United States v. Woodruff

Decision Date17 November 2011
Docket NumberCase No. 09–20153.
Citation86 Fed. R. Evid. Serv. 1591,830 F.Supp.2d 390
CourtU.S. District Court — Western District of Tennessee
PartiesUNITED STATES of America, Plaintiff, v. Preston WOODRUFF, Defendant.


Jennifer Lawrence Webber, U.S. Attorney's Office, Memphis, TN, for Plaintiff.


SAMUEL H. MAYS, JR., District Judge.

Before the Court are Defendant Preston Woodruff's (Woodruff) January 21, 2010 Motion to Suppress (Mot. to Suppress and Supporting Mem., ECF No. 31 (First Mot. to Suppress)) and September 9, 2010 Motion to Suppress (Mot. to Suppress Statements and Supp. Memorandum, ECF No. 61 (Second Mot. to Suppress)), along with the objections to Magistrate Judge Diane K. Vescovo's Reports and Recommendations that Woodruff filed on June 29, 2010, and August 18, 2011, respectively. (Def.'s Objections to the Magistrate's Report and Recommendation on Def.'s Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 55 (“First Objection”); Def.'s Objections to the Magistrate's Second Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Second Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 115 (“Second Objection”).) The United States responded to Woodruff's objections on September 29, 2011. (Resp. to Def.'s Obj. to the Magistrate Judge's Reports Recommending Denial of the Def.'s First and Second Mots. To Suppress, ECF No. 119 (“Govt.'s Resp.”).)

The Magistrate Judge recommended that the Court deny both of Woodruff's Motions to Suppress. (Report and Recommendation on Defendant's Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 47 (“First Report”); Report and Recommendation on Def.'s Mot. to Suppress, ECF No. 107 (“Second Report”).) Woodruff's objections are not well taken. The Court ADOPTS the Reports and Recommendations of the Magistrate Judge. The Motions to Suppress are DENIED.

I. Procedural and Factual Background1

On the evening of April 4, 2009, and during the early morning hours of April 5, 2009, Detectives Michael Britton (“Detective Britton”) and Billy Jackson (“Detective Jackson”) (collectively “the Detectives”) were patrolling the area near the intersection of Comanche and Getwell roads in Memphis, Tennessee. The Detectives had been assigned to that area because it was considered a “hot spot” for robberies of Hispanics, particularly at night. Between 11:00 p.m. and 12:00 a.m., the Detectives saw Woodruff head north on Getwell through a red light while making a left turn into the Kensington Manor Apartment Complex. The Detectives conducted a traffic stop of Woodruff's vehicle outside the Kensington Manor Complex. During that stop, Detective Britton used his patrol car's spotlight to look through the rear window of Woodruff's vehicle. Britton saw the driver and passenger making suspicious movements. Detective Britton asked Woodruff for identification, which Britton then scanned using a portable computer that he has referred to as a PDA (Britton, 5/04/2010 Suppression Hearing Tr. 20, ECF No. 74.) The scan revealed that Woodruff had an outstanding arrest warrant for aggravated robbery. The Detectives immediately placed Woodruff under arrest, patted him down, and placed him in the squad car. During the pat down, the Detectives discovered three IDs picturing Hispanic individuals (the “IDs”) and a social security card for an unidentified fourth person. When Detective Britton asked Woodruff how he had obtained the IDs (the “First Interrogation”), Woodruff explained that he had found them in his vehicle (the “First Statement”).

The Detectives then conducted a search of Woodruff's vehicle incident to his arrest. The search revealed a chrome Lorcin L25 .25 caliber semi-automatic handgun loaded with six Winchester rounds in the clip and one in the chamber. The Detectives also found a maroon ski mask with holes cut into it, a Tennessee Lottery baseball cap with red Jamaican braids attached to it, photos of Woodruff and Woodruff's passenger, Cory Lee Fulford, and four cell phones. Woodruff was transferred to the Memphis Police Department office on Channel 3 Drive.

When the Detectives arrived at the office, Lieutenant Wright informed them that Woodruff and Fulford had been involved in a 2005 robbery, that their nicknames were Dinosaur and Gorilla, and that they had participated in several robberies of Hispanics. Detective Britton interrogated Woodruff in an interview room after giving him his Miranda rights orally and in writing and provided Woodruff with an Advice of Rights Form (the “Second Interrogation”). Woodruff chose to give a statement, in which he repeated the claim that he had found the IDs in his car (the “Second Statement”).

Woodruff was later interviewed by Sergeant Rosario (“Sergeant Rosario”), an officer assigned to the Robbery Squad at the time of Woodruff's arrest and the lead investigator for robberies of Hispanics. Sergeant Rosario interrogated Woodruff on April 5, 2009, at 1:30 p.m. (the “Third Interrogation”).2 Before the Third Interrogation, Sergeant Rosario reminded Woodruff that he had been advised of his rights earlier that morning and that they were still in effect.

Woodruff said he was on supervised federal release and provided the name of a known robber and information about a murder and denied any involvement in a robbery. Woodruff claimed he had received the IDs from a dark-skinned female named Rolanda and identified her from a photograph (the “Third Statement”). The interview ended at 5:25 p.m., and Woodruff was returned to his cell with no visible injuries.

Sergeant Rosario testified that on April 6, 2009, at 8:00 a.m., he was assigned to investigate a robbery of Hispanics. The victims were the same individuals whose IDs had been found on Woodruff. On Tuesday, April 7, 2009, Sergeant Rosario met with the victims and showed them a photographic lineup. The victims identified Woodruff. Based on this information, Sergeant Rosario interrogated Woodruff again. Woodruff was orally advised of his Miranda rights and signed the Advice of Rights Form at 5:15 p.m., after saying he wished to make a statement (the “Fourth Interrogation”).

Woodruff admitted the robbery of the Hispanics whose identity cards had been stolen and said he had been armed with a chrome gun he had found in the car. He reiterated that the car belonged to his girlfriend. Woodruff signed his statement at 6:43 p.m. (the “Fourth Statement”).

Woodruff has been charged with possession of a firearm after having been convicted of a crime punishable by imprisonment for a term exceeding one year, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). (Indictment, ECF No. 1.) The firearm alleged is the Lorcin L25 .25 caliber semiautomatic handgun found in the vehicle he was driving on April 5, 2009. ( Id.) Woodruff has filed two motions in which he seeks to suppress “any and all physical evidence” obtained “as a direct or indirect result” of the traffic stop on April 5, 2009 (First Mot. to Suppress 2) and “any and all statements taken from him at the scene of the arrest and subsequently given while in formal custody.” (Second Mot. to Suppress 2.)

The Magistrate Judge has recommended that the Court deny both Motions to Suppress. (First Report; Second Report.) Woodruff has filed two objections. In the first, he contends that the Detectives' testimony was incredible, that he was stopped and detained without reasonable suspicion or probable cause, and that the warrantless search of his vehicle was unreasonable and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. ( See First Objection.) In the second objection, Woodruff contends that the motion to suppress his Statements should be granted because the police violated his Miranda rights. Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 86 S.Ct. 1602, 16 L.Ed.2d 694 (1966); ( See Second Objection).

II. Standard of Review

A “district judge must determine de novo any part of a magistrate judge's disposition that has been properly objected to.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 72(b); 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). After reviewing the evidence, the court is free to accept, reject, or modify the proposed findings or recommendations of the magistrate judge. 28 U.S.C. § 636(b)(1)(C). “It is well-settled that upon proper objection by a party, a district court must review de novo a magistrate judge's ruling on a motion to suppress.” United States v. Quinney, 238 Fed.Appx. 150, 152 (6th Cir.2007) (citations omitted). The district court need not review, under a de novo or any other standard, those aspects of a magistrate judge's report and recommendation to which no specific objection is made. See Thomas v. Arn, 474 U.S. 140, 149–50, 106 S.Ct. 466, 88 L.Ed.2d 435 (1985); United States v. Robinson, 352 Fed.Appx. 27, 28–29 (6th Cir.2009).

“When a magistrate's findings and recommendations rest upon the evaluation of the credibility of a witness, the district court is not required to rehear the testimony in order to conduct a de novo determination of the issues.” United States v. Bermudez, No. 99–6097, 2000 WL 1871676, at *3, 2000 U.S.App. LEXIS 33159, at *8–9 (6th Cir. Dec. 11, 2000) (citing United States v. Raddatz, 447 U.S. 667, 675–76, 100 S.Ct. 2406, 65 L.Ed.2d 424 (1980)). “Credibility determinations of the magistrate judge who personally listened to the testimony ... should be accepted unless in [its] de novo review of the record [the district court] finds a reason to question the magistrate judge's assessment.” United States v. Johnson, No. 10–20176, 2011 WL 3844194, at *2, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 97577, at *6–7 (W.D.Tenn. Aug. 30, 2011) (citations omitted).

III. Analysis

Woodruff contends that: 1) the Magistrate Judge's factual findings about the circumstances surrounding the traffic stop are erroneous because the Detectives' testimony was contradictory (First Objection 3–8); 2) there was no reasonable suspicion to justify an investigative traffic stop ( Id. 8); 3) the automobile exception does not apply because the only basis to search Woodruff's car was a statement that should have been excluded, and the inventory...

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