D. Martin is a 23 year old girl who traveled to Georgia from her home in Mississippi. Traveling with her were her boyfriend, G. Heard, and his friend, T.Fellows, whom she had only met on one occasion. The three of them came to Georgia for a weekend away and so that she could look at housing and perhaps even jobs in Georgia.
On their second to last night in town, the three went to the home of the cousin of Mr. Fellows. Ms. Martin was enjoying watching television with Mr. Fellows’ cousin’s family and playing with the young children in the household. Mr. Heard and Mr. Fellows then announced that they were going to grab something to eat. The two men were then gone for what seemed like a very long time. Ms. Martin could not say how long exactly, but remembered that she had watched the majority of a movie with the kids.
When the men came back, they all left and went back to the hotel. The next morning, on their way back to Mississippi, Ms. Martin was driving and got pulled over for speeding. The officer came to the window and retrieved her license and registration. He asked if Ms. Martin would consent to a search of her vehicle. Without a moment of hesitation, she says yes.
As the officer searches the vehicle after asking the two male passengers to step out, he quickly draws his pistol and tells all of them to get on the ground. It seems he located a wal-mart bag with around 1600 tablets of suspected ecstasy, or MDMA. The officer arrested Martin and the two men beginning what was to be some of the darkest days of Ms. Martin’s life.
Ms. Martin’s family came in and we were able to get her a bond that she could make. From the outset, the investigating officers seemed aware that Ms. Martin’s involvement in any crime, if at all, was going to be extremely limited. She had no criminal record at all, whereas Heard and Fellows had experience in such activities and could not claim they had no idea what was going on.
Although Ms. Martin would have liked to cooperate with the police and point fingers at one or both of the men in exchange for the peace of mind that she would not go to prison, she could not do so. Ms. Martin had never seen the bag before the officer threw it up on the hood of the patrol car after she had been handcuffed. In the police video, she can be heard asking her boyfriend what it was exactly that was in the car. She was, quite simply, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique. Many people are arrested while standing with, being near, or even just riding in the car with someone who possesses drugs or contraband. In Georgia and in many other jurisdictions, mere presence at the scene of a crime is not sufficient grounds in and of itself for a conviction. However, it can result in some very grave situations for those who had the misfortune of associating with the wrong people at the wrong time.
Getting back to Ms. Martin’s case, in the time that it took to get the case indicted by a grand jury and to have it set for a trial, Mr. Heard got himself locked up for robbery and after a guilty plea was spending 10 years in prison and Mr. Fellows got charged with a different trafficking case in Mississippi. Without a doubt, Ms. Martin could choose better boyfriends and people to associate with. However, I am pleased to report that at the very last minute, the State dropped the charges against her so that she could resume her schooling and put this ordeal behind her.
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