United States v. Goodwin

Decision Date16 September 2021
Docket Number2:20-cv-20118-MSN
PartiesUNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff, v. OSCAR GOODWIN, JR., Defendant.
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee



Before the Court is the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Motion to Suppress (ECF No 46) entered June 9, 2021. Defendant filed his objections on July 9, 2021 (ECF No. 55). The Government filed its response to Defendant's objections on July 23, 2021 (ECF No. 56).

For the following reasons, the Court will ADOPT in part the Magistrate Judge's Report and Recommendation and DENIES Defendant's Motion to Suppress.


Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(B) and Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 59, a district court may refer a motion to suppress to a magistrate judge for the preparation of a report and recommendation. “The magistrate judge must promptly conduct the required proceedings and enter on the record a recommendation for disposing of the matter, including any proposed findings of fact.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(1). If a party files timely objections to the recommendation, the district court must consider those objections de novo and “accept, reject, or modify the recommendation.” Fed. R. Crim. P. 59(b)(3). Failure to object to a magistrate judge's findings or conclusions results in waiver of those objections. Fed. R. Crim. P 59(b)(2).

“The filing of objections to a magistrate [judge]'s report enables the district judge to focus attention on those issues-factual and legal-that are at the heart of the parties' dispute.” Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S 140, 147 (1985). Therefore, objections to a magistrate judge's report must be “specific.” Fed. R Crim. P. 59(b)(2). Vague, general, or conclusory objections are improper, will not be considered by the reviewing court, and are “tantamount to a complete failure to object.” Cole v. Yukins, 7 Fed.Appx. 354, 356 (6th Cir. 2001); see also Miller v. Currie, 50 F.3d 373, 380 (6th Cir. 1995) ([A] general objection to a magistrate [judge]'s report, which fails to specify the issues of contention, does not satisfy the requirement that an objection be filed. The objections must be clear enough to enable the district court to discern those issues that are dispositive and contentious.”); Aldrich v. Bock, 327 F.Supp.2d 743, 747 (E.D. Mich. 2004) (“An ‘objection' that does nothing more than state a disagreement with a magistrate [judge]'s suggested resolution, or simply summarizes what has been presented before, is not an ‘objection' as that term is used in this context.”) The Court need not review-under a de novo or any other standard-those aspects of a report and recommendation to which no objection is made. Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 150- 52 (1985).


In her Report and Recommendation, the Magistrate Judge sets forth proposed findings of fact. (ECF No. 46 at PageID 76-86.) In his objections, Defendant makes six specific objections to the Magistrate Judge's proposed findings in a numbered paragraphs. The Court addresses each in turn below.

1. The Defense objects to any assertion that she [Ms. Maclin] was seated in a lawn chair with a bottle of water at the time she was presented with a consent to search form, as stated by Agent Pugh. (Docket Entry (DE) 50, Sentencing Hearing Transcript June 21, 2021 (Tr.) at 9, Ln. 12-14).

As to Agent Pugh's testimony about the events surrounding the search of Ms. Maclin's apartment, the Magistrate Judge recommended that Agent Pugh's detailed recollections have more indicia of reliability than Ms. Maclin's. (ECF No 46 at PageID 89.) The Magistrate Judge therefore recommended that Agent Pugh's testimony should be accredited in full. (Id.)

Having presided over the evidentiary hearing, the Magistrate Judge “had the opportunity to view [each] witness on the stand and assess [the witness's] demeanor, ” Peveler v. United States, 269 F.3d 693, 702 (6th Cir. 2001), and thus is “in the better position to assess the credibility of witnesses” she heard during the evidentiary hearing. United States v. Woodruff, 830 F.Supp.2d 390, 402 (W.D. Tenn. 2011) (Mays, J.) (quoting United States v. Robinson, No. 1:07-CR-1, 2007 WL 2138635, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. July 23, 2007)). “Credibility determinations of the magistrate judge who personally listened to the testimony of a witness should be accepted by a district judge unless in his de novo review of the record he finds a reason to question the magistrate judge's assessment.” United States v. Brown, No. 1:07-CR-9, 2007 WL1345463, at *1 (E.D. Tenn. May 7, 2007); see also United States v. Tyler, 2:10-CR-20124-STA, 2011 WL2551177 (W.D. Tenn. June 27, 2011); United States v. Tuggle, No. 2:10-cr-20042-JPM-tmp, 2011 WL 692812, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. Feb. 18, 2011) (quoting United States v. Freeman, 412 Fed.Appx. 735, 743 (6th Cir. 2010)).

Upon a de novo review of the record, there is some confusion as to exactly when Ms. Maclin was seated in the lawn chair. Agent Pugh's testimony, as cited by Defendant in his objection, does not actually say that Ms. Maclin was seated in a lawn chair at the time she signed the consent to search form. Agent Pugh's testimony was actually in regards to Ms. Maclin's demeanor:

Q. And can you describe their demeanor as they were being called out?
A. They were calm. They came out, sat in -- Ms. Maclin sat in the lawn chair and the other girl just stood by.

(ECF No. 50 at PageID 103.)

Agent Pugh was then asked what happened following the protective sweep:
Q. All right. And then what happened? Then what did you do?
A. Then I got my notebook out, walked over to Ms. Maclin, asked her if she was owner of the apartment and she said she was. I asked her for consent to search. Showed her a consent to search form. She agreed to allow us to search the apartment. She signed the consent to search form, and I called Special Agent Baker and told her that I had a written consent to search the apartment.
Q. Let me stop you there. So it -- was Ms. Maclin still calm when you presented her with the consent to search?
A. She was.
Q. And was she -- nothing outstanding about her demeanor?
A. No, sir.

(Id. at PageID 103-04.)

The Court acknowledges that, given the chronology of the questioning, Agent Pugh's testimony could be interpreted as saying Ms. Maclin was seated in the lawn chair prior to him presenting her with the consent to search form. However, the following exchanges occurred with Agent Pugh during cross-examination:

Q. Right. And so isn't it true that 19 minutes prior you had approached that door with several armed deputies in order to do the callout and then brought those women outside? Isn't that when you asked to search?
A. After I went and got my notebook and they sat down.
Q. You're testifying under oath that she was sitting in a chair the way it's shown in that video?
A. I don't know if she was sitting in the chair when she signed it, but at some point she sat down in the chair.
Q. Now that's 5:10 is when we saw the video, right?
A. That's correct.
Q. 4:51 is when the consent was signed, right?
A. That's correct.
Q. Okay. That's 19 minutes apart. That's a long time, right. So you're not telling this Court that she was sitting there with a bottle of water when you got the consent, are you?
A. She signed the consent at 4:51.
Q. Right. And that video was at 5:10, right?
A. That's correct.
Q. Are you trying to tell the Court that she was sitting in that chair with a bottle of water before she signed this consent? Is that what you're telling the Court?
A. No. She came out of the apartment. I went and identified her as the homeowner, the apartment owner, went and got my notebook out of the vehicle, came back with a consent, explained the consent to her. She signed it, read it, signed it at 4:51.

(ECF No. 50 at PageID 127.)

In summarizing Agent Pugh's relevant testimony, the Magistrate Judge's Report recites Agent Pugh's testimony in the order it was given as set forth above. (ECF No. 46 at PageID 77.) To the extent this creates an inference that Ms. Maclin was seated in the lawn chair at the time she signed the consent to search form, this is not clear from the record of Agent Pugh's testimony, and Defendant's objection is therefore SUSTAINED. From this Court's de novo review of the record, Agent Pugh's testimony reflects that deputies with the Shelby County Sheriff's Office (“SCSO”) SWAT Team performed a “call out” in which they instructed everyone inside the apartment to come outside. Ms. Maclin and another woman then exited the apartment into a breezeway. Ms Maclin and the other woman appeared calm. Ms. Maclin and the other woman remained in the breezeway while Agent Pugh went to his vehicle to get his notebook and the consent to search form. Agent Pugh returned to the breezeway, explained the consent to search form to Ms. Maclin, Ms. Maclin was given a chance to read it, and she signed it. Approximately 19 minutes later, Agent Pugh began taking an opening video of the scene and the apartment. At the beginning of this recording, Ms. Maclin can be seen just outside the apartment conversing in a relaxed manner while sitting in a chair in the breezeway. So, at some point after Ms. Maclin exited the apartment into the breezeway, but before Agent Pugh began recording his opening video 19 minutes later, Ms. Maclin sat down in a lawn chair in the breezeway outside of the apartment, but it remains unclear whether this happened before or after she signed the consent to search form. Or if it happened before she signed the consent to search form, whether she remained seated when she was presented with and then signed...

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