United States v. Welch, 022720 FED8, 18-3530

Docket Nº:18-3530
Opinion Judge:Grasz, Circuit Judge
Party Name:United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee v. Chris Maurice Welch Defendant-Appellant
Judge Panel:Before LOKEN, GRASZ, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:February 27, 2020
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee


Chris Maurice Welch Defendant-Appellant

No. 18-3530

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

February 27, 2020

Submitted: December 13, 2019

Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Minnesota

Before LOKEN, GRASZ, and STRAS, Circuit Judges.

Grasz, Circuit Judge

Chris Welch was charged with illegal gun possession. At trial, the district court1 admitted DNA and drug evidence over Welch's objections. Welch now appeals, challenging admission of the evidence and claiming the government failed to prove the necessary scienter requirement. We affirm.

I. Background

A confidential informant told Minneapolis Police Officer Jeffrey Werner he witnessed Chris Welch storing guns and drugs in a house on Aldrich Avenue North. The informant described Welch as "a black male about 30-35 years old, about 6'0 tall with a medium build and medium afro."

To verify the tip, Officer Werner searched for Welch's name on the Minnesota Department of Motor Vehicles ("DMV") website. He found a "Chris Maurice Welch" whose description generally matched the one given by the informant. Officer Werner showed the informant Welch's DMV photos, and the informant confirmed Welch's identity. Because Welch's criminal history revealed a prior felony conviction, Officer Werner knew it was illegal for Welch to possess a gun. Officer Werner then surveilled the Aldrich house. He saw foot traffic at the house consistent with drug-distribution. Another officer saw Welch sitting inside a car in the driveway next to the house.

Officer Werner obtained a warrant to search the Aldrich house. Police officers followed Welch to the house and began their search shortly after Welch went inside. The officers found three men, including Welch, in a bedroom. Welch's hair was in braids. In that same room, officers found three broken cellphones. The officers also found inside the house four guns and "a large amount of synthetic marijuana," some of which was packaged for sale. Outside the house, police found two men in a car with marijuana and a loaded gun.

Welch was arrested, handcuffed, and given Miranda warnings. See Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). He agreed to talk to Officer Werner. Their conversation, as transcribed by the district court, follows:

Werner: Okay, well it's customary too, is when we do a search warrant and find guns in the house, we try to take DNA of everyone that's in the house. So . . .

Welch: Okay, well my DNA is already in the system.

Werner: I know, but we've got to take one anyway. (inaudible) So you're cool with me taking your DNA sample real quick? (inaudible) So you've had this done before and stuff?

Welch: Yeah, I've done like three of them before (inaudible) DNA for kids.

Werner: Oh, for child support stuff?

Welch: Yeah (laughs).

Following this exchange, and without telling Welch he could refuse, Officer Werner took Welch's DNA with a cheek swab. The police then took Welch to the county jail.

Months later, the DNA test results showed that a Ruger .22 caliber pistol found at the Aldrich house very likely had Welch's DNA on it. Federal prosecutors charged Welch with illegal gun possession under 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(e)(1). The prosecution also intended to introduce at trial evidence that Welch - a month after his arrest - had in his car two bags of the same kind of synthetic marijuana as that found at the Aldrich house. Welch moved to exclude the DNA evidence and the synthetic marijuana evidence. However, the...

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