U.S. v. Walters, 1:06-CR-149.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 5th Circuit. United States District Court of Eastern District Texas
Citation529 F.Supp.2d 628
Docket NumberNo. 1:06-CR-149.,1:06-CR-149.
PartiesUNITED STATES of America v. Louis Leon WALTERS.
Decision Date01 November 2007
529 F.Supp.2d 628
Louis Leon WALTERS.
No. 1:06-CR-149.
United States District Court, E.D. Texas, Beaumont Division.
November 1, 2007.

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Randall Lynn Fluke, U.S. Attorney's Office, Beaumont, TX, for United States of America.

Todd Weldon LeBlanc, for Defendant.


THAD HEARTFIELD, District Judge.

Defendant Louis Walters moves to suppress incriminating' evidence obtained during a search of his residence.

The court referred this matter to the Honorable Earl S. Hines, United States magistrate judge, at Beaumont, Texas, for consideration pursuant to applicable laws and orders of this court. Judge Hines concluded that there was no upreasdnable search or seizure, and therefore recommended that the motion to suppress be denied...

Defendant objects to the magistrate judge's findings, conclusions, and analysis. This requires a de novo determination of those portions of the report or specified proposed findings or recommendations to which, objection is made. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C).

After conducting such review, the court concludes that the magistrate judge's findings, conclusions and analysis are correct. Defendant raises no significant new arguments that the magistrate judge did not carefully consider and correctly evaluate in his report and recommendation.

Accordingly, defendant's objections are OVERRULED, and the report of the magistrate judge is ADOPTED. It is further

ORDERED that defendant's motion to suppress (Docket No. 28) is DENIED.


EARL S. HINES, United States Magistrate Judge.

This case is assigned to Hon, Thad Heartfield, Chief Judge. Defendant's "Motion to Suppress," filed February 14, 2007, was referred to the undersigned for report and recommendation on August "3, 2007. (Docket No. 56). This report addresses that motion.

Defendant Louis Leon Walters'. ("Waltars") seeks to suppress evidence consisting of, ingredients and materials used for manufacturing methamphetamine, small clear plastic baggies, a pistol, a surveillance camera, and methamphetamine obtained by police officers from his residence on April 11, 2005. Defendant relies on the judicially-crafted "exclusionary rule" which prevents illegally seized items from being admitted into evidence during a criminal prosecution. 3A CHARLES ALAN WRIGHT, ARTHUR R. MILLER & SUSAN R. KLEIN, FEERAL PRACTICE AND PROCEDURE § 661 (2d ed.1982). When, as here, a defendant invokes that rule by moving to suppress evidence or statements allegedly obtained illegally, the United States's burden is to prove that a warrantless search or seizure comports with the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Rock 5 F.3d 894, 897 (5th Cir.1993).

An evidentiary hearing on the motion was held on September 18, 2007. At that hearing, the court heard testimony from a police officer who first encountered Walters at his home, and from another officer who thereafter assisted in obtaining a search warrant and carrying out a search of the residence. The court also heard and reviewed a video and audio recording of the events; received documentary exhibits;

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and heard testimony from the defendant.


As originally filed, defendant's motion asserted several analytically distinct but interrelated grounds for suppressing the evidence. After substitution of defense counsel, and by subsequent stipulation of the parties, the motion now hinges on a single point: whether defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were violated during a "knock and talk" procedure at defendant's home. That incident preceded a formal arrest on a warrant (the existence of which was unknown at the start of the "knock and talk") and a formal search performed later that day pursuant to a warrant based in part on information obtained during the encounter at the Walters residence.

Under the parties' stipulation, the United States agrees that all incriminating evidence obtained on April 11, 2005, must be suppressed under the "fruit of the poisonous tree" doctrine if the court determines that the "knock and talk" procedure violated defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. Conversely, Walters agrees that none of the evidence should be suppressed if the "knock and talk" did not violate his constitutional rights.1


At approximately 4:20 p.m. on April 11, 2005, Officer Kevin Cooke, a Cleveland Police Department patrolman, received a tip that a named individual, Louis Walters, was cooking methamphetamine in the kitchen of his mobile-home residence on North Holley Avenue in Cleveland, Texas. That tip came by telephone from a 17-year-old male, John Frazer, who stated that he personally observed methamphetamine being manufactured by Walters earlier that day. He further stated that at least two pistols were on the premises, and that Walters had surveillance cameras in place at the mobile-home residence.

Officer Cooke, a sixteen-year law enforcement veteran with training regarding the cooking of the methamphetamine, decided to act on the spur of the moment. He contacted three other municipal police officers to accompany him to the residence for officer-safety reasons. They went immediately to a trailer park located at 411 North Holley Avenue, Cleveland, Texas, where the Walters mobile home was parked. When they arrived, Officer Cooke pulled into the driveway and parked his car on the right side of the driveway entrance, approximately fifty feet from the front porch. His car was situated so that the video recording device in the vehicle was focused on the front entrance to the mobile home. Officer Cooke wore a transmitting microphone so that the audio portion of his encounter with the defendant also was recorded.

The other officers, James Primeaux, Paul Lowrey, and Malcolm Wiley, parked their cars behind Officer Cooke. The evidence is disputed as to whether their vehicles completely blocked normal ingress and egress to the trailer park.2 However,

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police vehicles were not positioned so et to surround the house.

"No trespassing" signs may or may not have, been posted.3 In any event, Officer Cooke proceeded to an open-air front porch and knocked on the Mobile home front door at 4:30:30 p.m. (according; to `the time log on the video recording device in Officer Coolie's patrol car).4 The, other officers remained back, away from the front porch a considerable distance.

When Officer Cooke knocked, to one immediately opened the door. `However, someone inside asked: "Who is it?" Officer Cooke responded that he was the z"police department." He then heard a loud noise from inside, which sounded like people were running throughout the mobile home. He described the sounds as indicating "excitement, like a panic reaction, just running through the house." Tr. at 24.

After a few seconds, Walters opened the front door, came out onto the porch, and closed the door behind him. Officer Cooke testified that as soon, as the door opened, he smelled an "overwhelming chemical odor" emanating from inside the mobile home. Based on his training and experience, he associated that chemical odor with a possible meth lab.

Officer Cooke first asked the defendant his name, and the defendant gave his name incorrectly as "Walter Louie Officer Cooke and Walters: then recognized one another from a recent incident at a Brookeshire Bros. grocery store wherein Walters was arrested by Officer Primeaux for attempted theft. During that incident, Officer Cooke was an assisting officer, and had found Walters hiding under a vacant house across the street from the Brookshire Bros. store. Officer Cooke asked if Walters got his glasses back from the police department, and Walters replied that he had not.

Officer Cooke then requested identification. As Walters began to explain that he did not have his identification because the police still had it from the Brookshire Bros incident, two adult persons, a male and female, came from, within the mobile home out through, the front door and onto the front porch where Officer Cooke and Walters were standing. When they opened the door he again smelled a very strong chemical odor coming from the residence.

The couple told Walters they were leaving, rand continued off the porch. Without interdiction or interrogation from Office Cooke or the officers, they entered a vehicle parked near the trailer home, asked if they would be able to get out of the driveway, and Walters told them that the best way to get out was across his yard. The video record of the incident shows their vehicle leaving the premises shortly thereafter

Officer' Cooke then informed Walters that he had received a report that methamphetamine was being manufactured in the mobile home. He asked Walters if he was "dealing any methamphetamine" or if he. was "cooking methamphetamine." Walters denied both questions. Officer

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Cooke asked again whether Walters had identification. Walters replied that he went to the hospital the night of the Brookshire Bros. incident, and never got his identification back from the police department.

Officer Cooke inquired whether there was any reason why anyone would make a complaint about a methamphetamine lab at the mobile home. Walters responded that three boys were mad at him because they borrowed money from him, and had not paid him back. He knew that the boys had been saying "that" (implying Walters was involved with methamphetamine) but stated that he did not "have anything to do with that . . . at all."

Officer Cooke again asked if there were methamphetamine in the house, and repeated his earlier questions as to whether Walters had a "lab going" or whether he "cook[ed] methamphetamine." Walters answered these questions "no," and to bolster that denial, stated that he...

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