State v. Cornelius

Citation1 S.W.3d 603
Parties(Mo.App. S.D. 1999) State of Missouri, Respondent, v. John Cornelius, Appellant. 22619 0
Decision Date17 September 1999
CourtCourt of Appeal of Missouri (US)

1 S.W.3d 603 (Mo.App. S.D. 1999)
State of Missouri, Respondent,
John Cornelius, Appellant.
Missouri Court of Appeals Southern District

Appeal From: Circuit Court of Lawrence County, Hon. Samuel C. Jones

Counsel for Appellant: Thomas Pyle

Counsel for Respondent: Kristin Frazier

Opinion Summary: None

Montgomery, P.J., and Prewitt, J., concur.

Robert S. Barney, Judge

John Cornelius ("Defendant") appeals the judgment entered by the Circuit Court of Lawrence County, Missouri, after a bench trial, wherein he was convicted of the Class B felony of possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) with intent to distribute, section 195.211, RSMo 1994. The trial court sentenced Defendant to a term of imprisonment of five years in the Missouri Department of Corrections. Defendant appeals contending that the trial court erred in denying his motion to suppress the physical evidence obtained during the execution of the search warrant which led to his conviction. In his sole point, he does not contest the sufficiency of the evidence supporting his conviction. Rather, Defendant maintains that the affidavit supporting the search warrant did not establish probable cause to conduct a search of Defendant's property for drugs. We affirm the judgment.

The record shows that Trooper Daniel F. Nash, Missouri State Highway Patrol, executed an affidavit in support of a request for a warrant to search Defendant's residence (described as "a two story brick saltbox house with a shingle roof"), a blue and grey metal outbuilding west of the residence and any persons and vehicles that may be present at the time of the execution of the warrant. The affidavit recited that Trooper Nash had received information from a confidential informant who had knowledge of methamphetamine, drug paraphernalia and marijuana being stored in Defendant's residence and the metal outbuilding west of the residence. The search warrant was duly issued.

As trooper Nash and other officers arrived at Defendant's residence to serve the warrant, Defendant was in the process of leaving the premises. He was stopped and searched and a small vial was found in his left front pocket.1 It contained about a quarter of a gram of methamphetamine. Defendant was informed of the search warrant and was advised of his Miranda rights and was arrested for possession of methamphetamine. Officer Nash asked Defendant if there were any other narcotics on his property and Defendant answered in the affirmative and directed the officers to a file cabinet inside the metal outbuilding where Defendant lived and ran a heating and cooling business located some fifty to sixty yards west of Defendant's residence.2 During the ensuing search officers found a metal can in the file cabinet in which were plastic bags containing, methamphetamine, white rice and marijuana. Additionally, officers found two razor blades, marijuana seeds, several screens for a marijuana pipe, two mirror plates, coffee filters with methamphetamine residue, and the outer shell of a writing pen. Three thousand two-hundred dollars ($3,200.00) was also discovered in the bottom drawer of the file cabinet.A search of the bedroom of the metal outbuilding revealed a bottle of "Super Inositol" (used as a cutting agent to dilute methamphetamine before distribution to users) and a "triple beam scale" used for the packaging and distribution of methamphetamine.

"In reviewing a motion to suppress based upon an insufficient warrant, this court gives great deference to the initial judicial determination of probable cause made at the time of the issuance of the warrant, and reverses only if that determination is clearly erroneous." State v. Bowen, 927 S.W.2d 463, 465 (Mo.App. 1996). "Probable cause sufficient to justify the issuance of a search warrant is determined by looking to the totality of the circumstances, and only the probability, not a prima facie showing, of criminal activity, is the standard by which the existence of probable cause is measured." State v. Thomas, 737 S.W.2d 247, 249 (Mo.App. 1987).

"The neutral magistrate must make a 'practical, commonsense decision whether . . . there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found.'" State v. Berry, 801 S.W.2d 64, 66 (Mo. banc 1990)(quoting Illinois v. Gates, 462 U.S. 213, 238, 103 S.Ct. 2317, 2332, 76 L.Ed. 2d 527 (1983)). "That decision is made from all the circumstances set out in the affidavit, including the 'basis of knowledge' and 'veracity' of persons providing hearsay information." Id.

"In reviewing whether the issuing judge was clearly erroneous, this court looks to the four corners of the affidavit in support of the search warrant . . . ." Bowen, 927 S.W.2d at 465; see also State v. Laws, 801 S.W.2d 68, 70 (Mo. banc 1990). "The affidavit in support of a search warrant should be weighed as understood by those versed in law enforcement and not in terms of library analysis by scholars." State v. Hill, 854 S.W.2d 814, 818 (Mo.App. 1993). "[A] grudging or negative attitude toward warrants by reviewing courts is inconsistent with the Fourth Amendment's preference for searches by warrant; and courts should not invalidate warrants by interpreting affidavits in a hypertechnical rather than common sense...

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7 cases
  • State v. Dowell
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • August 22, 2000
    ...the unmistakable marks of firsthand observation,'" thereby supporting probable cause to issue a search warrant. State v. Cornelius, 1 S.W.3d 603, 607 (Mo. App. 1999) (quoting Berry, 801 S.W.2d at A review of the detective's affidavit filed in support of the search warrant reveals that the S......
  • State v. Wilbers, WD 71947.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 28, 2011
    ...earlier, unspecified observations of contraband to anything “recent” or “time-specific.” See Day, 949 F.2d at 978. In State v. Cornelius, 1 S.W.3d 603 (Mo.App. S.D.1999), the Southern District upheld the issuing court's finding of probable cause in a case factually similar to that presented......
  • State v. Henry, WD 69978.
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Missouri (US)
    • June 16, 2009
    ...standard of review is whether the trial court's ruling on the motion to suppress was "clearly erroneous." See, e.g., State v. Cornelius, 1 S.W.3d 603 (Mo.App.1999); State v. Berry, 92 S.W.3d 823, 828 (Mo.App.2003); State v. Willis, 97 S.W.3d 548, 553 (Mo.App.2003) (mentioned in the discussi......
  • State v. Rush, 26396.
    • United States
    • United States State Supreme Court of Missouri
    • April 29, 2005
    ...was not signed by the informants and, therefore, the statements attributed to the informants are hearsay. See State v. Cornelius, 1 S.W.3d 603, 606 (Mo.App. S.D.1999). Probable cause can be established based on hearsay if there is a substantial basis for crediting it. Ford, 21 S.W.3d at 35.......
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