842 F.2d 1194 (10th Cir. 1988), 87-2041, United States v. Medlin

Docket Nº:87-2041.
Citation:842 F.2d 1194
Party Name:UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. Arvle Edgar MEDLIN, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:March 24, 1988
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit

Page 1194

842 F.2d 1194 (10th Cir. 1988)

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellant,


Arvle Edgar MEDLIN, Defendant-Appellee.

No. 87-2041.

United States Court of Appeals, Tenth Circuit

March 24, 1988

Page 1195

Kenneth P. Snoke, Asst. U.S. Atty. (Tony M. Graham, U.S. Atty., with him on the brief), Tulsa, Okl., for plaintiff-appellant.

Don E. Gasaway of Gasaway & Levinson, P.A., Tulsa, Okl., for defendant-appellee.

Before LOGAN, SETH and BARRETT, Circuit Judges.

SETH, Circuit Judge.

The United States takes this appeal from the trial court's order suppressing all evidence seized in a search of Arvle Edgar Medlin's residence including that evidence which was particularly described in the search warrant. The trial court suppressed the evidence after an evidentiary hearing ordered by our decision in United States v. Medlin, 798 F.2d 407 (10th Cir.) (Medlin I ).

The search, by federal and local officers, which led to the seizure of the subject evidence was made pursuant to a warrant issued to the federal officers. It authorized the search for and seizure of "firearms--illegally possessed by Arvle Edgar Medlin, and/or stolen firearms, records of the purchase or sale of such firearms by Medlin, which are fruits, evidence and instrumentalities of violation of Title 18, United States Code, Sections 922(h)(1); 922(a)(1); 922(j) and 924(a)." The search warrant issued by a United States magistrate to agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) was supported by an affidavit of ATF Agent Samuel N. Evans.

At the evidentiary hearing on remand, the testimony was that the information which led to the issuance of the federal search warrant was provided by a confidential informant to Tulsa County Deputy Sheriff Don Carter. The informant had on a previous occasion told Carter that stolen property other than firearms might be found at Medlin's residence in Skiatook. Apparently, Carter was interested in pursuing the "tip" provided by the informant but did not seek a search warrant based upon the "tip" because of his poor working relationship with officials of neighboring Osage County where Medlin's residence was located. Because Medlin's possession of stolen firearms would be evidence of a federal crime, Carter passed along the informant's information to ATF agents.

The search warrant was executed by three ATF agents who were accompanied by one or two officers of the town police department and Deputy Sheriff Carter. Upon entering the Medlin residence the ATF agents identified themselves to Medlin, his wife and son and told them that they had a federal warrant authorizing the seizure of firearms. Thereafter, the ATF agents searched the Medlin residence and seized approximately 130 firearms. While

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the ATF agents searched for evidence of federal firearms offenses, Deputy Carter combed Medlin's residence for suspected stolen property which he believed to be evidence of state offenses. By the time the search was concluded Deputy Carter had seized some 667 items of property none of which were identified in the warrant authorizing the search. The ATF agents loaded the seized firearms into a horse trailer that had been provided by the Tulsa County Sheriff's Department at Carter's behest. When the ATF agents had completed their search they assisted Carter, the town police officers, and another Tulsa County officer who arrived during the execution of the search at Carter's invitation in loading the additional 667 seized items into the same horse trailer.

Before trial on the federal firearms offenses, Medlin moved to suppress the seized firearms on the basis that the warrant authorizing the search of his residence was invalid. The trial court denied the motion to suppress and we affirmed that decision in Medlin I, holding that the officer's reliance upon the search warrant was objectively reasonable. However, we there noted that the execution of the warrant, as opposed to the warrant itself, may have been constitutionally defective. We wrote: "Because of the large number of seized items not listed in the warrant, it is possible the police used this warrant as a pretext for a general search, which would taint the whole search." 798 F.2d at 411. Accordingly, we remanded the case to the district court for an evidentiary hearing in which the trial judge was to determine whether any illegality attended the search and if so, "whether the improper conduct was so flagrant that exclusion of all the seized evidence is warranted." 798 F.2d at 411 (emphasis in original). The trial court did in fact suppress all the evidence seized in the search and this appeal ensued.

The nature of the cooperation between federal and local law enforcement officials in the execution of a federal search warrant is the basic issue in this appeal. The Supreme Court has held that "it is generally left to the discretion of the executing officers to determine the details of how best to proceed with the...

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