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United States v. Turman

United States District Court, E.D. Missouri, Eastern Division

August 13, 2019




         This matter is before the Court following a hearing on Defendant's Motions to Suppress Physical Evidence [ECF No. 31] and Statements [ECF No. 30]. Defendant contends that Defendant's Fourth Amendment rights were violated because: (1) the traffic stop lacked probable cause; (2) the search of his vehicle was based on “false claims, ” lacked probable cause, and was not based on officer safety or consent; (3) the search of his house was not based on uncoerced consent by either Defendant or his wife;[1] and (4) Defendant's statements were not voluntary and were the result of an unlawful arrest.[2]

         Factual Background

         The Government offered the testimony of Detective Eric Schlueter. Detective Schlueter is employed as a detective for the Florissant Police Department. At the time of his testimony, he had worked for the Florissant Police Department for five years.

         On March 19, 2018, around 8:00 p.m. Detective Schlueter was patrolling in an unmarked Ford Explorer in the area of Humes Road and Patterson in Florissant. Detective Schlueter stated that a Suburban was in front of him on Humes Lane and turned right on to Patterson Road without signaling. The Suburban accelerated on Patterson Road and Detective Schlueter followed it. As the Suburban turned onto Lindbergh, Detective Schlueter activated his lights and stopped the Suburban.

         Detective Schlueter exited his vehicle and approached the Suburban. He noted three passengers. Defendant sat in the driver's seat. Defendant's wife occupied the front passenger seat and his son occupied the back seat.

         Detective Schlueter explained that he stopped the vehicle because of a failure to signal and a high rate of speed. Defendant responded that he was late for a concert and that it was his wife's birthday and they were trying to get to the concert on-time. While speaking to Defendant, Detective Schlueter noticed Defendant was nervous and “his hands were shaking uncontrollably.” Detective Schlueter also testified that Defendant's forehead was “beading with sweat.” In addition, Detective Schlueter “detect[ed] an odor of burnt marijuana in the car.”

         Detective Schlueter asked Defendant about the smell of marijuana. Defendant stated that a friend had earlier smoked in the car. Based on Defendant's demeanor and the smell of marijuana, Detective Schlueter asked Defendant and his family to exit the vehicle. Detective Schlueter patted down the family. None of the occupants had weapons on their person.

         Following the arrival of a second officer, Detective Schlueter searched Defendant's vehicle. Upon opening the driver's side door, Detective Schlueter observed carpet “protruding” on the side of the center console. Detective Schlueter pulled the plastic panel and a “dress sock fell that was concealed behind the panel.” Inside the dress sock, Detective Schlueter discovered several plastic baggies that he believed were “suspect narcotics.” After seizing the suspect narcotics, Detective Schlueter arrested Defendant. Detective Schlueter also located in the front passenger seat a nine millimeter Smith & Wesson firearm in plain view in Defendant's wife's open purse.

         Following the search of the passenger area, Detective Schlueter searched the tailgate area of Defendant's vehicle. Observing a disturbance in the plastic paneling on the driver's side of the tailgate area, Detective Schlueter lifted up the loose paneling and located a second firearm - -a Springfield XD, nine millimeter that was loaded. Subsequent to the search of the vehicle, Detective Schlueter “ran” Defendant's name and learned that he was a convicted felon.

         Detective Schlueter conveyed Defendant and his wife to the Florissant Police Department, approximately a mile and a half from the location of the traffic stop. A different officer drove Defendant's son to the Florissant Police Department. Both Defendant and his wife were placed in interview rooms and Defendant's son was placed in the “roll call room.”

         Detective Schlueter read Defendant his Miranda rights in the interview room. Defendant did not request an attorney but initially declined to make a statement asking for time to “think over his situation.” Detective Schlueter also read Defendant's wife Miranda rights. Defendant's wife signed a Florissant Police Department waiver form at 9:00 p.m. and agreed to speak with Detective Schlueter and another Florissant police detective. The statement was not recorded.

         According to Detective Schlueter, Defendant's wife stated that the vehicle that Detective Schlueter pulled-over belonged to her. She had no knowledge of the narcotics located in the car. She stated that the firearm in the purse belonged to her and that her husband was a convicted felon who had advised her to purchase the firearm for their protection. She advised she had no knowledge of the other firearm located in the cargo area.

         Detective Schlueter asked if there were additional firearms or narcotics at the house and she responded “there could be.” Detective Schlueter then presented Defendant's wife with a consent to search and seize Form. The Form contains a space for a name and Defendant's wife wrote her name. Detective Schlueter filled-in the address: 1615 Jackson Lane. The Form provides three officers - - Schlueter, Osmer and Edwards - - permission to search 1615 Jackson Lane and “seize and/or take” items believed to be “evidence, contraband or stolen property.” The Form informed Defendant's wife that she had the right to an attorney and contained a statement, which Detective Schlueter read to Defendant's wife that “[t]here have been no threats, promises or coercion used against me in order to have me give permission and sign this statement.”

         Following execution of the consent to search, Detective Schlueter and three other detectives drove Defendant's wife and son to 1615 Jackson Lane. The house was secured with an electronic keypad and Defendant's wife used a code to unlock the front door.

         Once inside the house, one detective sat in the living room with Defendant's wife and son while Detective Schlueter and another detective searched the house. Detectives located a SIG saver and nine millimeter firearm in the master bedroom in a closet. Detectives also recovered ammunition and pistol holders from the master bedroom. Detectives also searched a mudroom/laundry room attached to the garage and seized a hotplate, measuring devices, glass containers with white residue and a glass jar with white powder. Inside cupboards in the mudroom/laundry room, detectives located additional ammunition and a large capacity drum magazine. Detectives also seized an AR-15 rifle leaning against a wall of the mudroom/laundry room.

         In addition, detectives searched Defendant's garage and observed a black suitcase. Inside the suitcase were two plastic-wrapped dark bundles. Detective Schlueter cut a black bundle, revealing layers of plastic wrap, aluminum foil, white powder and a “leafy, green substance believed to be marijuana….”

         Following the search of Defendant's home, detectives returned to the Florissant Police Department with Defendant's wife and son. Detective Schlueter requested that Defendant's wife complete a written statement regarding the items seized from her home. Defendant's wife agreed to complete a statement and she did so at approximately 1:00 a.m. on March 20. In the written statement, which contained pre-typed sections on the right to counsel and voluntariness that Detective Schlueter read to Defendant's wife, she denied knowledge of the narcotics seized from her home and the weapons other than the one in her purse. Defendant's wife also described the circumstances of the traffic stop, including that she asked Detective Schlueter why he pulled over the family and asked for an I.D. from both adults. Defendant's wife acknowledged that after Detective Schlueter stated “the car smelled like weed, ” she responded that she “never smelt any weed when I entered the car.” In the statement, Defendant's wife also stated that: “I'm hardly even ever in that car at all.” Defendant's wife stated in the statement that she wondered whether Defendant had another family.

         Shortly after writing her statement, Defendant's wife and son exited the Florissant Police Department station. Detectives then escorted Defendant to the booking area and he was charged with possession of the seized items.

         Around 11:00 a.m. on March 20, Detective Schlueter again interviewed Defendant. Defendant was advised of his Miranda rights a second time. Defendant agreed to speak with the detectives and did not request an attorney. In the conversation, Defendant stated that the firearms located in the rear of his vehicle and his home belonged to him, as well as the narcotics in his vehicle and in his home. Defendant also offered to “work in an official capacity” with the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). A Florissant detective, Sergeant Mocca, contacted a DEA agent and Detective Schlueter contacted a different DEA agent, who met with Defendant shortly after the agent was contacted.

         Detectives Mocca and Schlueter obtained a recorded statement from Defendant following administration of Miranda rights. In the recorded statement, Defendant acknowledged he was “a convict, ” knew he was not permitted to possess a firearm and recapped his earlier description of his role in the sale of narcotics.

         Lawrence O'Toole

         The Government offered the testimony of Lawrence O'Toole, a Task Force officer for the DEA and an employee of the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. Officer O'Toole and DEA Special Agent Mike Carnucci interviewed Defendant at the Florissant Police Department on March 20, 2018. The agents first advised Defendant of his Miranda rights. Defendant did not request an attorney. Defendant provided a voluntary statement to the DEA agents.[3]

         Dareonte Turman

         Defendant offered the testimony of his fourteen year-old son, Dareonte Turman. Defendant's son testified that on March 19, 2018, Defendant, his wife and son planned to attend a gospel concert for Defendant's wife's birthday. Defendant picked-up his son from a Boy's Club around 5:45 p.m. and ...

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