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Marion County heroin trafficking conviction stands

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A repeat offender couldn’t convince the state Supreme Court to undo his heroin trafficking conviction in Marion County or reverse his recidivist status.

Steven Jacob Dukes, also known as Steven Young, had appealed two 2013 orders denying his post-trial motions for a judgment of acquittal and others relating to his recidivist trial.

According to court records, police were obtaining a warrant to search the home of Christine Swindler, who they say had unknowingly sold them heroin in a controlled buy, when they spotted Dukes entering her home and leaving a few minutes later. Warrant in hand they searched her home, at which point Swindler indicated she wished to cooperate with them and told them Dukes was her supplier. She then placed a call to Dukes, which wasn’t recorded, and asked him to come to her house to collect money she owed him and to bring more heroin for her to sell.

Police were aware there was a warrant for his arrest from Maryland on a probation violation, so they stopped his car en route to Swindler’s home and found several bundles of heroin in the pocket of his hooded shirt.

Dukes was indicted on one count of possession of a controlled substance, heroin, with intent to deliver.

Swindler testified at trial that Dukes would routinely give her heroin to sell, charging her $15 a hit. She, in turn, would resell it for $25 a hit.

Dukes was found guilty after a two-day trial. He tried to get a new trial, claiming the evidence didn’t support a conviction, but was denied.

On appeal, he argued the circuit court erred in denying his post-trial motions for a new trial because the chief witness against him, Swindler, wasn’t credible “because she is an admitted drug user and seller.

The high court, however, ruled Dukes hadn’t met his burden of proof.

“A claim on appeal that the testimony is not credible does not sustain petitioner’s burden of showing insufficient evidence, as the jury is charged with determining the credibility of the witnesses and the evidence,” they wrote.

Dukes also tried to get his conviction as a recidivist overturned, claiming he’d related his criminal history to a probation officer strictly for his pre-sentence evaluation, was in police custody, didn’t know it would be used against him and he hadn’t been advised of his constitutional rights.

The high court, however, ruled that his prior convictions — a 2000 felony conviction for possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person, a 1992 felony conviction in North Carolina for possession of cocaine, and the heroin charge — were public record

“In this case, petitioner was not compelled by coercion to make a statement and his cooperation in the pre-sentence investigation was not mandatory,” the court said.