427 F.3d 1128 (8th Cir. 2005), 04-3472, United States v. Richardson

Docket Nº:04-3472.
Citation:427 F.3d 1128
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Appellee, v. Earnest Jesse RICHARDSON, also known as Ernest Jesse Richardson, also known as Torrence C. Epps, Appellant.
Case Date:November 04, 2005
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

Page 1128

427 F.3d 1128 (8th Cir. 2005)

UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,


Earnest Jesse RICHARDSON, also known as Ernest Jesse Richardson, also known as Torrence C. Epps, Appellant.

No. 04-3472.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.

November 4, 2005

Submitted: June 23, 2005.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota.

Page 1129

Lisagaye A. Biersay, argued, U.S. Attorney's Office, Minneapolis, MN, for Appellee.

Katherine Menendez, argued, Federal Public Defender's Office, Minneapolis, MN, for Appellant.

Before MELLOY, HEANEY, and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.


Earnest Jesse Richardson was convicted following a jury trial on two counts: being a felon in possession of a firearm and being a drug user or addict in possession

Page 1130

of a firearm. He was sentenced to 103 months' imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. On appeal, Richardson (1) challenges the district court's1 decision not to suppress evidence and statements; (2) claims his counsel was ineffective; and (3) claims that his sentence improperly imposed penalties on multiplicitous counts, pursuant to an unconstitutional guidelines scheme.2 We affirm.


On September 18, 2002, at approximately 10:00 a.m., two Minneapolis Police officers, Corporal Francisco Javier Porras and Officer Laura Hanks, were patrolling a neighborhood in North Minneapolis. As the officers drove down Hillside Avenue in their marked squad car, they saw a group of three men, including Richardson, gathered on the corner a block away. When the men saw the squad car, they split up, each walking in a different direction. The officers followed Richardson, who repeatedly looked back at the squad car as he walked up Illion Avenue. He entered the enclosed porch of a residence and knocked on the door. The officers stopped their car across the street from the house, and Officer Hanks partially exited the passenger side of the squad car and called to Richardson over the vehicle. At the time, she was separated from Richardson by the car, street, and sidewalk. Corporal Porras remained in the vehicle.

Officer Hanks asked Richardson if he knew who lived in the house, and Richardson responded that he had not done anything wrong. He then left the porch. Corporal Porras, who was still sitting in the squad car, shouted to Richardson and asked whether he knew the people that lived in the house. Richardson did not respond. Officer Hanks asked Richardson if they could talk to him. Richardson repeated that he had not done anything wrong and then sprinted between the houses into the alley.

Officer Hanks chased Richardson on foot while Corporal Porras followed in the squad car. Porras saw Richardson jump over a chain link fence. While attempting to intercept Richardson, Porras crashed the squad car, which Richardson bolted around. A probation officer in the area, Joseph Longueville, saw Richardson running toward him and moved to intercept him. At this point, Richardson surrendered to the officers, and was placed in the back of the crashed squad car.

Officer Hanks and another officer searched for contraband on the Illion Avenue porch Richardson had entered earlier, as well as in the yard of the residence, but did not find anything. Corporal Porras then searched the area near the yard of 1561 Hillside Avenue, a nearby residence, and found a wallet containing crack cocaine and Richardson's identification, as well as a firearm near the rear steps of the house.

With Richardson in the back of the squad car, the officers drove back to where the items had been recovered to verify the addresses involved in Richardson's attempt to flee. While parked in front of 1561 Hillside Avenue, Richardson allegedly said without prompting that he was responsible for the drugs but not the gun. He had not received a Miranda3 warning at the time. The next day, Richardson met with Sergeant Granroos, who advised

Page 1131

Richardson of his Miranda rights. Richardson waived his rights and repeated the statements he had made the previous day, indicating that he was responsible for the drugs but not the gun.

Charges were filed against Richardson in state court. Richardson claimed that he had been illegally seized prior to his flight from the police, and moved to have the subsequently discovered evidence and statements suppressed. Ronnaye Riggins, the resident of the house whose porch Richardson entered, testified that he was a friend of Richardson's and that Richardson was a frequent guest at the house. On February 4, 2003, the state district court concluded that Richardson was illegally seized during his pre-flight encounter with the police, and granted the defendant's motion to suppress.

On March 11, 2003, a federal grand jury returned a two-count indictment charging the defendant with being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S. C. § 922(g)(1), and being a drug user or addict in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U. S. C. § 922(g)(3). Richardson again moved to suppress the evidence and statements because he claimed his pre-flight encounter with the police was an illegal seizure. He also argued that the federal court was bound by the state court's determination that he was illegally seized. The magistrate judge rejected these arguments and recommended denying the motions to suppress; the Report and Recommendation was adopted in its entirety by the district court. Two weeks later, Richardson failed to appear for a mandatory drug test, a condition of his pretrial release. He also failed to appear for his trial on July 21, 2003, and a warrant was issued for his arrest. On December 10, 2003, Richardson was apprehended after making a wrong turn down a one-way street in front of a police officer. When he was searched, officers found crack cocaine and a crack pipe.

At trial, Richardson stipulated that he was a felon, but did not stipulate as to his status as a drug user or addict. The prosecution offered evidence that the fingerprint of Richardson's left ring finger was found on the gun recovered by officers following Richardson's flight. The jury convicted Richardson on both counts of the indictment.

At sentencing, Richardson argued, based on the recently issued Blakely4opinion, that the guidelines were unconstitutional. The district court found that Richardson had a criminal history category of V and that his total offense level was 24, resulting in a guidelines range of 92 to 115 months. The judge stated that his sentence would be unaltered if the guidelines were not mandatory. He then sentenced Richardson to 103 months on each count, to be served concurrently, with three years supervised release, and a mandatory special assessment of $100 for each count.

Richardson appeals to this Court claiming that: (1) his initial encounter with the police was an illegal seizure and that all evidence subsequently obtained should have been suppressed; (2) his statements made in custody should also be suppressed; (3) evidence regarding Richardson's failure to meet the conditions of his release was irrelevant and should not have been presented to the jury; (4) he was denied effective assistance of counsel; (5) his drug use and status as a felon should have been merged for sentencing purposes; and (6) the case should be remanded for resentencing in light of Booker .


I. Illegal Seizure

The Fourth Amendment protects against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Page 1132

Not every encounter between a police officer and a citizen is an unreasonable seizure under the Fourth Amendment. A seizure has occurred "[o]nly when the officer, by means of physical force or show of authority, has in some way restrained the liberty of a citizen." Terry v. Ohio, 392 U.S. 1, 19 n. 16 (1968). "[M]ere police questioning does not constitute a seizure." Florida v. Bostick, 501 U.S. 429,434 (1991). "'[L]aw enforcement officers do not violate the Fourth Amendment by merely approaching an individual on the street or in another public place, by asking him if he is willing to answer some questions.'" Id. (quoting Florida v. Royer, 460 U.S. 491, 497 (1983)). The court determines whether an encounter constitutes a detention or seizure by determining whether, taking into account all the circumstances of the encounter, the police conduct would have communicated to a reasonable person that he was not free to "'"ignore the police presence and go about his business.'" Id. at 473 (quoting Michigan v. Chesternut, 486 U.S. 567, 569 (1988)).

Applying these principles to Richardson's initial encounter with the officers, Richardson was not seized at that time. The officers' squad car stopped on the opposite side of the street. One officer stepped out of the vehicle and called to Richardson from over the top of the squad car. Neither officer displayed a weapon, threatened physical force, or told Richardson to stop. They asked whether Richardson knew who lived in the house, and whether they could talk to him. These...

To continue reading