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United States v. Miller

United States District Court, D. South Carolina, Aiken Division

April 18, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
ANTONIO MILLER

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS, DENYING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS EVIDENCE, AND GRANTING IN PART AND DENYING IN PART DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS STATEMENTS

          MARY GEIGER LEWIS UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE

         I. INTRODUCTION

         The Government has charged Defendant in connection with the 2008 homicide of a man in Aiken County, South Carolina. Pending before the Court are Defendant's Motion to Dismiss the Indictment Based upon Pre-indictment Delay as a Violation of Due Process and/or Rule 48 (Motion to Dismiss), Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence from an Illegal Search and Seizure Based upon Violation of the Fourth Amendment (Motion to Suppress Evidence), and Defendant's Motion to Suppress the Defendant's Statements (Motion to Suppress Statements). Having carefully considered the motions, the responses, the replies, the record, and the applicable law, it is the judgment of the Court that Defendant's Motion to Dismiss will be denied, Defendant's Motion to Suppress Evidence will be denied, and Defendant's Motion to Suppress Statements will be granted in part and denied in part.

         II. FACTUAL AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY

         This case arises out of a homicide incident that occurred in Aiken County, South Carolina on September 15, 2008. See ECF No. 2. The factual and procedural history is extensive, and the Court need not recite it in full. Rather, the Court will recite only the facts and history relevant to the motions discussed in this Order.

         A. Factual Background

         The Court notes there is some conflicting evidence in the record, and the Court determines the following facts by a preponderance of the evidence. See United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 177 n.14 (1974) (“[T]he controlling burden of proof at suppression hearings should impose no greater burden than proof by a preponderance of the evidence.” (citation omitted)); United States v. Stevenson, 396 F.3d 538, 541 (4th Cir. 2005) (“In the course of deciding a motion to suppress, the district court may make findings of fact.”).

         On the morning of September 15, 2008, Officer Franklin Ham (Officer Ham) of the Richland County Sheriff's Office (RCSO) received a dispatch call regarding a green Ford Taurus (Green Vehicle) that was a few days overdue to be returned to U-Save Auto Rental (U-Save) in Columbia, South Carolina. ECF Nos. 47-2 at 2-5, 47-9 at 3-8. The Green Vehicle had been rented by Deidre King (Ms. King), Defendant's wife. ECF No. 48 at 4. Defendant was not listed as an authorized driver on the rental agreement for the Vehicle. See ECF No. 55-1. Officer Ham entered the Green Vehicle into the National Crime Information Center database as a breach of trust vehicle. ECF No. 47-2 at 5.

         Later in the day on September 15, 2008, the manager at U-Save, Jeffrey Day (Mr. Day), informed Officer Ham that the Global Positioning System (GPS) tracking device on the Green Vehicle indicated the Vehicle was located at 5520 North Main Street (the Residence) in Columbia, South Carolina, which was Defendant and Ms. King's residence. ECF Nos. 47-2 at 5, 48 at 5. Mr. Day further informed Officer Ham that he had remotely disabled the Green Vehicle. ECF No. 47-2 at 5.

         Officer Ham traveled to the Residence, and, as he was pulling up to the Residence, he saw a red Ford Taurus (Red Vehicle) pull into the driveway and park behind the Green Vehicle. Id. at 6-7. Officer Ham observed several people standing in the yard of the Residence, including Defendant, and he asked them where Defendant and Ms. King were. Id. at 7-8, 13. When he received no response, Officer Ham asked everyone in the yard for identification. Id. at 8. Defendant initially refused to answer Officer Ham, but he later identified himself as “Eric Huey” and claimed he had a South Carolina driver's license with that name. Id. at 8-9.

         When the driver of the Red Vehicle gave his license to Officer Ham, Officer Ham determined it was suspended, and he placed that individual under arrest for driving under suspension. Id. at 8-10. Shortly thereafter, Officer Stephen Dauway (Officer Dauway) of RCSO arrived at the Residence and searched the Red Vehicle. ECF Nos. 47-3 at 4-6, 47-2 at 10-12. Officer Dauway found two firearms in the Red Vehicle. ECF No. 47-2 at 11-12. After searching the Red Vehicle, Officer Dauway conducted a warrantless search of the Green Vehicle and discovered a plastic bag containing crack cocaine. ECF Nos. 47-2 at 12, 47-3 at 7-8. Officer Dauway then detained several men standing on the back stoop of the Residence, including Defendant, for questioning. ECF Nos. 47-3 at 9, 48 at 6, 59 at 2.

         Officer Dauway called narcotics investigator Marcus Brown (Investigator Brown) of RCSO, and Investigator Brown and Investigator Taima Jordan (Investigator Jordan) of RCSO arrived on scene at the Residence. ECF No. 47-4 at 4. Investigator Brown questioned Defendant, and Defendant expressed concern about picking his son up from the school bus stop. Id. at 9-10. Investigator Brown told Defendant they needed “to go ahead and take care of this” and said they would try to call Defendant's wife to pick up his child but, if not, they would call the Department of Social Services (DSS) “to take control of the child till we get the situation taken care of.” Id. at 10. Investigator Brown then advised Defendant of his Miranda rights, id., and Defendant admitted one of the guns in the Red Vehicle and the cocaine found in the Green Vehicle were his, id. at 13.

         Investigator Brown subsequently called Investigator Robert Crane (Investigator Crane) of the RCSO to prepare a search warrant for the Residence. ECF Nos. 47-4 at 16, 47-5 at 4. The Olympia Magistrate signed the search warrant, ECF No. 47-1, and Investigator Crane delivered the search warrant to the Residence, ECF No. 47-5 at 6. When Investigator Crane delivered the search warrant, Investigator Jordan executed it, ECF No. 47-6 at 3-4, and seized a number of items, including cocaine and firearms, ECF No. 47-1 at 5.

         After searching the Residence, Investigator Jordan again advised Defendant of his Miranda rights and questioned him. ECF No. 47-6 at 8-10. Investigator Jordan informed Defendant of the drugs and guns recovered during the search of the Residence and told him he and Ms. King would both be charged if nobody claimed the items. Id. at 10. Defendant then stated the items were his. Id.

         B. Procedural History

         Defendant was convicted by a jury in South Carolina state court in 2012 of murder and related offenses arising out of a homicide that occurred in Aiken County, South Carolina on September 15, 2008. ECF No. 44 at 1. On appeal, the South Carolina Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court's denial of Defendant's motion to suppress evidence found in the Residence, holding the affidavit supporting the search warrant for the Residence established probable cause for the warrant. State v. Miller, No. 2014-UP-409, 2014 WL 6488693 (S.C. Ct. App. Nov. 19, 2014). The South Carolina Supreme Court, however, held on March 30, 2016, that the affidavit failed to establish probable cause for the warrant and reversed Defendant's convictions. State v. Miller, No. 2016-MO-009, 2016 WL 1244403 (S.C. Mar. 30, 2016).

         On August 16, 2017, the Government filed a three-count indictment (Indictment) against Defendant arising out of the 2008 homicide in Aiken County. ECF No. 2. The Indictment charges Defendant with use of a firearm causing death, kidnapping resulting in death, and a drug conspiracy resulting in death. Id.

         Defendant was arraigned in federal court on August 17, 2017, and entered a plea of not guilty. See ECF No. 12. Attorney Allen Burnside was appointed to represent Defendant on August 17, 2017, and attorney Jeffrey Bloom was appointed as co-counsel for Defendant on August 18, 2017. See ECF Nos. 15, 25. Also on August 18, 2018, the Government provided notice it would decline to seek the death penalty against Defendant. ECF No. 13.

         The Court held a pre-trial conference on September 27, 2017, during which Defendant requested a continuance of two terms and waived his statutory speedy trial rights. See ECF No. 36. Defendant preserved any due process and speedy trial rights he had under the Fifth and Sixth Amendments, and the Court continued the case to its February/March term of court. Id. At a pre-trial conference on February 6, 2018, Defendant and the Government requested the Court enter a proposed scheduling order setting jury selection for August 7, 2018, and a jury trial to commence on August 8, 2018. See ECF No. 42. Defendant again waived his statutory speedy trial rights, and the Court entered the parties' proposed scheduling order. ECF No. 43.

         Defendant filed his Motion to Dismiss on February 9, 2018. ECF No. 44. The Government responded, ECF No. 51, and Defendant replied, ECF No. 53. Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress Evidence on February 22, 2018, ECF No. 47, and he filed a supporting memorandum the next day, ECF No. 48. The Government responded to the Motion to Suppress Evidence, ECF No. 55, and Defendant replied, ECF No. 58. On March 16, 2018, Defendant filed his Motion to Suppress Statements, ECF No. 54, to which the Government responded, ECF No. 59.

         On April 5, 2018, the Court held a hearing on Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Suppress Evidence, and Motion to Suppress Statements, at which counsel for Defendant and the Government were present. The Government presented testimony from witnesses at the hearing, and the parties thoroughly argued their positions. The Court, having been fully briefed on the relevant issues, is now prepared to discuss the merits of Defendant's Motion to Dismiss, Motion to Suppress Evidence, and Motion to Suppress Statements.

         III. MOTION TO DISMISS

         A. Contentions of the Parties

         Defendant argues the Indictment should be dismissed pursuant to the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment as a result of the Government's nine year delay after the commission of the alleged crime in filing the Indictment. Defendant avers the “extraordinary” pre-indictment delay in this case “violates fundamental concepts of justice.” ECF No. 44 at 14. Defendant insists the Government's failure to violate any statute of limitations is not determinative, especially because there is no statute of limitations applicable to the charges in the Indictment. Defendant posits the Government has no legitimate reason for the substantial pre-indictment delay. Additionally, Defendant urges that Federal Criminal Procedure Rule 48(b) is an embodiment of the Court's inherent authority to dismiss cases and provides supplemental authority for the Court to dismiss the Indictment.

         The Government opposes Defendant's Motion to Dismiss and insists it would be improper to dismiss the Indictment.

         B. Standard of Review

         Although statutes of limitations serve as the “primary guarantee against bringing overly stale criminal charges, ” United States v. Marion, 404 U.S. 307, 322 (1971) (quoting United States v. Ewell, 383 U.S. 116, 122 (1966)), there are circumstances under which delay in bringing an indictment can violate the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment despite compliance with the applicable statute of limitations. United States v. Lovasco, 431 U.S. 783, 789 (1977).

         A court must conduct a two-pronged inquiry when determining whether pre-indictment delay in a particular case violated a defendant's right to due process. United States v. Uribe-Rios, 558 F.3d 347, 358 (4th Cir. 2009). First, a court must determine the threshold issue of whether the defendant proved he suffered actual and substantial prejudice as a result of the delay, which is a heavy burden. United States v. Lopez, 860 F.3d 201, 213 (4th Cir. 2017); Uribe-Rios, 558 F.3d at 358. To satisfy this prong, the defendant must show the pre-indictment delay “meaningfully impaired his ability to defend against the [prosecution's] charges to such an extent that the disposition of the criminal proceeding was likely affected.” Jones v. Angelone, 94 F.3d 900, 907 (4th Cir. 1996) (citations omitted).

         Second, if the defendant meets the threshold requirement of proving actual prejudice, the court then must consider the government's reasons for the delay, “balancing the prejudice to the defendant with the Government's justification for delay.” Uribe-Rios, 558 F.3d at 358 (quoting United States v. Automated Med. Labs., Inc., 770 F.2d 399, 404 (4th Cir. 1986)). The basic inquiry in this second prong is “whether the Government's action in prosecuting after substantial delay violates ‘fundamental conceptions of justice' or ‘the community's sense of fair play and decency.'” Id. (quoting Automated Med. Labs., 770 F.2d at 404).

         Federal Criminal Procedure Rule 48(b) provides: “The court may dismiss an indictment, information, or compliant if unnecessary delay occurs in: (1) presenting a charge to a grand jury; (2) filing an information ...


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