People v. Saldana

In People v. Saldana (1984) 157 Cal.App.3d 443, an officer testified that the defendant was found lying on a bed, and the officer saw defendant quickly put his hand into a headboard where 18 balloons of heroin were later found. (Saldana, supra, 157 Cal.App.3d at p. 450.) It was later determined that the defendant shared the room with his mother, and that the headboard where the heroin was found was his mother's. (Ibid.) The defendant's brother, a known user and seller of heroin, was found in the basement of the same home, and was determined to have 135 puncture wounds on his arms and to be under the influence of heroin. (Id. at p. 451.) The defendant in Saldana testified that the officer first saw him while the defendant stood outside his bedroom door. (Saldana, supra, 157 Cal.App.3d at p. 452.) Defendant's sister and brother-in-law also placed defendant outside the bedroom when the officers entered. (Ibid.) Defendant also denied telling the officer that he sold only a "little weed." (Ibid.) The defendant was charged with possession of heroin for sale and marijuana for sale, and the trial court did not instruct on the lesser included offense of simple possession of heroin. (Id. at p. 449.) The Saldana court stated that the issue at trial was whether the defendant intended to sell the heroin, and the prosecution's evidence was purely circumstantial on that point, consisting of an expert's opinion based on various factors (as in the instant case). (Saldana, supra, 157 Cal.App.3d at p. 457.) Therefore, the test of whether the jury should have been instructed on the lesser included offense of simple possession was whether there was any evidence deserving of consideration by the jury. (Ibid.) In other words, it was necessary to determine whether there was "'evidence from which a jury composed of reasonable men could have concluded that'" the defendant possessed the heroin but did not have the intent to sell it. (Ibid.) The court decided that, because there was direct evidence to prove constructive possession (since the defendant exercised joint dominion and control over the bedroom in which the heroin was found), and only conflicting circumstantial evidence of possession for sale, the defendant was entitled to the lesser included instruction. (Id. at pp. 455, 457.) The Saldana court stated that it could not say, as a matter of law, that the defendant's version of events would not be accepted by a jury.