United States v. Darden

Decision Date10 December 2018
Docket NumberNo. 3:17-cr-124-11,3:17-cr-124-11
Citation353 F.Supp.3d 697
Parties UNITED STATES of America v. [1] Marcus Termaine DARDEN [11] Rex Andrew Whitlock
CourtU.S. District Court — Middle District of Tennessee

John Benjamin Schrader, U.S. Attorney's Office, Nashville, TN, Ivana Nizich, Shauna S. Hale, Department of Justice-Organized Crime & Gang Section, Washington, DC, for Plaintiff.

George Travis Hawkins, Hawkins Law Firm, PLLC, James E. Mackler, The Mackler Law Firm, PLLC, Jack L. Byrd, Jack Byrd, PLLC, Kenneth D. Quillen, Quillen Law Office, Stephanie H. Gore, Terry & Gore, Michael E. Terry, Eileen M. Parrish, Nashville, TN, John M. Bailey, IV, Brentwood, TN, Luke A. Evans, Paul J. Bruno, Bullock, Fly, Hornsby & Evans, PLLC, David M. Hopkins, David M. Hopkins, Attorney at Law, Jerry Gonzalez, Law Office of Jerry Gonzalez, Murfreesboro, TN, Jean DeSales Barrett, Ruhnke & Barrett, Montclair, NJ, Robert Lynn Parris, Robert L. Parris, Attorney at Law, Memphis, TN, James J. Ramsey, Gallatin, TN, William Joshua Morrow, Hillhouse & Morrow, Lawrenceburg, TN, Patrick F. Nash, Nash Marshall PLLC, Lexington, KY, for Defendants.



On November 2, 2018, the Court entered a Memorandum Opinion and Omnibus Order (Doc. No. 823) that resolved most of the pending motions in this case. The remaining Motions were set for oral arguments or evidentiary hearings, and they were held during the last week of November 2018.

Now before the Court are the following motions filed by Rex Whitlock: (1) Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained on March 3, 2005 (Doc. No. 553); (2) Motion to Require Immediate Production of Unredacted Witness Statements (Doc. No. 579); (3) Motion to Dismiss Count 2 of the Second Superseding Indictment (Doc. No. 573); and (4) Motion to Suppress Evidence Obtained During the Execution of a Federal Search Warrant for Defendant's Instagram Account (Doc. No. 584), all of which have been fully briefed. On November 27, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on the first motion, and heard oral arguments on the others.

Also before the Court are the following Motions filed by Marcus Termaine Darden: (1) Motion to Suppress Cell Phone Evidence (Doc. No. 636) and Supplemental Motion (Doc. No. 787); (2) Motion for Disclosure of Grand Jury Testimony (Doc. No. 590); and (3) Motion to Compel Disclosure of Confidential Informants (Doc. No. 646). Those too, have been fully briefed. On November 28, 2018, the Court held an evidentiary hearing on Darden's Motion to Suppress. The others were submitted on the papers.

I. Whitlock's Motions
A. Motion to Suppress March 3, 2005 Evidence

1. Facts

From the record and testimony at the evidentiary hearing, the Court finds the following facts:

On March 3, 2005, officer (now Detective) Andrew Hurst of the Clarksville Police Department ("CPD") was on patrol, wearing his police uniform and driving a marked police car. He parked his vehicle approximately 50 to 75 feet from a house located at 308 Glen Street to watch the comings and goings from the residence because he had heard from other officers that drug activity might be occurring there.

Shortly after 9:00 a.m., Hurst observed a 1987 Chevrolet Caprice Classic pull into the driveway, back out, and then back into the driveway and park partially under a carport. The carport was attached to the left side of the house, covered by a roof, and supported by two poles on the opposite side of the carport. The back wall of the house extended partially across the rear of the carport.

The residence is on a corner lot at the intersection of Glen and Vine Streets. It is surrounded by a chain link fence, but there is no gate in front of the driveway. Whitlock did not live at the home, but he may have visited the house given his acquaintance with Clinton Person, and the interest in music they shared. Person lived in the residence with his mother, Robbie Gaines, and his sister.

Because of the rumors he had heard and his curiosity piqued by the maneuvering of the Caprice, Hurst pulled his car up adjacent to the curb, with the nose of the vehicle near the driveway. Before Hurst could get out of his vehicle, however, Whitlock exited the Caprice, walked towards Hurst, and asked him what was going on. Hurst responded that he suspected Whitlock's car might contain drugs. Whitlock then asked Officer Hurst to repeat the reason for the encounter. As Hurst was about to do so, Whitlock struck him with his fist, hitting Hurst on the head behind the left ear.

Whitlock then took off running towards Poplar Street, the next street down from the residence. After running across lawns and backyards, Whitlock was apprehended by Hurst approximately 300 feet from where the pursuit began. Whitlock was arrested for assault.

After Whitlock was secured in a patrol car, Hurst was approached by CPD Officer Eric Love who informed Hurst that Whitlock ran because there was a "cookie"1 located in the handle of the door. Hurst was a relatively new officer and unfamiliar with the term. He approached the vehicle under the carport and looked through the driver's side window. He claims to have seen the cookie sitting in a compartment located on the driver's side door. A subsequent search revealed not only the crack cocaine cookie, but also marijuana and a set of digital scales. It is those items that Whitlock seeks to suppress.

B. Application of Law

The Fourth Amendment guarantees "[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures." U.S. CONST. amend. IV. "Nevertheless, because the ultimate touchstone of the Fourth Amendment is ‘reasonableness,’ the warrant requirement is subject to certain exceptions." Brigham City v. Stuart, 547 U.S. 398, 404, 126 S.Ct. 1943, 164 L.Ed.2d 650 (2006) (citing Flippo v. West Virginia, 528 U.S. 11, 13, 120 S.Ct. 7, 145 L.Ed.2d 16 (1999) ). Thus, for example, "[it]t is well established that under certain circumstances the police may seize evidence in plain view without a warrant," Coolidge v. New Hampshire, 403 U.S. 443, 465, 91 S.Ct. 2022, 29 L.Ed.2d 564 (1971), and it is upon that exception which the Government relies here.2

"The rationale of the plain-view doctrine is that if contraband is left in open view and is observed by a police officer from a lawful vantage point, there has been no invasion of a legitimate expectation of privacy and thus no ‘search’ within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment – or at least no search independent of the initial intrusion that gave the officers their vantage point." Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366, 375, 113 S.Ct. 2130, 124 L.Ed.2d 334 (1993) (colleting cases). "The warrantless seizure of contraband that presents itself in this manner is deemed justified by the realization that resort to a neutral magistrate under such circumstances would often be impracticable and would do little to promote the objectives of the Fourth Amendment." Id.

"Four factors must be satisfied in order for the plain view doctrine to apply: (1) the object must be in plain view; (2) the officer must be legally present in the place from which the object can be plainly seen; (3) the object's incriminating nature must be immediately apparent; and (4) the officer must have a right of access to the object." United States v. Garcia, 496 F.3d 495, 508 (6th Cir. 2007). "What the ‘plain view’ cases have in common is that the police officer in each of them had a prior justification for an intrusion in the course of which he came inadvertently across a piece of evidence incriminating the accused." Coolidge, 403 U.S. at 466, 91 S.Ct. 2022. That is, an officer who "is not searching for evidence against the accused, but nonetheless inadvertently comes across an incriminating object' may seize it, so long as the object's incriminating nature is "immediately apparent." Id. at 465–66, 91 S.Ct. 2022.

In this case, Hurst did not inadvertently come across the cookie. Instead, he was directed to it by Love who, tellingly, did not testify at the hearing. How Love discovered the cookie has not been established.3 Perhaps he saw it by peering through the door window as Hurst testified, but the Court found this testimony a bit hard to believe. The cookie sat in what can best be described as a finger well. To see it from the outside, Hurst would have had to peer down over the door panel, and look through the door strap that was attached to the door on a piece of trim. Not only that, Hurst would have had to recognize from that vantage point that what he was seeing in the finger well was an illegal object. From the Court's perspective, and based on Hurst's credibility on this issue, this is unlikely.4

Furthermore, Officer Love's discovery was hardly inadvertent. He responded to the scene based on an officer in pursuit call. The only reason for him to look in the car was to see if there was evidence, a point made clear when Officer Love told Detective Hurst that he knew why Whitlock ran – it was because there was a crack cocaine cookie in the door. See United States v. Rivera-Padilla, 365 F. App'x 343, 346 (3d Cir. 2010) ("The plain view doctrine does not authorize an otherwise unauthorized search, even if it is a fruitful one."); United States v. Irizarry, 673 F.2d 554, 559 (1st Cir. 1982) ("We do not question the reasonableness of Agent Philip's suspicion that if he searched above the ceiling he might find evidence. That is not the point. What is significant is that, without any prior approval by a detached magistrate, he launched himself on an exploratory search."); United States v. Freeman, 685 F.2d 942, 954 (5th Cir. 1982) (emphasis added) ("[I]nadvertence does not require the police to be totally dumbfounded or surprised by the discovery of the incriminating evidence; the fact that its presence may be ‘within the realm of foreseeable possibilities,’ ... or even expected, does not destroy inadvertence if the police did...

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