Sunday, February 25, 2024


Appeals Court Upholds Conviction over Drugs Mailed to Inmate

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By Bill Barlow

TRENTON – An appeals court has upheld the conviction of a Villas man charged with conspiracy in a scheme to bring drugs into the Cape May County Correctional Facility.
Adam J. McCarraher was sentenced May 18, 2018, to five years of probation, contingent on completion of drug court. McCarraher appealed, arguing that the drug, Suboxone, was not named in the indictment and that a 12-year veteran of the Cape May County Sheriff’s Office should not have been allowed to testify as an expert.
According to court documents, Courtney Perry, whose responsibilities with the department included monitoring the phone calls of inmates at the county jail, testified about a phone conversation between McCarraher and someone outside the jail.
In listening to a recording of the conversation, she believed it was setting up a drug transaction. She told the court that the call included references to drugs, including references to “subs,” which she testified referred to Suboxone.
The jury convicted McCarraher of conspiracy to possess a controlled dangerous substance, a legal term for drugs.
In a Nov. 13 decision, Judges Carmen Alverez and William Nugent upheld the decision.
According to court documents, McCarraher was in the county jail when he spoke on the phone about adding “40” to his books, which would usually refer to funds that could be used in the jail’s commissary.
In this instance, the court documents indicate, Perry determined it meant something else. Officers at the jail seized an envelope with four strips of Suboxone three days after the call.
In the appeal, McCarraher questioned Perry’s qualifications as an expert witness.
“When Perry described her qualifications, she could not remember which training courses or schools she had attended – only that in order to qualify for her position, she had to enroll in several. She also said she had worked at the correctional center as an investigator for seven years,” reads the court decision.
The judges state that the defense attorney did not challenge her qualifications at trial. Citing previous cases, the judges state that a jury may need a translation of drug slang or words used in a context outside of their usual meaning, such as the assertion that “40” would be understood to mean four strips of Suboxone.
The judges found that while Perry could not recall details of which courses she took on the subject, she attributed her expertise to her time as a corrections officer and training, as well as her education.
To overturn a conviction, the legal standard would be to find that the trial judge’s discretion was clearly capable of producing an unjust result.
“That she may have not remembered which schools she attended in what years did not refute her statement she attended them,” the ruling reads.
The ruling also found that failing to include the specific name of the drug in the indictment did not change the nature of the accusation. The judges cited a 1994 case in which a man was found guilty of first-degree robbery with a knife, but was indicted for first-degree robbery by use of a machine gun. In each case, the judges state, it is the use of a deadly weapon that determines the charge, rather than the specific weapon.
In that case, the appeals ruling states, prosecutors were allowed to present proof of that defendant’s use of a knife, machine gun, and handgun.
According to court documents, corrections officers intercepted an envelope containing strips of Suboxone, a brand name for a prescription medication used to treat opioid addiction.
The drug is administered in strips that are placed under the tongue. It includes Buprenorphine, an opioid painkiller, and Naloxone, which blocks the euphoric effects of the drug, according to the website Naloxone is often referred to by the brand name Narcan.
The reference site states that when used as part of a comprehensive recovery plan, Suboxone can eliminate opioid cravings.
According to that site, the drug has been illegally sold throughout the nation.
“Most people who buy Suboxone illegally are not trying to experience an ‘opioid high.’ Instead, they are trying to obtain relief from opioid withdrawal,” the site reads. “A person could misuse Suboxone by using it to relieve opioid withdrawal without a prescription and without undergoing treatment for opioid addiction. In such cases, a person might use Suboxone whenever they start to experience withdrawal symptoms, fail to abide by any medical limits, and suffer an overdose.”
To contact Bill Barlow, email

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