." Parrish watched Elkins' and Hines' hands as Elkins exchanged money for "two small chunks of crack cocaine in a cigarette wrap -- the clear outside packaging of a cigarette wrap" from Hines. After obtaining the drugs, Elkins left Parrish and Hines standing together in the street. Shortly thereafter, a second officer arrested Hines and Parrish.

Parrish's version of events was similar; however, Parrish stated, "I wasn't going to sell him [any drugs]. . . . I was going to basically have -- I mean, ask somebody did they have anything, but I wasn't going to sell him nothing [sic]." Parrish admitted to having four or five prior felony convictions.

Parrish was convicted in a bench trial of distribution of cocaine, distribution of cocaine within 1, 000 feet of school property, and conspiracy to distribute cocaine. On appeal, he argues that the evidence was insufficient to support his conviction for conspiracy to distribute cocaine.

II. SUFFICIENCY OF THE EVIDENCE

When the sufficiency of the evidence is an issue on appeal, an appellate court must view the evidence and all reasonable inferences fairly deducible therefrom in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. See Cheng v. Commonwealth, 240 Va. 26, 42, 393 S.E.2d 599, 608 (1990). On appeal, the decision of a trial court sitting without a jury is afforded the same weight as a jury's verdict and will not be disturbed unless plainly wrong or without evidence to support it. See King v. Commonwealth, 217 Va. 601, 604, 231 S.E.2d 312, 315 (1977).

A conspiracy is "an agreement between two or more persons by some concerted action to commit an offense." Brown v. Commonwealth, 3 Va.App. 101, 107, 348 S.E.2d 408, 411 (1986) (citations omitted). Proof of a conspiracy to distribute narcotics can be inferred by surrounding facts and circumstances. See ...


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