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Warrant was bare boned on nexus between apartment and defendant but survived via good faith exception to exclusionary rule

Facts

A Family Stop and Shop convenience store in Monroe, Louisiana was robbed at gunpoint. Monroe Police Department Detective Robert DaWayne Crowder investigated the case. Crowder identified Jamarvin Jackson as a suspect and obtained a warrant for his arrest.

The warrant said Jackson’s address was 1401 Erin Street, Apartment 265. The next day, Crowder obtained a search warrant for that apartment and for a car registered to Jackson. Affidavits by Crowder supporting the warrants described his investigation.

The search warrant affidavit said little about Jackson’s connection to the targeted apartment, though it did note that a car registered to Jackson was parked outside the building. Crowder participated in the execution of the warrants which found items used in the robbery.

After his indictment, Jackson moved to suppress all the evidence discovered under the warrants. At the suppression hearing, Crowder described the steps he had taken to connect Jackson with the apartment to be searched.

Crowder had determined that Jackson’s driver’s license listed his address as 1401 Erin Street, Apartment 265. He had also interviewed Chrisheena Stewart, a victim in another case wherein ballistics determined the gun matched the gun used in this robbery. Stewart knew Jackson and said Jackson was living with his girlfriend in that apartment. Crowder had also verified that Jackson’s car was parked in front of the building, both traveling to the building himself and based on the report of an officer who patrolled the area.

After the judge did not suppress the evidence, Jackson pled guilty but reserved his right to appeal this issue. He argued the exclusionary rule should apply since the warrant did not adequately show the nexus between Jackson and the apartment. The 5th affirmed.

Analysis

The sole purpose of exclusion is to deter future Fourth Amendment violations. For exclusion to be appropriate, the deterrence benefits of suppression must outweigh its heavy costs. In light of this costly toll upon truth seeking and law enforcement objectives, exclusion has always been our last resort, not our first impulse.

The good faith exception (to the exclusionary rule) usually applies to evidence obtained through a warrant. However, there are some cases in which the officer’s reliance on the warrant is not objectively reasonable.

We said in Payne that the good faith exception does not apply in the following four circumstances: (1) the issuing magistrate/judge was misled by information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false or would have known except for reckless disregard of the truth; (2)the issuing magistrate/judge wholly abandoned his or her judicial role; (3)the warrant is based on an affidavit so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable; or (4) the warrant is so facially deficient in failing to particularize the place to be searched or the things to be seized that the executing officers cannot reasonably presume it to be valid.

We apply a two step test when determining whether to suppress evidence obtained under a warrant. First, we ask whether the good faith exception to the rule applies, and second, we ask whether the warrant was supported by probable cause. If the good faith exception applies, we need not reach the question of probable cause.

Jackson claims that the affidavit failed to establish a nexus between the apartment and the evidence sought because it did not specify Jackson’s connection to the apartment. In his view, this omission renders the affidavit so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.

It is true that the affidavit here contains limited facts connecting Jackson to the apartment. However, it is not completely silent on this score. The affidavit states that a car registered to Jackson was parked in the lot outside. It is no doubt plausible that a parked car could indicate Jackson lived in the building. In U.S. v May, 819 F. 2d 531 (5th Cir. 1987), we said that judges may draw reasonable inferences in assessing probable cause.

The link between Jackson’s car and the apartment may or may not sustain a determination of probable cause, but we cannot say that indicia are so lacking as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable.

In U.S. v Procopio, 88 F. 3d 21 (1st Cir. 1996), the First Circuit applied the exception to a case in which the affidavit failed to explain how the officer knew that the apartment to be searched was the defendant’s address. The officer’s investigation gave him ample basis for believing that the defendant lived there, although none of this information was included in the warrant application.

The First Circuit held that the omission fell well within the good faith exception. Whether or not this is a defect in the application, the court said, it is hardly blatant, nor is there any suggestion (or basis for a suggestion) of actual bad faith. The First Circuit recognized that the focus in a warrant application is usually on whether the suspect committed a crime and whether evidence of the crime is to be found at his home or business.

They said in Procopio that although the suspect’s address is not unimportant, it is easy to understand how both the officer applying for the warrant and the magistrate might overlook a lack of detail on a point often established by the telephone book or the name on a mailbox.

In this case, Crowder’s investigation gave him ample basis for linking Jackson to the apartment. He determined that Jackson’s driver’s license used the address. He conducted an interview corroborating that Jackson lived there. He confirmed that Jackson’s car was parked outside the building.

Although the affidavit did not include much of this information, it did state the location of Jackson’s car. We perceive no bad faith in the mere omission from the affidavit of an officer’s thorough investigative efforts on this relatively basic point.

 

https://www.ca5.uscourts.gov/opinions/unpub/20/20-30778.0.pdf