Adams v. Com., Record No. 1038-05-3.

Citation635 S.E.2d 20, 48 Va. App. 737
Case DateSeptember 19, 2006
CourtCourt of Appeals of Virginia

Joseph R. Winston, Special Appellate Counsel (Office of Appellate Defender, on briefs), for appellant.

Kathleen B. Martin, Senior Assistant Attorney General (Judith Williams Jagdmann, Attorney General, on brief), for appellee.

Present: ELDER and McCLANAHAN, JJ., and COLEMAN, Senior Judge.


A jury convicted Germaine Delano Adams of second-degree murder and use of a firearm in the commission of a felony and sentenced him to thirty-three years in the penitentiary. He argues the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress and admitting evidence seized from his residence under the good faith exception to the search warrant requirement. Adams also contends the trial court erred in admitting hearsay evidence from a gun manufacturer's catalog. For the following reasons, we affirm.


On review of the denial of a motion to suppress, we view the evidence in the light most favorable to the Commonwealth. Murphy v. Commonwealth, 264 Va. 568, 573, 570 S.E.2d 836, 838 (2002). In the early morning hours of June 18, 2004, Christopher Junior Hairston was shot and killed on Virginia Oaks Court in Henry County. Officers responding to the scene found his body in the road on Virginia Oaks Court. Four bullet casings found near Hairston's body were later determined to have been fired from a 9mm Glock pistol. Later the day of the shooting, Sergeant Lane Perry and Investigator Steve Burton relayed information provided by witnesses concerning the shooting to Investigator Scott Barker.

Barker prepared and signed a "Criminal Complaint" (hereinafter "complaint") wherein he swore under oath before Magistrate E. Whitney Smith, who also signed the complaint, that "[b]ased on information received from witnesses,1 on [June 18, 2004], the accused — Germaine Delano Adams shot the victim Christopher Junior Hairston in the neck which resulted in the death of the victim. The incident occurred at approximately 0137 hrs on Virginia Oaks Ct. in Henry County, Va." On the reverse side of the complaint, Barker further wrote, "[j]ust prior to the shooting Germaine Delano Adams and Christopher Junior Hairston were arguing over $20 that Christopher Junior Hairston owed Germaine D. Adams." The complaint stated Adams's address is "101 Va. Oaks Ct., Ridgeway, Va. 24148" and was sworn to before Magistrate Smith on June 18, 2004 at 4:41 p.m.

Barker then prepared an affidavit that was also signed by Magistrate Smith, stating that Hairston had received a fatal gunshot wound to the neck at approximately 1:37 a.m. on June 18, 2004, "while he was on Virginia Oaks Ct." The affidavit noted, "[b]ased on witness statements, the victim Christopher Junior Hairston was in a[sic] arguement [sic] with Germaine Delano Adams at the time he was shot." The affidavit specifically identified the residence to be searched by providing the following directions:

Turn on to Virginia Oaks Ct. from Axton Rd. . . . The trailor [sic] to be searched will be the third trailor [sic] on the left on Virginia Oaks Ct. The residence is light grey [sic] with dark grey [sic] trim. The residence has a front wood stoop with three steps and two rails. The residence has a white front door and a satellite dish on the roof at the rear.

The affidavit further stated "there are no visible number markings on the residence," but it "ha[d] what appear[ed] to be a video camera on the outside." It requested authorization to search for videotapes, digital recordings, audio recordings, weapons (including but not limited to a 9mm caliber weapon), ammunition, and "any and all evidence relating to the murder of Christopher Junior Hairston." See infra n. 7.

The affidavit identified Sgt. Perry, Criminal Investigations Supervisor-Henry County Sheriff's Office, who was investigating at the scene, as Barker's source of information.2 Burton, who had also investigated the crime scene, assisted Barker with the affidavit.3 From Perry, Barker obtained a "description of the trailer, how to get to it, and so on and so forth." From Burton, Barker obtained the "probable cause information." Barker, believing he had probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant, submitted the affidavit on June 18, 2004 at 5:00 p.m., nineteen minutes after he submitted the complaint. On June 18, 2004, at 5:17 p.m., Magistrate Smith issued a search warrant for "101 Virginia Oaks, Ridgeway, VA 24148." The search warrant contained detailed physical directions as set forth in the affidavit to the residence to be searched and authorized seizure of the items requested in the affidavit. The search warrant was executed at 6:23 p.m. on the same day.

During the search of the master bedroom in Adams's residence, from a coat pocket, police seized seven Federal brand 9mm Luger cartridges in a plastic bag that were identical to the casings found near Hairston's body. The officers also recovered, among other items, a pistol cleaning kit suitable for a 9mm handgun, two Uncle Mike's gun holsters, and from a closet, fifteen Winchester brand 9mm cartridges in a Federal ammunition box. No weapons were recovered.

Prior to trial, Adams moved to suppress the evidence seized from his residence and all his related statements, contending, inter alia, that "[n]either the search warrant nor the affidavit allege[d] that the house to be searched [was] the defendant's residence," "that they [did] not link the defendant in any way to that residence," and that they "[did] not contain any probable cause indicating that the items to be searched for [were] located in that house." The trial court found the warrant invalid because it was "so thin . . . as far as nexus" on probable cause.

Counsel then focused their arguments on the applicability of the good faith exception to the warrant requirement, and the trial court took the matter under advisement. Initially, the trial court ruled the good faith exception did not apply because the affidavit was "so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence as unreasonable." Subsequent to this ruling and before Adams's trial, this Court decided Anzualda v. Commonwealth, 44 Va.App. 764, 607 S.E.2d 749 (2005) (en banc).4 The trial court granted the Commonwealth's motion to reconsider its ruling in light of the Anzualda holding. By letter opinion, the trial court reversed itself and denied the motion to suppress on the ground that the good faith exception applied because, as stated in Anzualda, "there is some indicia of probable cause in the underlying affidavit" and, thus, "the good faith exception applies in this case." Id. at 781, 607 S.E.2d at 757 (emphasis in original). The trial court also stated "[t]he officer acted reasonably in believing the warrant to be valid."

At trial, Barker identified and described the items seized from Adams's residence. When asked about the shoulder holsters, Barker specifically testified they were manufactured by "Uncle Mike's" and were of two different sizes. The Commonwealth asked Barker to read from an "Uncle Mike's" catalog the types of weapons the holsters were designed to fit. Adams objected on hearsay grounds. The Commonwealth stated the evidence was not hearsay or was admissible as a "business record" or "public record." The trial court overruled the objection. Forensic evidence proved Hairston was shot with a Glock pistol. Based upon the "Uncle Mike's" catalog, Barker stated one of the holsters found in the residence was designed to fit certain Glock 9mm weapons.

An eyewitness to the murder also testified that Adams and Hairston had argued over money, Adams "walked up on [Hairston] with the gun and pushed him in the shoulder and [Hairston] tried to grab [Adams's] arm and that is when [Adams] shot him." This witness further testified that he heard "two or three" shots, "and then [Adams] stood over top of [Hairston] and [Adams] shot him." Finally, the witness testified that Adams "ran in his trailer" after he shot Hairston. Another witness testified that he heard arguing, then "some [gun]shots went off," and Adams ran into his residence after the shooting. The jury convicted Adams of second-degree murder and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.


On appeal, Adams contends the trial court erred in applying the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule.5 Though we defer to the trial court's findings of historical fact unless plainly wrong or without evidence to support them, we review the trial court's determination that the good faith exception applied de novo. United States v. DeQuasie, 373 F.3d 509, 520 (4th Cir.2004); McCain v. Commonwealth, 261 Va. 483, 490, 545 S.E.2d 541, 545 (2001); see also Anzualda, 44 Va.App. at 773-74, 607 S.E.2d at 753-54; Barkley v. Commonwealth, 39 Va.App. 682, 689-90, 576 S.E.2d 234, 237-38 (2003). Furthermore, when a defendant challenges the denial of a motion to suppress, he has the burden to show that the trial court's ruling constituted reversible error. Whitfield v. Commonwealth, 265 Va. 358, 361, 576 S.E.2d 463, 464 (2003). "`Absent clear evidence to the contrary in the record, the judgment of a trial court comes to us on appeal with a presumption that the law was correctly applied to the facts.'" Barkley, 39 Va.App. at 690, 576 S.E.2d at 238 (citations omitted).

A. Application of the Good Faith Exception

The exclusionary rule is a judicial creation which, under certain circumstances, prevents evidence obtained in violation of one's Fourth Amendment rights from being admitted into evidence against him in a criminal prosecution. Commonwealth v. Ealy, 12 Va.App. 744, 750, 407 S.E.2d 681, 685 (1991). The United States Supreme Court has, however, "rejected indiscriminate application of the [exclusionary] rule, and [has] held it to be applicable only where...

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