U.S.A v. Minnitt, No. 09-10711.

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (5th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtO'CONNOR
Citation617 F.3d 327
Docket NumberNo. 09-10711.
Decision Date25 August 2010
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,v.Melvin Odell MINNITT, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.

617 F.3d 327

UNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff-Appellee,
v.
Melvin Odell MINNITT, Jr., Defendant-Appellant.

No. 09-10711.

United States Court of Appeals,
Fifth Circuit.

Aug. 25, 2010.


617 F.3d 328

COPYRIGHT MATERIAL OMITTED

617 F.3d 329
Matthew John Guide, Asst. U.S. Atty., Fort Worth, TX, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Kevin Joel Page, Dallas, TX, for Defendant-Appellant.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas.
Before JONES, Chief Judge, PRADO, Circuit Judge, and O'CONNOR, District Judge.*

O'CONNOR, District Judge:

Defendant-Appellant Melvin Odell Minnitt, Jr. appeals the district court's decision to revoke his supervised release based on its finding that he failed to comply with the terms of the supervised release. Minnitt

617 F.3d 330
claims that the district court violated his due process right to confrontation by relying on hearsay as evidence that, during the period of his supervised release, he: (1) possessed controlled substances; and (2) failed to attend mandatory drug counseling sessions. We conclude that the district court did not err in revoking Minnitt's supervised release, and affirm.
I. FACTUAL BACKGROUND AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

Minnitt was convicted of being a felon in possession of a firearm. He was sentenced to thirty-three months' imprisonment, followed by three years of supervised release. Minnitt served the prison term and began his supervised release in May 2008 under the supervision of Probation Officer Greg Cruz (“Officer Cruz”).

In June 2009, Officer Cruz filed a Petition for Offender Under Supervision (the “Petition”) with the district court. The Petition alleged that Minnitt violated the terms of his supervised release because he: (1) used and/or possessed illegal controlled substances during the term of his supervised release; and (2) missed required counseling sessions throughout the period of his supervised release. Officer Cruz requested issuance of a violator's warrant, which the district court ordered the following day.

The next week, the Government filed a Motion to Revoke Supervised Release (“Motion to Revoke”). The Motion to Revoke alleged that Minnitt violated three conditions of his supervised release by using and possessing the illegal controlled substances of cocaine and marijuana, and further, that Minnitt violated one condition of his supervised release by failing to attend required counseling sessions with the local drug aftercare provider. Particularly, the Government alleged that Minnitt submitted a urine specimen on May 20, 2009 that tested positive for cocaine and another on June 1, 2009 that tested positive for marijuana. The Government also alleged that Minnitt failed to attend at least one required counseling session in each of the months of July, August, September, October, and November 2008 and in January, April, and June 2009.

The district court held a revocation hearing two weeks later. Officer Cruz was the only witness to testify in person at the hearing.


A. Evidence Related to Controlled Substances

At the hearing, Officer Cruz first addressed the allegation that Minnitt used and possessed illegal controlled substances. Without objection, Officer Cruz testified that Minnitt's May 2009 urine specimen tested positive for cocaine and his June 2009 urine specimen tested positive for marijuana.

Also without objection, Officer Cruz testified about the process used to evaluate urine samples. He stated that the sample is first sent to a laboratory in Arlington, Texas for testing. If the first test is positive, the lab re-runs the same type of test to verify the result. The lab then notifies the probation office of the results. If the results are positive, a probation officer discusses the results with the urine donor, and if the donor denies the indicated drug use, the specimen is sent to a national laboratory, Kroll Laboratory (“Kroll”), for additional testing. Kroll first re-runs the same type of test to confirm the positive result. If it is confirmed, Kroll performs a different, more detailed type of test on the specimen.1 Kroll then reports the test results back to the probation office.

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When the Government asked Officer Cruz whether Kroll tested Minnitt's samples, Minnitt objected, arguing that the testimony would violate his limited due process right to confront and cross-examine witnesses. Minnitt urged that Officer Cruz's answer could only be based on hearsay and that the due process clause afforded Minnitt the opportunity to confront the hearsay declarant, absent the judge's specific finding of good cause to deny the confrontation. The district court found such good cause and overruled Minnitt's objection, but did not state on the record the reasons for its finding.

The Government then moved to admit the lab results from Minnitt's May 2009 urine specimen and from his June 2009 urine specimen. Minnitt again objected based on his due process right to confrontation. The district court overruled Minnitt's objection and admitted the exhibits. Minnitt obtained a running objection as to testimony on the two exhibits.

Officer Cruz first testified about the May 2009 sample and two possible alternate explanations Minnitt had given for why the sample tested positive for cocaine. Officer Cruz testified that when he confronted Minnitt about the results, Minnitt denied knowingly ingesting cocaine. At that time, Minnitt stated that he had accepted a cigarette from a family member, and he implied that, unbeknownst to him, the cigarette may have been laced with cocaine. On the morning of the revocation hearing, Minnitt offered a second possible explanation to Officer Cruz. Minnitt claimed that the positive result might have occurred because he had taken a medicine containing phenazopyridine hydrochloride, a chemical that may have caused a false-positive result. Officer Cruz contacted Kroll just before the hearing to determine whether phenazopyridine hydrochloride may have caused a false-positive. Over Minnitt's objection, Officer Cruz testified that immediately prior to the hearing, he received documentation from Kroll stating that “phenazopyridine hydrochloride would not result in a positive urine sample.” On cross-examination, Minnitt presented Officer Cruz with information printed from the Internet stating that phenazopyridine hydrochloride might cause a false result (negative or positive) in certain types of tests. Minnitt did not offer this documentation into evidence.

Officer Cruz next testified that he again confronted Minnitt after the June 2009 sample tested positive for marijuana. Minnitt denied knowingly using marijuana and indicated that another individual had smoked a marijuana blunt in his home, presumably implying that his inhalation of secondhand smoke could have caused a false-positive result. Officer Cruz testified that he obtained documentation from Kroll stating passive inhalation of marijuana could not have caused a false-positive result because the cutoff level used for testing is such that passive smoke inhalation could not have triggered the positive result.

Finally, Officer Cruz testified that Minnitt has a history of abuse of controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine. He then turned to the allegations of Minnitt's absence from required counseling sessions.


B. Evidence Related to Missed Counseling Sessions

Without objection, Officer Cruz testified that Minnitt violated a condition of his

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supervised release because he missed both individual counseling sessions and group counselling sessions that were required parts of his drug treatment program. Officer Cruz then testified more specifically that Minnitt had missed at least one group counseling session for five consecutive months in 2008 and for one month in 2009. Minnitt objected, asserting that the testimony violated his limited due process right to confrontation, and was overruled. Officer Cruz stated that Minnitt failed to attend at least one individual counseling session for five consecutive months in 2008 and for three months in 2009. Officer Cruz did not have first-hand knowledge of these facts; he obtained them from the session counselors. Without objection, Officer Cruz stated that he had confronted Minnitt about some of the missed sessions and that Minnitt...

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46 practice notes
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth of Va.., Record No. 0688–10–4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 21 Junio 2011
    ...“presented no evidence suggesting that his brother rather than he initiated [58 Va.App. 410] contact”); see also United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, 334 (5th Cir.2010) (noting in finding reliability that the defendant “failed to offer any evidence”).18 Henderson knew the identities of t......
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0688–10–4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 28 Febrero 2012
    ...the defendant “presented no evidence suggesting that his brother rather than he initiated contact”); see also United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, 334 (5th Cir.2010) (noting in finding reliability that the defendant “failed to offer any evidence”). Henderson knew the identities of the vi......
  • Blanks v. State, No. 1050, Sept. Term, 2015.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 2 Junio 2016
    ...are admissible in probation revocation proceedings without any live testimony from a laboratory employee. See United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327 (5th Cir.2010) (urinalysis report showing that probationer's urine tested positive for cocaine and marijuana properly admitted without live te......
  • Pruitt v. Epps, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13cv988-CWR-FKB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • 15 Febrero 2016
    ...for which they are punished." Pruitt, 85 So. 2d at 882. The Fifth Circuit addressed a similar issue in United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, n. 3 (5th Cir. 2010), finding that the limited due process right to confrontation afforded in a revocation proceeding was unaffected by Melende......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
46 cases
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth of Va.., Record No. 0688–10–4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 21 Junio 2011
    ...“presented no evidence suggesting that his brother rather than he initiated [58 Va.App. 410] contact”); see also United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, 334 (5th Cir.2010) (noting in finding reliability that the defendant “failed to offer any evidence”).18 Henderson knew the identities of t......
  • Henderson v. Commonwealth, Record No. 0688–10–4.
    • United States
    • Virginia Court of Appeals of Virginia
    • 28 Febrero 2012
    ...the defendant “presented no evidence suggesting that his brother rather than he initiated contact”); see also United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, 334 (5th Cir.2010) (noting in finding reliability that the defendant “failed to offer any evidence”). Henderson knew the identities of the vi......
  • Blanks v. State, No. 1050, Sept. Term, 2015.
    • United States
    • Court of Special Appeals of Maryland
    • 2 Junio 2016
    ...are admissible in probation revocation proceedings without any live testimony from a laboratory employee. See United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327 (5th Cir.2010) (urinalysis report showing that probationer's urine tested positive for cocaine and marijuana properly admitted without live te......
  • Pruitt v. Epps, CIVIL ACTION NO. 3:13cv988-CWR-FKB
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 5th Circuit. Southern District of Mississippi
    • 15 Febrero 2016
    ...for which they are punished." Pruitt, 85 So. 2d at 882. The Fifth Circuit addressed a similar issue in United States v. Minnitt, 617 F.3d 327, n. 3 (5th Cir. 2010), finding that the limited due process right to confrontation afforded in a revocation proceeding was unaffected by Melende......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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