427 F.3d 1053 (7th Cir. 2005), 03-3364, United States v. Johnson

Docket Nº:03-3364.
Citation:427 F.3d 1053
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. John JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.
Case Date:October 27, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Page 1053

427 F.3d 1053 (7th Cir. 2005)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,


John JOHNSON, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 03-3364.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

October 27, 2005

Submitted Aug. 31, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, No. IP-03-43-CR-01 – Sarah Evans Barker, Judge.

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Barry D. Glickman, Office of the United States Attorney, Indianapolis, IN, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

John A. Goodridge, Evansville, IN, for Defendant-Appellant.

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Before CUDAHY, RIPPLE, and WILLIAMS, Circuit Judges.

CUDAHY, Circuit Judge.

John Johnson was convicted of possession with intent to distribute crack cocaine, 21 U.S.C. § 841 (a), after the district court denied his motion to suppress the crack found in his home during a warrantless search. Although Johnson consented to the search, he argues that his consent was tainted because he gave it while being illegally detained. In August 2004 we ordered a limited remand to permit the district court to consider further whether the detectives who came to Johnson's home to investigate an anonymous tip had reasonable suspicion for detaining him inside the threshold of his house. In light of the district court's additional findings on remand and the subsequent concession by the government that the motion to suppress should have been granted, we now reverse Johnson's conviction.


The facts of the case have been presented in detail in both our August 2004 order and the district court's June 2005 response; accordingly, we provide only a brief summary here. On February 27, 2003, Stephen Blackwell, a detective assigned to a Madison County, Indiana, narcotics task force, received an anonymous tip that a "John Johnson" was in possession of a large amount of crack. The female caller stated that Johnson had picked up the crack in Muncie, Indiana, and brought it back to his "Fulton Street address" in the town of Anderson. The tipster also stated that Johnson picked up crack shipments on Thursdays and drove a white vehicle, but she offered no other details and did not explain the basis of her knowledge. The information was not otherwise corroborated. Blackwell and another detective, Cliff Cole, went to appellant Johnson's home to investigate the tip.

After watching Johnson's house for about five minutes, the detectives approached his girlfriend as she was leaving the house. She verified that Johnson lived there and was inside at the time. The detectives asked her to knock on the door, and after she did, Johnson answered. The detectives told Johnson about the anonymous tip and asked to search his house. Johnson denied that there were drugs in the house. After speaking to the detectives for several minutes, Johnson turned his back on them and retreated down a hallway. Detective Blackwell responded by drawing his gun, pointing it at the ground, and saying, "[I]f you go down that hallway, John, now it's an officer safety issue." Johnson stopped and turned back toward the detectives, and Blackwell returned the gun to its holster. Blackwell asked again if he could search the house while Detective Cole phoned a supervisor to discuss whether they could get a search warrant. When Cole returned, Johnson said, "Well, you might as well come on in." The detectives entered the house, and Johnson told them to "go ahead and search." They found a package of crack in a dresser.

Johnson later moved to suppress the drugs, arguing that his consent was involuntary and, in any event, tainted by his illegal detention. The district court denied the motion and Johnson appealed. We previously upheld the district court's factual finding that the detectives did not coerce Johnson to consent. But we disagreed with the court's legal conclusion that Johnson was not "seized" for Fourth Amendment purposes when Detective Blackwell raised his gun and stopped Johnson in his tracks when he began walking back into the house. We could not, however, determine from the record whether the seizure was based on reasonable suspicion because certain facts were still in dispute. In particular, the district court had not resolved

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whether to credit testimony from both detectives that Johnson appeared agitated during the encounter and from Blackwell that he believed Johnson was going to retrieve a weapon when he started walking further into the house. In light of these open questions, we asked the district court to supplement the record with additional findings of fact and to "assess whether the officers reasonably suspected that Johnson was engaged in or was about to engage in criminal activity."

On remand the district court ordered supplemental briefing and held another hearing. After making supplemental findings, the court concluded that the detectives did not have reasonable suspicion to justify seizing Johnson. The court determined that Detective Blackwell wanted to prolong the encounter until he obtained consent to search, drawing his gun for that purpose, not because he feared that Johnson was retrieving a weapon. The district court gave little weight to...

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