kept up-to-date on the use, packaging, and sale of narcotics in the
District by "debriefing" drug users, talking with current undercover
officers, and attending seminars offered by the DEA, United States
Department of Health and Human Services, and the National Institute on
With respect to his specialized training, Detective Brown testified
that he had been a "resident narcotic expert" for the MPD since 1980, and
had testified on narcotics related matters approximately 4,000 times in
twenty-six jurisdictions, including the United States District Court for
the District of Columbia, the Superior Court of the District of
Columbia, and Courts of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the State of
Maryland. Detective Brown also testified that he had acted as a
consultant to the United States Congress, specifically to the Select
Committee on Narcotics Abuse and Control, and that he had been an
instructor at the MPD training academy since 1975. Finally, at the end of
his qualification testimony, Detective Brown said that, "My knowledge of
the drug field is further enhanced by the fact that I am also a Board
certified pharmacist. I receive, maintain[,] compound and dispense
narcotic as well as non-narcotic substances per prescription."
The government then offered Detective Brown as an expert in (1) the
distribution and use of narcotics; (2) the packaging of narcotics for
street-level distribution; (3) the manner in which narcotics dealers
distribute narcotic substances in the District of Columbia; (4) the price
for which narcotics are sold; and (5) procedures for safeguarding drug
evidence. The Court accepted Detective Brown as an expert in those fields
without defense objection.
Detective Brown testified first about the procedures used by the MPD
and DEA to ensure the integrity of narcotic evidence. He then testified
about the contents of Government Exhibits 2 (87 ziplock bags of heroin)
and 3 (638 ziplock bags of heroin) and their corresponding DEA lab
analysis reports. He specifically noted the weight and purity of the
seized drugs, as reflected in the DEA-7s. Detective Brown then testified
about "bulk" versus "street level" distribution of heroin, common forms
of street-level packaging, and typical methods of heroin use, including
the weight of a single "dose." Based on his expertise, Detective Brown
testified that a typical user would "use on average two to three bags a
day [of heroin]." Detective Brown then confirmed that the packaging in
Government Exhibits 2 and 3 was consistent with packaging typically used
for street distribution of heroin. He stated that the heroin in
Government Exhibits 2 and 3 had a street value of approximately $1,740
and $12,760, respectively. Finally, Detective Brown testified that a
typical heroin user would usually possess two or three ziplock bags of
heroin and, referring to Government Exhibits 2 and 3, said that a typical
user would not purchase that amount of heroin at one time.
It is clear from this testimony that Detective Brown's expertise is
based largely on his practical "street" experience rather than his formal
training or academic credentials. Being a Board certified pharmacist is
irrelevant to knowing how heroin is distributed on the streets of the
District of Columbia, which was the focus of the Detective's testimony.
Thus, assuming the jury had never heard about Detective Brown's Board
certification and ability to receive, maintain, compound and dispense
narcotic as well as non-narcotic substances per prescription, it is
likely that they would still have credited his testimony since it was
supported by twenty-five years of practical experience as an MPD
Moreover, even assuming that the jury had discounted Detective Brown's
testimony, the evidence of the defendant's intent to distribute was
compelling. The defendant was caught with 725 small ziplock bags of
heroin worth almost $15,000 on the street. Therefore, in light of the
independent evidence establishing the defendant's
guilt, this Court cannot find that the jury might have reached a
different verdict even if it had discounted Detective Brown's testimony.
Cf. Doepel v. United States, 434 A.2d 449, 459 (D.C.) (holding that
defendant is not entitled to a new trial based on newly discovered
evidence that FBI serologist lied about his academic credentials where
substantial independent evidence established defendant's guilt), cert.
denied, 454 U.S. 1037, 102 S.Ct. 580, 70 L.Ed.2d 483 (1981).
Perjury is a serious matter and should not be taken lightly. There may
be cases in which Detective Brown's false testimony warrants a new
trial. However, in this case, the Court cannot find that the jury might
have reached a different conclusion if Detective Brown had not falsely
testified that he was a "Board certified pharmacist" and that he
receives, maintains, compounds, and dispenses narcotic as well as
non-narcotic substances per prescription. Detective Brown's testimony in
this case was based almost exclusively on his extensive law enforcement
and street experience. Moreover, the powerful physical evidence in this
case — over 700 ziplock bags of heroin — was sufficient
standing alone to convince a jury that this defendant intended to
distribute drugs. Therefore, Defendant's Motion for New Trial is denied.
An order will accompany this Opinion.
In accordance with the accompanying Memorandum Opinion, it is hereby
ORDERED that Defendant's Motion for New Trial is DENIED. It is further
ORDERED that this case is dismissed with prejudice.