583 F.3d 457 (6th Cir. 2009), 08-5372, United States v. Adams

Docket Nº:08-5372.
Citation:583 F.3d 457
Opinion Judge:DAMON J. KEITH, Circuit Judge.
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Wilbur B. ADAMS, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.
Attorney:Isaiah S. Gant, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Blanche Bong Cook, Assistant United States Attorney, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee. Isaiah S. Gant, Michael C. Holley, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant. Jimmi...
Judge Panel:Before: KEITH, CLAY, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges. KEITH, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CLAY, J., joined. GIBBONS, J. (p. 470-71), delivered a separate concurring opinion. JULIA SMITH GIBBONS, Circuit Judge, concurring.
Case Date:October 14, 2009
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit
 
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Page 457

583 F.3d 457 (6th Cir. 2009)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Wilbur B. ADAMS, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 08-5372.

United States Court of Appeals, Sixth Circuit.

October 14, 2009

Argued: June 18, 2009.

Page 458

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 459

ARGUED:

Isaiah S. Gant, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Blanche Bong Cook, Assistant United States Attorney, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

ON BRIEF:

Isaiah S. Gant, Michael C. Holley, Office of The Federal Public Defender, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellant.

Jimmie Lynn Ramsaur, Assistant United States Attorney, Nashville, Tennessee, for Appellee.

Before: KEITH, CLAY, and GIBBONS, Circuit Judges.

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KEITH, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which CLAY, J., joined. GIBBONS, J. (p. 470-71), delivered a separate concurring opinion.

OPINION

DAMON J. KEITH, Circuit Judge.

Following a jury trial, Defendant-Appellant Wilbur Adams, Jr. (" Adams" ) was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924. On appeal, Adams argues that the district court erred by: (1) failing to suppress the firearm at issue because it was discovered pursuant to an unconstitutional search of his jacket; (2) concluding that Adams validly waived his Miranda rights and therefore failing to suppress Adams's inculpatory statements to the police; and (3) failing to instruct the jury that Adams's confession must be corroborated by independent evidence, in light of this Court's opinion in United States v. Marshall, 863 F.2d 1285 (6th Cir.1988). For the reasons set forth below, we affirm the district court's decision denying Adams's motion to suppress the firearm and his statement to the police, but reverse the court's denial of the proposed jury instruction and remand for a new trial.

I. BACKGROUND

A. Factual Background

At approximately 1:30 a.m. on May 15, 2006, Adams and a group of seven to ten individuals gathered in Room 241 of the Travelodge Motel, in Nashville, Tennessee.1 Room 241 was registered solely to Dwight Bond (" Bond" ), 2 who rented the room on a weekly basis between March 3 and June 2, 2006. According to the record, Room 241 was a small, ordinary motel room with a dresser, table, two beds, a television, and a bathroom at the far end of the room. At the time of the May 15 gathering, Sergeant Michael Eby (" Sergeant Eby" ) of the Nashville Metropolitan Police Department was patrolling the immediate area around the motel. From his patrol car, Sergeant Eby noticed a significant amount of " pedestrian" traffic going in and out of Room 241, prompting his suspicion and further observation. After approximately ten minutes of observation, Sergeant Eby determined the activity in Room 241 warranted investigation, and called for assistance from other officers in the area, including Officer Matthew Valiquette (" Officer Valiquette" ), to conduct a " knock and talk" 3 at Room 241.

Around the same time that Officer Valiquette arrived on the scene, Jermaine Lymon (" Lymon" ) and another guest of Room 241 noticed the police cars gathering in the motel parking lot and informed the other individuals in the room that the police were outside. A few moments later, Sergeant Eby and Officer Valiquette knocked on the door of Room 241 and, at Bond's instruction, someone (other than Bond or Adams) opened the door for the police. Upon inquiry by the officers, Bond promptly identified himself as the registered guest of the room.

At the request of Sergeant Eby, Bond stepped outside of the motel room onto the balcony in front of the motel room door to

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briefly speak with Sergeant Eby and Officer Valiquette. According to Officer Valiquette, when the door to Room 241 opened, from their vantage point on the balcony the officers " had visible signs of drug activity" strewn around the room, such as " torn up baggies," and " chore boys," which Valiquette described as a " goldish Brillo pad commonly used to stick down into a crack pipe and used to facilitate smoking crack cocaine." The officers told Bond that they had observed " a lot of traffic in and out of the location," and asked him " if he had any sort of contraband in his room." Bond responded that he did not have any contraband in the room, and gave the officers his consent to look around the room for contraband.4

Once Bond gave his consent for the officers to search the room for contraband, Officer Valiquette stood watch over the guests-most of whom were seated on either of the two beds in the room-while Sergeant Eby walked directly to the bathroom and began searching the room from back to front. Adams, along with a few other guests, was sitting on the bed that was farthest from the front door and next to the bathroom wall. According to Lymon, there were clothes scattered throughout the room-hanging up and lying on the bathroom floor, on the floor next to the television, and piled on top, and inside, of a suitcase sitting on the floor next to the television-and Sergeant Eby began looking through the clothes as he conducted his search of the room.

As Sergeant Eby was returning from the bathroom to the front of the motel room, he saw Adams's jacket lying on the floor in a " little gap" between the second bed and the wall next to the bathroom. According to the district court, Sergeant Eby saw the jacket on the floor, picked it up, and asked who owned the jacket, and no one responded.5 After picking up the jacket, Sergeant Eby noticed that it was unusually heavy, proceeded to look in the inside pocket of the jacket and found the gun at issue, along with a crack pipe and some crack cocaine.

Following Sergeant Eby's search of the jacket and subsequent discovery of the gun, the police officers handcuffed several of the guests and proceeded to remove them from Room 241 to the balcony outside the room in order to question them

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individually. As a result of the questioning, the police officers ultimately narrowed down the suspected owner of the jacket to two individuals: Adams and Lymon.6 At that time, Officer Valiquette handcuffed Adams while still in the motel room, read Adams his Miranda rights and asked if he understood them-to which Adams responded, " I do." Up to this point, Adams maintained that it was not his jacket or gun.

Officer Valiquette eventually transported Adams to his patrol car in the motel parking lot and continued his interrogation. At approximately 4:15 a.m., almost three hours after Adams's arrest, and after Officer Valiquette told Adams (falsely) that Valiquette had seen footage on a motel security video of Adams wearing the jacket, Adams confessed to possessing the gun. Upon procuring Adams's confession, Officer Valiquette completed a " Gun Questionnaire Form" (" Questionnaire" ), indicating that Adams admitted the gun belonged to him. Officer Valiquette did not have Adams sign one of the written Miranda waiver forms he had in his patrol car at the time because " he just didn't think about it."

At the top of the Questionnaire was the word " MIRANDA" followed by two adjacent, separate boxes captioned " yes" and " no," with the box next to " yes" checked off by Officer Valiquette. Directly under the word " MIRANDA" was the word " WAIVER," also followed by two adjacent, separate boxes, captioned " yes" and " no," neither of which was checked. Id. According to Valiquette, the " yes" box checked next to the word " MIRANDA" indicated that Valiguette had read Adams his Miranda rights, and the boxes next to " WAIVER" were unchecked because it was Valiquette's understanding that the " WAIVER" boxes referenced express, written waivers only. Thus, because Valiquette did not have Adams sign a written waiver and because there was no express waiver, i.e., Adams " never said I am waiving [my] rights," Valiquette deemed the boxes inapplicable. Valiquette testified, however, that although Adams never expressly waived his Miranda rights, he kept talking to Valiquette, and " he never asked for an attorney ... never said he didn't want to answer any questions or anything like that."

B. Procedural History

On October 4, 2006, Adams was indicted on charges of being a felon in possession of a firearm, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § § 922(g)(1) and 924. On August 10, 2007, Adams moved to suppress both the underlying firearm and the inculpatory statement he made to Valiquette subsequent to his arrest. On September 18, 2007, following a two-day evidentiary hearing on the suppression issues, the district court issued a bench order denying Adams's motion to suppress both the physical evidence, as well as Adams's subsequent statement to the police. The court concluded that Sergeant Eby's search of the jacket did not violate Adams's constitutional rights, as " [the jacket] had been abandoned for purposes of privacy interest," and " the officer was entitled to determine for officer safety why it was heavy since there is a natural possibility that a weapon might be in the jacket." The court further concluded that Adams " knowingly, intelligently and voluntarily waived [his Miranda ] rights through indicating that he understood them and by talking to the officer."

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On December 3, 2007-the eve of trial-Adams asked the court to give the jury the following instruction:

Evidence has been presented that the Defendant, Wilbur B. Adams, Jr., admitted that he possessed the firearm as described in the Indictment. You may not convict Wilbur B. Adams, Jr. solely upon his own uncorroborated statement or admission.

ROA at 82. The court denied Adams's request, concluding that " the gun is sufficient corroborating evidence to...

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