State v. Mendoza
Rhode Island Supreme Court
889 A.2d 153 (2005)
Undercover detectives Angelo A’Vant and Fabio Zuena were patrolling a Providence neighborhood in an unmarked car when Robert Clement approached and asked whether the detectives were looking to buy crack cocaine. Clement led Detective A’Vant to a nearby house while Detective Zuena waited in the car. Detective A’Vant handed Clement $20 in prerecorded buy money to purchase the drugs. Clement rang a doorbell, and Antonio Mendoza (defendant) answered the door. Mendoza and Clement went inside the house and reemerged a few moments later. Detective A’Vant saw Mendoza hand Clement a clear baggie containing crack cocaine. Back at the car, Clement was immediately arrested after handing Detective A’Vant the baggie of drugs. Mendoza was arrested a short time later. A jury convicted Mendoza of conspiracy to violate the Rhode Island Controlled Substances Act. Mendoza moved for acquittal, arguing that there could be no conspiracy because the underlying offense—the sale and delivery of drugs—presupposed as an element of the crime that both parties agreed to the sale and delivery (this is known as Wharton’s Rule). Thus, Mendoza argued, the conspiracy as charged was a legal impossibility. The trial judge denied Mendoza’s motion. Mendoza appealed.
Rule of Law
Holding and Reasoning (Williams, C.J.)
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