7 F.3d 1512 (10th Cir. 1993), 92-6375, United States v. Griffin

Docket Nº92-6375.
Citation7 F.3d 1512
Party NameUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. Teresa Mechell GRIFFIN, Defendant-Appellant.
Case DateOctober 26, 1993
CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Page 1512

7 F.3d 1512 (10th Cir. 1993)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,

v.

Teresa Mechell GRIFFIN, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 92-6375.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

October 26, 1993

Page 1513

Submitted on the briefs. [*]

John E. Green, U.S. Atty., Kim Taylor, Leslie M. Kaestner, Asst. U.S. Attys., Oklahoma City, OK, for plaintiff-appellee.

David P. Henry, Oklahoma City, OK, for defendant-appellant.

Before BRORBY, BARRETT, and KELLY, Circuit Judges.

Page 1514

BRORBY, Circuit Judge.

Ms. Griffin was convicted of eight drug related counts including a conspiracy to possess and distribute cocaine base (crack) and was sentenced inter alia to four concurrent sentences of life imprisonment. Ms. Griffin appeals asserting her motion to suppress should have been granted; improper closing argument; and numerous sentencing errors. We reverse and remand.

I.

Ms. Griffin was the common law wife of Juan Carlos Angulo-Lopez. 1 Together they managed a cocaine distribution ring. They obtained cocaine in Houston and transported it to Oklahoma City where the cocaine was "cooked" or converted to crack. They then acted as wholesalers distributing the crack to retail sellers. The charges against Ms. Griffin all arose from this cocaine distribution activity.

Ms. Griffin's participation in the cocaine distribution business came to an end when she and her companion, Bedina Coleman, 2 were apprehended at the Oklahoma City airport terminal with approximately $38,500 in cash from cocaine sales. Ms. Griffin confessed and led agents to her car where a large amount of cocaine was found. Ms. Griffin filed a motion to suppress this evidence, which, following an evidentiary hearing, was denied by the district court. Ms. Griffin appeals this decision arguing principally that her confession was invalid as she was in custody and the police failed to advise her as required by Miranda. 3 Ms. Griffin also raises the propriety of statements made by the prosecution in closing argument and of her sentence. 4

Evidence before the district court at the suppression hearing was sharply conflicting. However, as the trial court found Ms. Griffin's testimony incredible, we look to the evidence supporting the Government's case and give to this evidence the benefit of every reasonable inference.

Two members of the Oklahoma City Police Department testified. The first, who was a member of the patrol division at the airport, testified he had been told by airline officials two weeks prior that two females were making frequent trips to Houston. They always showed up just a few minutes before departure, bought one-way tickets, and paid for them in cash. This raised the officer's suspicions as such conduct fit the "drug profile." On the evening in question, he observed Ms. Griffin and her companion, Bedina Coleman, do exactly this. The two women also matched descriptions provided by the airline employees. Shortly thereafter, he received a call from gate security that they found and confiscated three .357 magnum bullets from Ms. Griffin's purse but allowed her and her companion to board the plane. The officer, concerned about a corresponding .357 pistol being in the baggage, checked at the ticket counter to learn if a gun had been declared. As it had not and as he had seen the two women arrive with baggage, he asked the gate supervisor to board the plane and ask the defendant and her companion to step to the door of the plane. The officer, while standing on the jetway, talked to the two women standing in the plane. He asked them if they were together and they replied "No." He asked to examine their tickets and Ms. Coleman had both in her purse. He asked if they had checked luggage and both replied "No." He then showed them their baggage claim receipts and the bullets, told them his concerns and requested their consent to search their luggage, which they readily gave. They also agreed to accompany him while he searched their luggage.

The three then went to the briefing room of the airport police office where the women again consented to a baggage search. Prior

Page 1515

to their arrival, the bags had been set aside and a drug sniffing dog had alerted to Ms. Griffin's bag. When the officer opened Ms. Griffin's bag, he found large bundles of currency totaling approximately $38,500. He asked the women three or four times who owned the currency and received no reply. He told the women they were free to go and were not under arrest, but he had to investigate the drug tainted money before he could release it. The officer testified he did not arrest or have probable cause to arrest as there was no law against possessing drug tainted money. A money count began and Ms. Griffin was told she was free to remain to verify the count. About that time, the second police officer arrived.

The second officer, who was a detective in the drug interdiction unit, testified he was called by the first officer. He arrived about thirty minutes later where he found three uniformed policemen and the two women in the same location as the baggage search--a "fairly large room" in the police area. Policemen were counting the money. The first officer told him Ms. Griffin was most likely to be involved. The second officer then asked Ms. Griffin if he could speak to her about the money and if she would accompany him to an office. She agreed. The second officer took her to his private office in the police area which was 8' or 10' by 10'. The officer sat behind his desk with his back to the door, which remained open, and Ms. Griffin sat next to his desk. The officer sat between her and the door. The officer testified he asked her who the money belonged to, and Ms. Griffin took a deep breath and hung her head. He then asked her if she was employed, and she said "No." As he knew she had purchased an airline ticket, he asked her how she was making a living. He then asked if the money was narcotic related and again Ms. Griffin took a deep breath and hung her head. He then asked why she was coming to Oklahoma City and traveling around, and she replied she lived in Houston and had friends in Oklahoma City. He asked her again who the money belonged to and was told it was a subject's in Houston. She was asked who and took a deep breath, put her head down, and did not answer. She was asked again if the money was narcotic related and she said it was.

She was then asked how she had obtained the money and where it came from. She apparently gave a lengthy answer touching upon her drug related activities, including communication via a pager. He asked and received permission to examine her pager. He asked her why she had sold one kilogram of cocaine powder for $20,000 knowing that crack is more expensive than powder. He asked her where her car was and if she had narcotics in her car. She initially put her head down and did not answer but then stated her car still contained cocaine. He asked her how much cocaine she had in her car. She estimated nearly half a pound. His partner arrived and the officer left his partner in the room with Ms. Griffin when he left to talk to Ms. Coleman. His partner remained closer to the door. While gone, the officer took custody of the money and placed it in the evidence locker. Upon returning, he asked Ms. Griffin if he could go through her purse for weapons and anything else that might pertain to the case. He found $600 which he removed as she "had just delivered two kilograms of cocaine and had $38,000. I assumed it was processed also."

At the suppression hearing, the second officer denied Ms. Griffin was in police custody during this questioning. He then described taking her to another officer's unmarked vehicle. Ms. Griffin, the officer and two other officers drove to Ms. Griffin's car located at an off-airport parking lot. At her car, he obtained written consent to search the auto. Ms. Griffin told him the cocaine was in the glove box, and there he found it. At this point, he told her charges would be presented to the district attorney's office and advised her of her Miranda rights. Ms. Griffin then directed the officers to the apartment complex where she said she had distributed drugs earlier that day.

Based upon the officers' testimony, the court denied the motion to suppress from the bench with little explanation except to say defendant's evidence was not credible and that an explanatory written order would follow. The record does not reveal the explanatory order was ever filed.

Page 1516

Ms. Griffin contends she was in custody of the police at all times from her encounter with the first police officer. She therefore argues that as she was not advised as required by Miranda, all evidence flowing therefrom should be suppressed.

Miranda instructs us that the prosecution may not use statements stemming from questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of freedom of action in any significant way unless it first demonstrates the use of procedural safeguards effective to secure the Fifth Amendment's privilege against self incrimination. Miranda goes on to spell out these procedural requirements by specifying what rights the person in custody must clearly understand.

The ultimate question is when was Ms. Griffin placed in custody for the purpose of triggering Miranda 's requirements. Was it when the first officer caused Ms. Griffin to meet him at the aircraft door, as Ms. Griffin contends? Was it when the police actually found the physical evidence and notified Ms. Griffin charges would be filed, as the police contend?

II.

The standard of review for a motion to suppress is well established. The trial court's findings of fact must be accepted by an appellate court unless they are clearly erroneous. E.g., United States v. Swepston, 987 F.2d 1510, 1513 (10th Cir.1993) (citing United States v. Waupekenay, 973 F.2d 1533, 1535...

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  • 947 F.Supp. 25 (D. Puerto Rico 1996), Crim. 94-364, United States v. Ventura
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • October 18, 1996
    ...13 (1st Cir. 1986), and the degree of police control over the environment in which the interrogation took place. United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993); Sprosty, 79 F.3d at 641. The number of law enforcement officers may clarify this first factor. See Streifel, 781 F.2......
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
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    ..."believe her freedom of action had been curtailed to a `degree associated with formal arrest.'" United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993) (quoting Beheler, 463 U.S. at 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517 and Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440, 104 S.Ct.......
  • Half-cocked: the regulatory framework of short-barrel firearms.
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    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 40 Nbr. 2, May 2017
    • May 1, 2017
    ...535 U.S. 425, 434 (2002) ("[W]e find that reducing crime is a substantial government interest."); United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1517 (10th Cir. 1993) ("Important government interests include effective crime detection and prevention, and minimizing the risk of harm to......
  • Constitutional law - in-home interrogation in a police-dominated atmosphere ruled custodial requiring Miranda warnings - United States v. Craighead.
    • United States
    • Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy Nbr. 14, January 2009
    • January 1, 2009
    ...supra note 2, at 2 (discussing factual elements tending to prove in-home interrogations non-custodial). (29) See United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993) (reasoning nature of custodial interrogations must be determined through examination of totality of circumstances). C......
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158 cases
  • 947 F.Supp. 25 (D. Puerto Rico 1996), Crim. 94-364, United States v. Ventura
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 1st Circuit District of Puerto Rico
    • October 18, 1996
    ...13 (1st Cir. 1986), and the degree of police control over the environment in which the interrogation took place. United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993); Sprosty, 79 F.3d at 641. The number of law enforcement officers may clarify this first factor. See Streifel, 781 F.2......
  • 454 F.Supp.3d 1155 (D.N.M. 2020), 1:18-cr-02208-JCH-1, United States v. Mazon
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • April 13, 2020
    ..."believe her freedom of action had been curtailed to a `degree associated with formal arrest.'" United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993) (quoting Beheler, 463 U.S. at 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517 and Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440, 104 S.Ct.......
  • United States v. Murillo-Gonzalez, 030121 NMDC, 1:19-cr-00768-JCH-1
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    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit District of New Mexico
    • March 1, 2021
    ...position would “believe her freedom of action had been curtailed to a ‘degree associated with formal arrest.'” Griffin, 7 F.3d at 1518 (quoting Beheler, 463 U.S. at 1125); Berkemer v. McCarty, 468 U.S. 420, 440 (1984)). This is an objective inquiry that considers th......
  • 540 F.Supp.2d 1189 (D.Kan. 2008), 06-40063-02, United States v. Cronin
    • United States
    • Federal Cases United States District Courts 10th Circuit United States District Courts. 10th Circuit. District of Kansas
    • March 27, 2008
    ...curiam); California v. Beheler, 463 U.S. 1121, 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517, 77 L.Ed.2d 1275 (1983) (per curiam). [7] United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir.1993), cert. denied, 515 U.S. 1168, 115 S.Ct. 2630, 132 L.Ed.2d 870 (1995) (quoting Beheler, 463 U.S. at 1125, 103 S.Ct. 3517; ......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
3 books & journal articles
  • Half-cocked: the regulatory framework of short-barrel firearms.
    • United States
    • Harvard Journal of Law & Public Policy Vol. 40 Nbr. 2, May 2017
    • May 1, 2017
    ...535 U.S. 425, 434 (2002) ("[W]e find that reducing crime is a substantial government interest."); United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1517 (10th Cir. 1993) ("Important government interests include effective crime detection and prevention, and minimizing the risk of harm to......
  • Constitutional law - in-home interrogation in a police-dominated atmosphere ruled custodial requiring Miranda warnings - United States v. Craighead.
    • United States
    • Suffolk Journal of Trial & Appellate Advocacy Nbr. 14, January 2009
    • January 1, 2009
    ...supra note 2, at 2 (discussing factual elements tending to prove in-home interrogations non-custodial). (29) See United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1518 (10th Cir. 1993) (reasoning nature of custodial interrogations must be determined through examination of totality of circumstances). C......
  • Criminal procedure.
    • United States
    • Suffolk University Law Review Vol. 42 Nbr. 1, December 2008
    • December 22, 2008
    ...(holding investigatory stops permissible when officers reasonably believe crime just completed or in progress), United States v. Griffin, 7 F.3d 1512, 1516 (10th Cir. 1993) (providing officer need only obtain reasonable suspicion crime was or will be committed to conduct investigative stop)......