In 1993 Tony Roberts went to visit his two year old son, Codera Bradley, in Pachuta, Mississippi. Codera’s mother allowed the child to spend the night with his father. At about 9:15 p.m. Roberts and Codera left the house and drove towards Roberts’ home.
On the same evening Kelvin Jordan and his friend Frontrell Edwards walked to a truck stop in Pachuta. Jordan was armed with a .25 caliber pistol; Edwards carried a .22 caliber pistol. During their journey to the truck stop, they discussed the possibility of “jacking” or robbing someone that night to get money to go to a ball game. Jordan was concerned about being identified by the victim, but Edwards responded that he would simply kill the victim following the incident.
Jordan and Edwards arrived at the truck stop and waited. Shortly thereafter, Roberts pulled into the truck stop. Edwards approached Roberts’ car and asked if he and Jordan could have a ride. Roberts agreed and pulled his son into his lap. Jordan sat in the front passenger seat and Edwards climbed into the back seat behind Roberts.
They traveled down Highway 11 until they reached Barnett Crossing, at which point Roberts told his passengers he could not take them farther. Roberts pulled the car onto the side of the road to let them out. Edwards then reached from the back seat and shot Roberts in the side of the face with a .22 caliber pistol. Roberts remained conscious, crawled out of the car, and told Jordan and Edwards they could have the car.
Roberts was standing on the side of the road clutching his head when Jordan fired additional shots toward Roberts with the .25 caliber pistol. Roberts then fell to the ground. Jordan claims he does not know whether the shots he fired struck Roberts at that time.
After searching Roberts’ pockets and complaining that Roberts had no money, Edwards dragged Roberts back to the car and placed him in the trunk. Jordan drove the car approximately one mile down the highway and exited onto a logging road where they stopped the car and took Roberts from the trunk. When Roberts began to kick and flinch Jordan fired another shot at Roberts with a .380 caliber pistol he had found between the seats in Roberts’ car. After removing Roberts’ shoes, Edwards dragged the body down a path into the woods. Jordan remained at the vehicle with Codera Bradley.
When Edwards returned from the woods he reached into the back seat of the car, firmly grasped Codera’s head, and pulled the child into the front seat of the car. He then asked the child if he wanted to go to where his daddy was, at which time the child began to frantically cry and scream. Covering the child’s mouth with his hand, Edwards led Codera into the woods where the body of his father was located, and fired one lethal shot into the back of Codera’s head. Edwards then turned and fired one last shot at Roberts before he reemerged from the woods.
Edwards and Jordan drove Roberts’ Nissan to a dirt pit away from the road . After removing the car’s stereo equipment along with some car care products, they ignited the automobile and left the scene. Jordan tossed Roberts’ .380 pistol into a nearby pond, while Edwards threw in the clip. Edwards later gave his mother the .22 pistol. The .25 pistol was left in the bucket of car care products taken out of Roberts’ car.
The following day, Tony Roberts and Codera Bradley were reported missing. Two days after the murders, two acquaintances of Edwards, Mark Holloway and Tracy Nicholson, went to Edwards’ trailer in search of Holloway’s pager. In the back bedroom of the trailer they noticed guns and pieces of electronic equipment (a car stereo, speakers, etc.). Holloway later called the wife of a deputy sheriff and told her what they had observed in the trailer.
Meanwhile, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Department received a call concerning a burned vehicle in a dirt pit. The serial number from the car indicated it belonged to Roberts. Upon inspection, the deputy noticed that the radio had been removed from the car. Based upon the phone call to the deputy’s wife, a warrant was obtained to search Edwards’ trailer.
While searching the trailer, one of the officers noticed an orange object in the woods behind the trailer. He followed a path leading into the woods and discovered that the orange object was a chainsaw. A plastic bucket containing car care products, a .25 caliber pistol, and some loose .380 rounds of ammunition was also discovered. The bucket and accompanying products were later identified as products similar to those which Roberts had kept in his vehicle.
Jordan was arrested and subsequently confessed his involvement in the murders to Deputy Sheriff Riley and the investigator for the Highway Patrol, Raymond Delk. Jordan then provided additional statements to Sheriff Cross and Deputy J.G. Kufel.
Following his confession, Jordan took Deputy Sheriff Riley and Officer Delk to the site in Clarke County where the bodies of Tony Roberts and Codera Bradley were located. The bodies were found lying next to each other. Tony Roberts suffered two gunshot wounds: one wound entered below the right eye and exited through the left eye; the other entered the left temple above the left ear and exited from the right ear. The latter wound was lethal. The child had been shot once in the back of the head with the bullet exiting above the upper lip. He was still clutching a small package of toys.
Jordan provided information enabling the officers to recover the .380 pistol from the pond and the .22 pistol from Edwards’ mother. A projectile fired from the .380 pistol was found in a pool of blood where Jordan stated Roberts was pulled from the trunk on the logging road. A cartridge casing which was also found at the scene bore class characteristics of the .380. Finally, a cartridge casing found near the foot of Codera Bradley which also bore the characteristics of the .380 pistol found in the pond.
Jordan was convicted of murder and sentenced to death. On appeal, he argued he was living in the trailer where the search was conducted. He argued the search of the land surrounding the trailer was illegal. MSC affirmed (they reversed an armed robbery charge for unrelated reasons).
Pursuant to a valid search warrant, State Highway Patrol Investigator Raymond Delk seized a plastic bucket containing a .25 caliber pistol, car care products, and loose .380 rounds of ammunition. These objects were found in the woods approximately 100 feet from Frontrell Edwards’ mother’s trailer.
Kelvin Jordan had been living there for over two weeks. Jordan filed a motion to suppress the evidence found by the officers claiming the area from which the objects were seized is part of the curtilage of the trailer; hence, the officers improperly seized the items in violation of his Fourth Amendment right to privacy.
The trial court relied on U.S. Supreme Court case, Minnesota v. Olson, 495 U.S. 91 (1990), in finding Jordan possessed a Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy in the trailer due to his status as a guest. This privacy interest extends to the curtilage surrounding the trailer. The issue raised is whether the area behind the trailer from which the objects were seized was within the curtilage of the trailer; if so, Jordan would have standing to contest the search of the area.
The U.S. Supreme Court in U.S. v. Dunn, 480 U.S. 294 (1987), laid out a four part test in determining whether an area surrounding a structure is considered curtilage. The four factors are as follows:
1. Proximity of the area claimed to be curtilaged to the home.
2. Whether the area is included within an enclosure surrounding the home.
3. The nature of the uses to which the area is put.
4. The steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation by people passing by.
1. Proximity of the area. Officer Delk conducted the search of the area in question. At the hearing, Delk testified that the area is approximately 100 feet from the trailer. In order to reach the area, it is necessary to walk down a sloping path, travel through a drainage ditch, and then enter the woods. Although 100 feet is in relatively close proximity to the trailer, the difficulty in reaching that distance is significant.
2. Enclosure. There is no evidence that the wooded area is within an enclosure, such as a fence surrounding the home.
3. Uses of the area. According to Officer Delk’s testimony, the area behind the trailer resembled a garbage dump. In short, the usage of the property behind the trailer does not qualify as the type of use intended to designate the area as curtilage.
4. Steps taken by the resident to protect the area from observation. The lower court was made aware of no signs, structures, or coverings which would demonstrate a privacy interest in the property.
Indeed, Officer Delk testified that while standing at the trailer, he saw an orange object in the woods. This object was later identified as a chainsaw lying in close proximity to the items seized. Therefore, it follows that anyone passing by the trailer would be able to see these objects in the woods as well. Other than the trees and underbrush naturally present in the area, it is evident that there were no active steps taken by any resident to protect the area from the view of any person merely passing by the property.
Jordan carried the burden of proof at the suppression hearing. In order to establish a privacy interest in the wooded area behind the trailer, Jordan must put on evidence at the suppression hearing which would convince the trial judge that in view of the four prong test the area could be considered curtilaged to the home. In light of the testimony at the suppression hearing, we conclude that Jordan had not met his burden of proof. The trial court’s ruling that Jordan lacked standing to contest the search and seizure of the items in the woods was not erroneous.
In other words, the items found behind the trailer were in open fields. Only the owner of the open fields would have standing to object. Also, even if the court had determined that the items were found in the curtilage of the trailer, this would only mean Jordan would have standing to object to the search warrant since he had been living there.