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United States of America v. Jacquinn W. Arline


March 1, 2011


The opinion of the court was delivered by: David C. Norton Chief United States District Judge


This matter is before the court on defendant's first motion in limine to exclude incriminating statements made by defendant after being given Miranda*fn1 warnings and second motion in limine seeking to prohibit Detective Matthew Hughes from testifying as an expert regarding the connection between firearms and drug trafficking. For the reasons set forth below, the court denies defendant's first motion and grants defendant's second motion to the extent that these issues were not previously addressed in this court's hearing on the motions.


On May 12, 2010, a federal grand jury indicted defendant Jacquinn W. Arline for being a felon in possession of a firearm and ammunition in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1), 924(a)(2), and 924(e); possessing with intent to distribute a quantity of cocaine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1) and 841(b)(1)(C); and possessing a weapon in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1). On September 22, 2010, defendant filed a motion to suppress 62.7 grams of cocaine, a Fusion digital scale, a Bersa Thunder .380 caliber handgun, and the accompanying magazine and ammunition seized as a result of a March 12, 2010, traffic stop. This court denied defendant's motion to suppress on January 6, 2011.

On February 10, 2011, this court held a hearing pursuant to defendant's Batson v. Kentucky, 476 U.S. 79 (1986) objection to the government's preemptory challenges of three African American females and one African American male. Because the government demonstrated a neutral explanation and defendant failed to establish that the explanation was pretextual, this court overruled the objection.

On February 2, 2011, defendant filed his first motion in limine, requesting that the court exclude statements made by defendant, and the government responded on February 11, 2011. On February 16, 2011, defendant filed his second motion in limine, requesting that the government's proposed expert witness, Detective Matthew Hughes, be prohibited from testifying. The court held a hearing on defendant's motions on February 18, 2011, and ruled that defendant's incriminating statements made prior to Miranda warnings were inadmissible. The government also asserted that it would not use any audio from the video recording in its case in chief. Additionally, the court held that Detective Hughes would be permitted to testify regarding the quantity and pricing of illegal drugs. The government filed an additional brief concerning its request to permit Detective Hughes to testify to the connection between firearms and drug trafficking, which is the only outstanding issue in defendant's second motion in limine. The remaining issue on defendant's first motion in limine concerns defendant's statements after an officer issued Miranda warnings.


On March 12, 2010, North Charleston Police Department Officers Scott Thomes and Jaime Greenwalt stopped defendant for failure to use a turn signal. The patrol car video camera recorded the stop. Defendant pulled into a gas station parking lot, and the officers asked him to step out of the car. In response to questions by the officers, defendant said that he did not have a license. Officer Thomes decided to arrest Arline for driving without a license. Officer Thomes searched defendant's pockets and then handcuffed him. Officer Greenwalt then examined the car. Pursuant to this court's January 6, 2011 Order, the government and defense agree that for the purposes of Miranda, defendant was in custody at the time of the search. Officer Thomes failed to immediately Mirandize defendant. Officer Greenwalt began an inventory search of the car driven by defendant while Officer Thomes questioned defendant concerning criminal activity. Arline made several incriminating statements. Officer Thomes asked defendant if he wanted to go to jail or "go down that road," remarked that there is "someone upstairs" and that he didn't need these charges in his life, and asked about defendant's children.

Approximately nine minutes after custody began, Officer Greenwalt returned to the patrol car after searching the vehicle and gave Arline Miranda warnings. Officer Greenwalt had not questioned defendant prior to this time. After the end of the video-recording, Officer Greenwalt questioned Arline. The statements made to Officer Greenwalt after the close of the video are the subject of this order.


A. Incriminating Statements

The Fifth Amendment ensures that "[n]o person . shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself." U.S. Const. amend. V. According to Miranda, when police officers place a defendant in custody, they must inform defendant of his constitutional rights in order to counteract the "'inherently compelling pressures' of custodial interrogations and to 'permit a full opportunity to exercise the privilege against self incrimination.'" Arizona v. Robertson, 486 U.S. 675, 681 (1988) (quoting Miranda, 384 U.S. at 467). Statements made in violation of Miranda are irrefutably presumed involuntary for the purposes of the prosecution's case in chief. See United States v. Mashburn, 406 F.3d 303, 307 (4th Cir. 2005).

Because Arline's initial statements preceded the administration and voluntary waiver of Miranda rights, the parties agree that his initial statements are inadmissible. Id. The issue presented here is whether those initial, unwarned statements rendered involuntary the statements Arline made after receiving and waiving Miranda rights. Defendant argues that the Supreme Court's ruling in Missouri v. Seibert, 542 U.S. 600 (2004), precludes the admission of defendant's post-Miranda incriminating statements.

According to the Fourth Circuit in United States v. Mashburn, Justice Kennedy's concurring opinion states the authoritative holding in Seibert because it states the "narrowest grounds" of a plurality opinion. 406 F.3d at 306. Thus, Seibert holds: "The admissibility of postwarning statements is governed by Elstad unless the deliberate 'question-first' strategy is employed." Id. at 309. The "deliberate 'question-first' strategy" refers to a police officer's planned method of withholding Miranda warnings in the first stage of an interrogation, then, after defendant confesses, issuing Miranda warnings and re-questioning the defendant to garner the same answers. See Seibert, 542 U.S. at 620-21 (Kennedy, J. concurring). Arline does not allege that an intentional "two-step" questioning process was utilized against him, and no such "deliberate" approach is apparent in the record before this court.

Defendant argues that Seibert's holding is not limited to the facts of Seibert and encourages this court to view the totality of the circumstances to find that the post-Miranda incriminating statements should be barred. In the hearing, defendant pointed to the presence of a "ride-along" in the front seat whom an officer identified as an FBI agent, the search of defendant and his vehicle, the number of questions asked by Officer Thomes, the intensity in Officer Thomes' demeanor, and remarks by Officer Thomes such as asking whether he wanted to go to jail, or " You got kids?," and stating "you don't want to go down that road," "there is someone upstairs," and "I'll get someone to talk to you if you want." The defendant does not allege that Officer Thomes or Greenwalt made false promises, but rather that Arline could have understood Officer Thomes to have suggested that he could get out of the situation if he spoke to the officer. Defendant does not allege a single "deliberately" employed tactic by either officer. First, this court is unconvinced that Seibert should be read beyond its facts. Justice Kennedy stated that he would utilize a "narrower approach" than the plurality, which would "apply only in the infrequent case, such as we have here, in which the two-step interrogation technique was used in a calculated way to undermine the Miranda warnings." Id. at 622 (Kennedy, J. concurring).

Even if this court were to agree to read Seibert beyond its facts, this court finds that the reasoning in Justice Kennedy's opinion should define the boundaries of the Seibert holding. See Mashburn, 406 U.S. at 308. Justice Kennedy's opinion hinges on "deliberate violations of Miranda" and admonishes a "tactic [that] relies on an intentional misrepresentation of the protection that Miranda offers and does not serve any legitimate objectives that might otherwise justify its use." Seibert, 542 U.S. at 620-21. Even appellate courts that have read Seibert beyond its facts have limited it to "coercive police tactics" "akin to the deliberate 'police strategy adapted to undermine the Miranda warnings.'" Fleming v. Metrish, 556 F.3d 520, 556 (6th Cir. 2009) (emphasis added). Since no "intentional misrepresentations" or "deliberate violations" of Miranda are alleged by defendant, Oregon v. Elstad, 470 U.S. 298 (1985) governs this case. See Seibert, 542 U.S. at 620 (Kennedy, J. concurring); Mashburn, 406 U.S. at 309.

"In Elstad, the Supreme Court held that '[a] subsequent administration of Miranda warnings to a suspect who has given a voluntary but unwarned statement ordinarily should suffice to remove the conditions that precluded admission of the earlier statement.'" Mashburn, 406 F.3d at 306 (quoting Elstad, 470 U.S. at 314). This court determines, based on the totality of the circumstances, that the prosecution met its burden of establishing that defendant's initial statement was "voluntary but unwarned." Id.; see United States v. Braxton, 112 F.3d 777, 780-81 (4th Cir. 1997) (citing United States v. Pelton, 835 F.2d 1067, 1071 (4th Cir. 1987) and Lego v. Twomey, 404 U.S. 477, 489 (1972)). The test for determining whether a statement is voluntary "is whether the defendant's will has been 'overborne' or his 'capacity for self-determination critically impaired,' because of coercive police conduct." Id. (quoting Pelton, 835 F.2d at 1071 and citing Colorado v. Spring, 479 U.S. 564, 574 (1987)). "The mere existence of threats, violence, implied promises, improper influence, or other coercive police activity, however, does not automatically render a confession involuntary." Braxton, 112 F.3d at 780-81.

Defendant's assertions that the general circumstances of the stop and demeanor of the search and seizure were coercive are not compelling based on the totality of the circumstances in the record. The interrogation of defendant took place in the parking lot of a gas station, not in a police interview room. Defendant was clearly under arrest when he made his first incriminating statement, which occurred after Officer Thomes placed Arline in handcuffs. Defendant knew that he was suspected of a serious offense due to the fact that he was informed that the officers had found a gun and drugs in his car. Finally, Arline had more than minimal prior experience with police and Miranda. Defendant was not a minor or new to criminal justice system, rather he was a seasoned veteran of police questioning. Police misrepresented the identity of the individual in the front seat as an FBI agent in order to prevent Arline from speaking to the individual and did not utilize the individual's presence in the interrogation. False statements, without more, do not render a defendant's confession involuntary. Cf. Frazier v. Cupp, 394 U.S. 731, 739 (1969). Defendant agrees that the officers did not make false promises or threats.

Thus, the relevant inquiry under Elstad becomes whether, in fact, the second statement was also voluntarily made. As in any such inquiry, the finder of fact must examine the surrounding circumstance and the entire course of police conduct with respect to the suspect in evaluating the voluntariness of his statements.. We hold today that a suspect who has once responded to unwarned yet uncoercive questioning is not thereby disabled from waving his rights and confessing after he has been given the requisite Miranda warnings.

Elstad, 470 U.S. at 318.

Officer Greenwalt gave defendant Miranda warnings prior to questioning him. Officer Greenwalt had not interrogated defendant before he gave him Miranda warnings, rather Officer Greenwalt was searching the vehicle driven by defendant while Officer Thomes questioned Arline. The only conduct defendant points to beyond that already discussed above is that Officer Greenwalt read the Miranda warnings too quickly. Even on the blurred video recording, this court can clearly make out each right Officer Greenwalt recited to defendant. Furthermore, Officer Greenwalt asked defendant if he understood the rights stated, and Arline responded "yes, sir." Officer Greenwalt also asked defendant whether he wanted to talk about what the officers had "just found." Arline responded "yeah." Officer Greenwalt did not cite the questions that Officer Thomes had asked defendant, and defendant does not appear to allege that Officer Greenwalt referenced the earlier admissions. Based on the evidence before the court, the government has satisfied its burden that defendant knowingly and voluntarily waived his rights after receiving Miranda warnings.

B. Expert Testimony

If scientific, technical, or other specialized knowledge will assist the trier of fact to understand the evidence or to determine a fact in issue, a witness qualified as an expert by knowledge, skill, experience, training or education, may testify thereto in the form of an opinion or otherwise, if (1) the testimony is based upon sufficient facts or data, (2) the testimony is the product of reliable principles and methods, and (3) the witness has applied the principles and methods reliably to the facts of the case.

Fed. R. Civ. P. 702.

This court finds Detective Hughes' testimony on the connection between firearms and drug trafficking fails to satisfy the requirements of Daubert v. Merrell Dow Pharms., Inc., 509 U.S. 579 (1993), and Kumho Tire Co. v. Carmichael, 526 U.S. 137 (1999).


For the foregoing reasons, the court DENIES defendant's request to exclude defendant's post-Miranda incriminating statements and GRANTS defendant's request to prohibit Detective Hughes from testifying as an expert regarding the connection between firearms and drug trafficking.


Charleston, South Carolina

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