State v. Flowers, No. A05-213.

CourtSupreme Court of Minnesota (US)
Writing for the CourtAnderson
Citation734 N.W.2d 239
PartiesSTATE of Minnesota, Respondent, v. Dontrell Dyna FLOWERS, Appellant.
Docket NumberNo. A05-213.
Decision Date28 June 2007
734 N.W.2d 239
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
v.
Dontrell Dyna FLOWERS, Appellant.
No. A05-213.
Supreme Court of Minnesota.
June 28, 2007.

[734 N.W.2d 242]

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, MN, Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, David Craig Brown, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, MN, for Respondent.

John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Cathryn Middlebrook, Assistant State Public Defender, Minneapolis, MN, for Appellant.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.

OPINION

ANDERSON, PAUL H., Justice.


Dontrell Dyna Flowers was convicted of being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, in violation of Minn.Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b) (2006), after the police found a gun in the vehicle he was driving. Flowers appeals his conviction, arguing that (1) the district court erred when it did not suppress the gun found during the search of the vehicle; (2) the

734 N.W.2d 243

court erred when it allowed Flowers to be impeached with a prior conviction; (3) the court erred when it denied Flowers' motion for a mistrial after an officer improperly testified that the gun was stolen; and (4) the court issued an improper additional instruction when responding to a question from the jury after the jury began its deliberations. The Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed. State v. Flowers, No. A05-213, 2006 WL 1228997 (Minn.App. May 9, 2006). We reverse.

At approximately 11 p.m. on June 12, 2004, appellant Dontrell Dyna Flowers was stopped by the Minneapolis police while driving a motor vehicle in south Minneapolis.1 The two officers who stopped Flowers testified that they first observed Flowers driving the vehicle eastbound on 43rd Street, just east of Pleasant Avenue. The officers testified that they initiated the stop because the vehicle that Flowers was driving had no rear license-plate light.

The stop was partially videotaped by a camera located in the officers' squad car. The videotape begins just as the officers activated their emergency lights and indicates that when the emergency lights were activated, Flowers had turned into an alley between Pleasant Avenue and Pillsbury Avenue.2 Flowers did not immediately stop when the officers activated the emergency lights; rather, he drove very slowly down the alley. The officers aimed the squad car's spotlight directly into Flowers' car. As Flowers was driving down the alley, he first leaned left for a few seconds and appeared to be shifting his position in his seat. Observing Flowers' movements, the officers sounded their air horn. Then, for about five seconds, Flowers leaned all the way to his right, toward the passenger door. At one point, only Flowers' head and the hand he had on the steering wheel were visible on the videotape. The officers again sounded their air horn. Flowers sat up after leaning to his right, and it appeared that his attention was again directed to his left—toward the driver's door. At that point, the officers turned on the siren in their squad car. Flowers continued to look to his left and continued to shift his position in his seat. The total duration of the foregoing movements was approximately 45 seconds.3

The alley running from 43rd Street to 42nd Street is narrow and comprises only one lane. At trial, one of the officers

734 N.W.2d 244

testified that Flowers was driving "[e]xtremely slow[ly]" through the alley, and later indicated that Flowers was traveling at a speed of "approximately three miles an hour." The videotape indicates that the alley was not well lit. After exiting the alley, Flowers turned eastbound onto 42nd Street, immediately pulled to the curb, and stopped. Approximately 75 seconds had passed between the time the officers initiated the stop by activating their emergency lights and the time Flowers stopped on 42nd Street.

Once Flowers stopped the vehicle, the two officers conducted a "felony stop." Instead of approaching Flowers on foot, the officers remained next to their squad car, and with their guns drawn, ordered Flowers to roll down the driver's door window and throw the car keys out of the vehicle. The officers then ordered Flowers to open the door and step out with his hands up. After Flowers complied, the officers ordered him to walk backward toward the squad car, and then to lie flat on his stomach with his arms and legs spread. The videotape shows that by the time Flowers had complied with all of these orders, at least two additional squad cars had arrived at the scene.

Two officers then approached Flowers as he was lying on the pavement.4 One officer handcuffed Flowers' hands behind his back and the other used a flashlight to look for one or two seconds into the vehicle that Flowers had been driving. After Flowers was handcuffed, an officer again used a flashlight to look into the vehicle for one to two seconds. The officers asked Flowers what he had in the vehicle, and Flowers responded that he did not have anything in the vehicle. One officer then searched Flowers for approximately 35 seconds while Flowers was still lying on the pavement. The search of Flowers revealed no weapons or contraband. The videotape shows that by the time this search was completed, at least five officers were on the scene. Following the search of Flowers, three officers helped him stand up and he was then confined in the back seat of one of the squad cars.

While Flowers was being searched, another officer searched the interior of the vehicle. This vehicle search was also captured on videotape. The officer opened the driver's door, looked around the driver's seat, and then entered the vehicle. After the officer entered the vehicle, a second officer approached the vehicle and stood by the driver's door, apparently observing while the first officer searched the vehicle. When the first officer was inside the vehicle, he looked around the passenger seat and then disappeared from the view of the camera for approximately five seconds as he apparently searched under the seats. The first officer then came back into view and looked in the back seat. The entire search of the vehicle lasted approximately 30 seconds. The search revealed no weapon or contraband. When the first officer left the vehicle, he began talking with the second officer and a third officer who had approached the vehicle. The three officers stood next to the driver's door for approximately twelve seconds while they were talking. A fourth officer then approached the group of officers standing by the driver's door. One of the officers closed the driver's door, and the officers continued talking. The last five seconds of the videotape show that while the officers continued talking outside the closed driver's door, one of the officers directed her flashlight into the vehicle for approximately five seconds. The officer is still directing her flashlight into the vehicle when the videotape stops. One of the

734 N.W.2d 245

officers testified that the camera was turned off because "[t]he situation was under control."

The two officers who initiated the stop testified that after completing the search of the vehicle, they called a fellow officer with a drug-sniffing dog to the scene to search for evidence of illegal drugs. The dog sniffed the vehicle, but did not alert to any evidence of drugs or other contraband. The record does not indicate how long it took to complete the dog-sniff search.

After the dog-sniff search ended, the officers again searched the vehicle. As previously noted, the videotape ends after the earlier search of the vehicle's interior and before the dog-sniff search occurred; therefore, evidence in the record of what happened next comes from the testimony of the arresting officers. One officer testified that he approached the vehicle and noticed that the panel on the driver's door was loose from its frame, so he pulled the panel "away from the frame a little bit" and saw what appeared to be the butt of a gun "between the panel and the door frame, in the door." The officer then lifted the power-window control panel located on the door's armrest and found a semi-automatic 9 millimeter gun under the power-window control panel.

There is no information in the record regarding how long it took the officers to find the gun or how long Flowers was detained after the videotape ended and before the gun was found. One of the officers testified in a pretrial evidentiary hearing that at the time the officers initiated the stop, they did not know who Flowers was. There is no indication in the record that before the officers found the gun they had any knowledge that Flowers was a convicted felon who was not entitled to possess a gun. A subsequent check of Flowers' criminal record, however, revealed that he had previously been convicted of aiding and abetting second-degree unintentional murder. Based on this prior conviction, Flowers was charged with being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm, a felony offense under Minn.Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1(b).

At a pretrial evidentiary hearing, one of the officers who initially stopped Flowers testified that as Flowers was driving down the alley, he "made a real distinct lunging motion" toward the passenger door, and then made "some motions down to his left." The officer testified that after observing Flowers' actions in the vehicle, he believed Flowers may have been trying to conceal some type of contraband.5 The other officer who initially stopped Flowers testified that Flowers made "frantic, furtive movements," and leaned "all the way into the * * * front passenger's seat to the point where you almost couldn't see him." The officer further testified that Flowers raised his hand "to slam it on the door panel" and it looked like Flowers was "manipulating the driver's door * * * like he was trying to take it apart, trying to put it together, pulling it apart or something."6 The officer then testified that because of these movements, his first...

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251 practice notes
  • Goodwin v. State, No. 2436, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2017
    ...(reasonable to search passenger area after passenger made furtive movements by leaning toward floorboard). See also State v. Flowers , 734 N.W.2d 239, 252 n.13 (Minn. 2007) (suspect's furtive movement, and failure to immediately comply with attempt by police to stop him, gave officers reaso......
  • State v. Diede, No. A09–1120.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 30, 2011
    ...in criminal activity based on a reliable informant's report that the defendant was carrying a gun in a motor vehicle); State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 252 (Minn.2007) (concluding that the defendant's “suspicious movements” in the vehicle, which occurred after police officers directed him ......
  • State v. Bernard, No. A13–1245.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 11, 2015
    ...search is generally unreasonable, unless it falls into one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 248 (Minn.2007). On several occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly rejected an exception to the warrant requirement based upon prob......
  • State v. Leonard, A17-2061
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 13, 2020
    ...United States Constitution because we hold that Leonard’s rights were violated under the Minnesota Constitution. See State v. Flowers , 734 N.W.2d 239, 258 (Minn. 2007) ("[W]e have concluded that Flowers’ rights under our state constitution were violated, and therefore we need not address t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
251 cases
  • Goodwin v. State, No. 2436, Sept. Term, 2016
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • December 21, 2017
    ...(reasonable to search passenger area after passenger made furtive movements by leaning toward floorboard). See also State v. Flowers , 734 N.W.2d 239, 252 n.13 (Minn. 2007) (suspect's furtive movement, and failure to immediately comply with attempt by police to stop him, gave officers reaso......
  • State v. Diede, No. A09–1120.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • March 30, 2011
    ...in criminal activity based on a reliable informant's report that the defendant was carrying a gun in a motor vehicle); State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 252 (Minn.2007) (concluding that the defendant's “suspicious movements” in the vehicle, which occurred after police officers directed him ......
  • State v. Bernard, No. A13–1245.
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • February 11, 2015
    ...search is generally unreasonable, unless it falls into one of the recognized exceptions to the warrant requirement. State v. Flowers, 734 N.W.2d 239, 248 (Minn.2007). On several occasions, the U.S. Supreme Court has explicitly rejected an exception to the warrant requirement based upon prob......
  • State v. Leonard, A17-2061
    • United States
    • Supreme Court of Minnesota (US)
    • May 13, 2020
    ...United States Constitution because we hold that Leonard’s rights were violated under the Minnesota Constitution. See State v. Flowers , 734 N.W.2d 239, 258 (Minn. 2007) ("[W]e have concluded that Flowers’ rights under our state constitution were violated, and therefore we need not address t......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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