Category: personal injury

How false accusations and wrongful convictions continue to effect people

The State of Minnesota Supreme Court is currently considering an expungement, or sealing of records case. In State v. M.D.T., the Minnesota Court of Appeals affirmed a district court’s order to seal executive branch records. The question is whether the Courts can seal, or expunge, a citizen’s records in law enforcement, the executive branch. If you have any questions about your case, please give me a call at 651-200-3484.  Below is an introduction to the article and a link to the entire article at the New York Times.
By JACK HEALY, New York Times, May 5, 2013;
Wrongfully Convicted Often Find Their Record, Unexpunged, Haunts Them

Andres Gonzalez for The New York Times
Sabrina Butler, who was convicted and then exonerated in the death of her infant son, saw her record expunged 17 years after her release from prison.
By JACK HEALY, New York Times
Published: May 5, 2013
In Wisconsin, Audrey Edmunds served 11 years in prison in the shaking death of an infant girl for whom she had been baby-sitting. In 2008, a mountain of new medical evidence cast so much doubt on the case that a higher court overturned her conviction and set her free. Leaving prison, Ms. Edmunds hoped that would be the end of it.
Audrey Edmunds could not find work after her conviction in the death of a girl was overturned.
But a few months later, as she applied for a secretarial job with an office-supply company, her conviction for first-degree reckless homicide popped up in a background check. Sorry, she was told. She tried to get work with an airline, but heard a similar rejection.
“I hate it,” said Ms. Edmunds, 52, who now lives in northern Wisconsin. “They put us through enough to begin with. They don’t give us any assistance. I’m glad to be out, but there’s got to be more support. I don’t like having this awful nightmare of a cloud hanging over me.”
Across much of the country, sealing or clearing a criminal record after a wrongful conviction is a tangled and expensive process, advocates and former prisoners say. It can take years of appeals to courts and pleas to governors to wipe the slate clean. Even then, many felony convictions remain on federal databases and pop up during background checks or at traffic stops.
Aside from the practical challenges — a criminal record can impede big things like finding housing and employment, and smaller things like getting a hunting license — people who have been exonerated say they feel unfairly marked, branded with a scarlet letter from a justice system that should not have locked them up in the first place.

Give a friend a ride – make sure you know what’s in the van before you do

There are times when a person may find themselves in a situation wanting to make some easy money. Usually, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. In the Case of United States v. Listman, a young man agreed to drive a van cross country for about $1,000 a trip. The Defendant was told there were drugs in secret compartments within the van, although Defendant Listman never actually saw the drugs. However, as the case discusses, the knowledge he did have was enough for a jury to convict him of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine. Read below to see how a seemingly simple act can get you wrapped up into a conspiracy.



The Jury convicted Defendant Listman of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine for his role driving a van carrying the drugs in a hidden compartment. Defendant Listman did know where the trap doors were on the vehicle and there was no evidence that he ever saw the drugs. However, The Federal Court of Appeals Held that Evidence that Defendant Listman knew the van carried drugs was sufficient to support the conviction. There was no need to need to prove he knew where in the van the drugs were.

Furthermore, The Federal Court of Appeals Held there was no error in allowing an officer to testify that Defendant Listman seemed to be under influence of drugs. This testimony was allowed not to show that Defendant was actually under the influence, but was relevant to show his knowledge, court said.

The Federal Court of Appeals rejected Defendant Listman’s argument that since he did not ever see the drugs and really did not know if he was told the truth about what he was doing, that he should be allowed to provide a “Deliberate ignorance” instruction to the jury.

Complete Decision:

636 F.3d 425 (2011)
UNITED STATES of America, Appellee,
Bruce LISTMAN, Appellant.
No. 10-1721.

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit.
Submitted: December 17, 2010.
Filed: April 12, 2011.

428*428 Steven Ray Davis, N. Little Rock, AR, for appellant.

Anne E. Gardner, AUSA, Little Rock, AR, for appellee.

Before RILEY, Chief Judge, BEAM and BENTON, Circuit Judges.

RILEY, Chief Judge.

A jury convicted Bruce Listman of conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute at least 500 grams of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) and 846. Listman appeals, arguing there was insufficient evidence to support the conviction. Listman also challenges the district court’s[1] evidentiary rulings and inclusion of a deliberate ignorance jury instruction. We affirm.


A. Facts[2]

From approximately March to November 2008, Listman was a courier for the Valdovinos drug trafficking organization. Candice Russell recruited Listman to drive with her from California to Arkansas because she did not have a driver’s license.

Russell and Listman drove vehicles modified to include a trap door concealing a hidden compartment. The vehicles carried methamphetamine to Arkansas and cash back to California. Listman and Russell deny knowing the specific locations of the traps.

Listman accompanied Russell on four trips.[3] Russell did not tell Listman they were smuggling drugs during their first trip to Arkansas. During their second trip, Russell told Listman “what was going on … [b]ecause it wasn’t right for him not to know.” Russell received approximately $2500 per round-trip. In turn, Russell paid Listman $1000 per trip in addition to methamphetamine.

Starting in September 2008, the offices of the United States Department of Justice Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) in California and in Arkansas began investigating the Valdovinos drug trafficking organization, surveilling and arresting various participants. During the investigation, the DEA identified Russell as a courier.

On November 21, 2008, California Highway Patrol Officer Anthony Cichella, acting on DEA information relayed to him from an area police department, stopped a gray Toyota Corolla traveling westbound on Interstate 10 near Fontana, California. Russell was driving the vehicle and Listman was a passenger. Russell consented to a search of the vehicle. With a drug dog’s assistance, Officer Cichella discovered a trap over a modified compartment under the rear bench seat. The trap contained a crystalline residue, which Officer Cichella believed to be methamphetamine.

During the encounter, Officer Cichella observed Listman was fidgety, moody, easily agitated, and at times uncooperative. 429*429 This led Officer Cichella to conclude Listman “was definitely under the influence.” Officer Cichella did not conduct a field sobriety test and did not arrest Listman for being under the influence of a controlled substance. Officer Cichella took both Russell and Listman to the police station and seized the Corolla.

B. Prior Proceedings

A federal grand jury charged Listman with conspiracy to possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(A) and 846.[4] Listman moved to suppress evidence of Officer Cichella’s discovery of the trap, arguing the stop and search violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Alternatively, Listman moved in limine to exclude evidence of the trap, contending “testimony that he was a passenger in a vehicle which contained a hidden compartment which police suspected of being used to transport drugs would unduly prejudice his defense.” The district court denied both motions.

A three-day jury trial began on January 19, 2010. Law enforcement officers and four co-conspirators, including Russell, testified for the government. At trial, Listman objected to Officer Cichella’s observation that Listman was under the influence of drugs during the traffic stop, arguing Listman’s drug use was not relevant. The district court ultimately found the evidence admissible because “although [Listman’s] personal use of methamphetamine does not lead to the conclusion that he must have been involved in a conspiracy, it does show … that methamphetamine was … in his presence … [a]nd … would indicate he had some knowledge.” At Listman’s request, the court instructed the jury “if you believe … Listman used methamphetamine … you may not just from that alone conclude that he was involved in a conspiracy … to possess with intent to distribute.”

At the close of the government’s case, the district court denied Listman’s Fed. R.Crim.P. 29 motion for a judgment of acquittal. Listman testified in his own defense. Before closing arguments, Listman objected to the district court’s inclusion of a deliberate ignorance jury instruction. The district court overruled the objection and included the instruction. The jury found Listman guilty. Listman appeals.


A. Sufficiency of the Evidence

Listman claims the evidence supporting his conviction was insufficient. We “review[] sufficiency of the evidence de novo and reverse[] only if no reasonable jury could have found the defendant guilty.” Clay, 618 F.3d at 950. We must sustain a conviction when the evidence, viewed most favorably to the government, substantially supports the verdict. See id.

To convict Listman of conspiracy to distribute methamphetamine, “the government must prove: (1) that there was a conspiracy, i.e., an agreement to distribute [methamphetamine]; (2) that [Listman] knew of the conspiracy; and (3) that [Listman] intentionally joined the conspiracy.” United States v. Rolon-Ramos, 502 F.3d 750, 754 (8th Cir.2007) (quoting United States v. Jiminez, 487 F.3d 1140, 1146 (8th Cir.2007)) (internal quotation marks omitted). Listman concedes there was a conspiracy, but argues the government failed 430*430 to prove he knew of or intentionally joined the conspiracy.

The evidence was sufficient for the jury to conclude Listman knew he was transporting methamphetamine. Russell testified she told Listman they were transporting drugs, and it was the jury’s prerogative to believe her. “The jury is the final arbiter of the witnesses’ credibility, and we will not disturb that assessment.” United States v. Hayes, 391 F.3d 958, 961 (8th Cir.2004). The government also produced circumstantial evidence—such as Russell paying Listman cash and methamphetamine, and Russell and Listman using methamphetamine together during the trip—supporting an inference Listman knew he was transporting drugs.

Listman argues “a person who is caught driving a car full of drugs does not possess them in a legal sense if he did not know what he had.” See United States v. Mendoza-Larios, 416 F.3d 872, 873-74 (8th Cir.2005) (noting legal possession could not be inferred based solely on the defendant driving a car containing large quantities of hidden illegal drugs). This proposition, while true, is inapplicable here because the jury heard direct and circumstantial evidence demonstrating Listman knew he was transporting methamphetamine. See United States v. Ojeda, 23 F.3d 1473, 1476 (8th Cir.1994) (holding direct and circumstantial evidence supported finding driver was aware of the presence of drugs within the vehicle). It is not necessary to prove Listman knew exactly where in the vehicle the drugs were hidden.

B. Motion in Limine

Listman argues “the trial court erred in denying Listman’s motion in limine and objections at trial” to Officer Cichella’s testimony regarding the vehicle stop. Specifically, Listman challenges Officer Cichella’s testimony regarding the existence of the hidden trap and his assessment that Listman was under the influence of drugs.

“We review the district court’s evidentiary ruling for clear abuse of discretion, and will not reverse if the error was harmless.” United States v. Hyles, 479 F.3d 958, 968 (8th Cir.2007) (internal citation omitted). “The trial court has broad discretion in determining the relevancy and admissibility of evidence” and “great deference is given to a district court’s balancing of the relative value of a piece of evidence and its prejudicial effect.” United States v. Zierke, 618 F.3d 755, 759 (8th Cir.2010) (quoting Jiminez, 487 F.3d at 1145) (internal quotation marks omitted); see also United States v. Emmanuel, 112 F.3d 977, 979 (8th Cir. 1997) (“The district court’s discretion is particularly broad in the context of a conspiracy trial.”)

We perceive no reversible error here. The very existence of the hidden trap was probative as to whether Listman participated in the conspiracy and the danger of unfair prejudice, if any, did not substantially outweigh this probative value. See Fed.R.Evid. 403. “[E]vidence is not unfairly prejudicial merely because it tends to prove a defendant’s guilt.” United States v. Boesen, 541 F.3d 838, 849 (8th Cir.2008).

Neither are we persuaded the admission of Officer Cichella’s assessment that Listman was under the influence of drugs was an abuse of discretion. The district court found this assertion probative of Listman’s knowledge that he was transporting methamphetamine. The officer’s assessment also corroborated Russell’s testimony that Russell and Listman discussed methamphetamine, Russell paid Listman, in part, with methamphetamine, and they used methamphetamine during the trips. Considering the court’s accompanying 431*431 cautionary instruction that the jury could not conclude Listman was involved in the conspiracy based solely upon Listman’s use of drugs, we find no abuse of discretion. See United States v. Davidson, 449 F.3d 849, 853 (8th Cir.2006) (noting a cautionary instruction to the jury diminished the risk of unfair prejudice to the defendant). Regardless, any error was harmless. It is difficult to imagine the challenged evidence substantially influenced the verdict, see United States v. Donnell, 596 F.3d 913, 919 (8th Cir.2010), particularly because Listman admitted he often used methamphetamine with Russell, and on at least one occasion during their trips to Arkansas, Russell started to smoke methamphetamine.

C. Jury Instruction

Listman argues the district court erred in instructing the jury on a theory of deliberate ignorance consistent with Eighth Circuit Model Criminal Jury Instruction 7.04 (2007), contending “there is absolutely no evidence that Listman deliberately avoided learning about the drug conspiracy.” We disagree.

We review the inclusion of a jury instruction for an abuse of discretion and consider whether any error was harmless. See United States v. Hernandez-Mendoza, 600 F.3d 971, 979 (8th Cir.2010). “A deliberate ignorance instruction is appropriate when the evidence is sufficient to support a jury’s conclusion that `the defendant had either actual knowledge of the illegal activity or deliberately failed to inquire about it before taking action to support the activity.'” Id. (quoting United States v. Whitehill, 532 F.3d 746, 751 (8th Cir.2008)). “Ignorance is deliberate if the defendants were presented with facts putting them on notice criminal activity was particularly likely and yet intentionally failed to investigate.” Whitehill, 532 F.3d at 751. It is “not appropriate if the evidence implies defendants could only have had `either actual knowledge or no knowledge of the facts in question.'” Id. (quoting United States v. Parker, 364 F.3d 934, 946 (8th Cir.2004)).

As discussed above, Russell’s testimony and other evidence supported a conclusion Listman knew he was transporting methamphetamine. The jury could have disbelieved Russell and still concluded Listman knew it was likely he was transporting drugs and chose to remain ignorant. Listman contends, “There is no reason to believe that a methamphetamine user like [Listman] could conduct an investigation worthy of Sherlock Holmes and discover the existence of a multi-level conspiracy to transport methamphetamine.” To the contrary, we deduce it is elementary that someone recruited to drive across the country on multiple occasions in exchange for cash and drugs would suspect criminal activity was afoot. Listman’s own testimony that he wondered whether Russell had methamphetamine on her “[b]ecause she used so much more [methamphetamine] than anyone [Listman had] known before” is strong evidence Listman had some notice. The deliberate ignorance instruction was appropriate, and giving the instruction was not an abuse of discretion.


We affirm the judgment of the district court.

[1] The Honorable Susan Webber Wright, United States District Judge for the Eastern District of Arkansas.

[2] “We recite the facts in the light most favorable to the jury’s verdict[].” United States v. Clay, 618 F.3d 946, 948 n. 2 (8th Cir.2010) (quoting White v. McKinley, 605 F.3d 525, 528 (8th Cir.2010)) (internal quotation marks omitted).

[3] Listman did not return with Russell on the first trip, opting instead to fly home to California.

[4] This indictment superseded an already existing indictment against other participants in the conspiracy. In January 2010, a grand jury returned a second superseding indictment, charging Listman with the same crime.

Online Dog chat leads to murder and taking of unborn fetus

There are certain acts that must take place before something is a federal crime. An act that takes place entirely within State boundaries is not a federal crime, but a State crime. A physical assault with the use of hands is an example. This is why most murder cases are not federal crimes, but is instead State crimes.

The crime must involve an act that goes beyond the state lines in order to be prosecuted Federally. This includes federal lands that are within States. Tribal lands or federal military posts are examples. A crime committed on these lands is within federal jurisdiction because these are federal lands and not state lands.

An easy way to remember what other crimes might be a federal crime is to remember the Commerce Clause, Article I, Section 8 of the United States Constitution. If interstate commerce, the crossing over state lines, is used to commit the crime, then a Federal Crime has been committed. This involves many acts that you may not initially think about. Acts that involved the use of Interstate Highways, guns – which are usually made with parts from different states, ammunition – usually mad in a state different than where the gun was made, or made with parts from outside the state, mail fraud, are all examples of items used in a crime that may make for a federal offense.

The failure to involve something that crosses states lines, or on federal lands, is why many murder cases are not federal crimes. However, in the case United States v. Montgomery, discussed below, there was a kidnapping that then crossed state lines and death resulted as an act of the kidnapping across state lines. This is an example of a murder that can be prosecuted federally.

Some of you may have heard about this case, or watched reenactments on television shows. This case involves two ladies that first met at a dog show and continued discussions at an online discussion board about their breed of dog. Be forewarned, the story is a little gruesome.


Defendant Montgomery was convicted and sentenced to death for kidnapping, transport of kidnapping victim to another state, and death resulting from kidnapping. Defendant Montgomery killed a pregnant woman and then cut the fetus from her womb so she could claim to have given birth.

The Federal District Court held that the death resulted from the kidnapping of a person, although the mother’s death preceded the removal from the womb. The death resulted from the kidnapping, which occurred beginning with the birth and taking of the new born, and the murder was committed in furtherance of the intended kidnapping.

Here is a link to the entire opinion for some light and joyful reading:

Alternative Perpetrator, First Degree Murder

There are certain defenses that are called affirmative defenses. In such a defense, the Defendant offers evidence that will negate guilt. This is different than a standard not guilty defense. In a standard not guilty defense, the defendant does not present evidence. The Constitution does not require the Defendant to introduce evidence as the Defendant is already presumed innocent and the government bears the burden to prove the Defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

There are certain rules that go along with Affirmative Defenses before the trial court will allow the jury to hear such evidence. This includes notice requirements and evidentiary weight thresholds. The analysis by the Court should also consider the Defendant’s Right to present a defense. Read below to view a summary on a case about a first degree murder case where the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a trial court should have allowed Defendant to argue that an alternative perpetrator committed the crime. A link to the complete case is at the end of the summary.

State v Ferguson (SUP CT, 10-19-2011, A10-0499, Hennepin Co)

Alternative Perpetrator

Defendant Ferguson was convicted of First Degree Murder. The trial court prohibited Defendant Ferguson from introducing alternative perpetrator evidence to the jury. In order for alternative perpetrator evidence to be admissible, the evidence about the alternative perpetrator must create must connect the alternative perpetrator to the crime.

Defendant Ferguson proffered that the alternative perpetrator he was suggesting committed the crime, had similar physical features to the Defendant Ferguson, drove car similar to Defendant Ferguson and was identified as being in the area at time of crime.

The Supreme Court Ruled that the Trial Court erred and Defendant Ferguson met the threshold for the admission of alternative perpetrator evidence and the jury should have been allowed to consider this evidence. The Supreme Court of Minnesota ruled that it was error to exclude it.

The Supreme Court also noted that only one person identified the defendant as the shooter. The Supreme Court therefore, also analyzed whether the denial of Defendant’s defense of alternative perpetrator was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. The Supreme Court this error was not harmless and therefore, Defendant Ferguson’s right to present a complete defense was violated.

The Conviction reversed and a new trial was ordered by the Supreme Court of Minnesota.

Here is a link to the complete opinion:

Police Interrogations should be recorded in Minnesota

Most people know of their 5th Amendment Right to remain silent when questioned by law enforcement. This Right does not mean that a person can lie or mislead. There are times when a government agent, police officer, or investigator will testify that a Defendant made a certain statement to them about the case. This testimony may be derived from the officer’s interpretation of the statement made, a sarcastic comment made by the Defendant, or, according to many Defendants, a false claim made by the officer that the Defendant made the comment. In Federal Court and in many States, this contradiction is to be determined by the jury – through the weight of the evidence. The problem is, for the jury to weigh the evidence, the Defendant will often have to take the stand to deny making the statement. This will subject the Defendant to cross examination and a waiver of his 5th Amendment Rights to Remain Silent.

Minnesota has protected the individual by requiring law enforcement to record all in custody interviews where feasible. This requirement was created in the case, State v. Scales, 518 N.W.2d 587 (Minn. 1984). See below to read this entire opinion. Call me at 651-200-3484 if you have questions about a case you may be involved with.

518 N.W.2d 587 (1994)
STATE of Minnesota, Respondent,
Michael Jerome SCALES, Appellant.
No. C4-93-1541.

Supreme Court of Minnesota.
June 30, 1994.
Rehearing Denied August 22, 1994.

589*589 John M. Stuart, State Public Defender, Marie L. Wolf, Asst. State Public Defender, Minneapolis, and Michael J. Scales, Stillwater, for appellant.

Hubert H. Humphrey, III, Atty. Gen., St. Paul, and Michael O. Freeman, Linda K. Freyer, Asst. County Atty., Minneapolis, for respondent.

Heard, considered, and decided by the court en banc.


WAHL, Justice.

Michael Jerome Scales appeals from a judgment of conviction, after a jury trial in a Hennepin County District Court, of two counts of first degree murder[1] and one count of second degree intentional murder[2] in connection with the stabbing death of Otha Brown. He was sentenced to life in prison.

The primary issue on appeal is whether appellant has a due process right under the Minnesota Constitution to have his entire interrogation by law enforcement authorities recorded or whether this court should exercise its supervisory powers to mandate such a requirement. Appellant also challenges the admission of three photographs and the trial court’s instruction on reasonable doubt. In the exercise of our supervisory powers we mandate a recording requirement for all custodial interrogations. We affirm the conviction.

Otha Brown was the mother of Angela Walker, appellant’s girlfriend, and the grandmother of Michael Scales, Jr., appellant’s two-year-old son. Appellant, Angela, Angela’s three children, including Michael Jr., and two of the Browns’ other grandchildren lived with Otha and her husband Leon in Minneapolis. In spite of her poor health, Otha Brown raised her grandchildren, was active in her church, and was a school bus driver.

At approximately 1:00 a.m. on October 4, 1992, appellant walked into the Browns’ bedroom, told Otha Brown that he was sick, and asked her to drive him to the hospital. Otha Brown agreed to drop appellant off at the hospital, threw a coat over her nightgown, and went out to her van. Leon Brown testified that appellant came back to the bedroom a few minutes later explaining that Otha Brown had forgotten her purse and had asked him to get it. After appellant left, Leon Brown went back to sleep but woke up around 2:00 or 3:00 a.m. and discovered that his wife had not returned and that Michael Jr. was missing.

Around 7:00 a.m., Otha Brown’s body was found in an alley on Osseo Road. She had been stabbed 26 times with a single-edged knife. Two or three of the wounds could have caused Otha Brown’s death. No weapons were found in the area where the body was discovered, but the police recovered a bloody “Emperor Steel” butcher knife and a bloody knit hat at a different location. The blood on the knife and the hat was consistent with Otha Brown’s blood and the knife matched an “Emperor Steel” knife found in the Browns’ kitchen.

Appellant’s statements to the police and the testimony at trial established that during the early morning hours of October 4, appellant was at a crack house getting high and making drug runs in Otha Brown’s van. Timothy Hill, an individual who accompanied appellant on one of these drug runs, testified that he noticed a red substance on the running board of the van. David Neal testified that while he was on a drug run with appellant, appellant mentioned that he had killed someone for money so he could repay people who were threatening to hurt him. While at the crack house, appellant handed out Otha Brown’s checks and credit cards. Jeffrey Pearson, who received several of these items, testified that the plan was for him to purchase merchandise, sell it for cash, and share the proceeds with appellant. Appellant himself 590*590 made two unsuccessful attempts to use Otha Brown’s bank card shortly after the time she was killed.

Otha Brown’s van was found on October 5. Blood, consistent with Otha Brown’s blood, was found throughout the van, but the greatest concentration was on the driver’s door, the signal and shift levers, the driver’s seat, the carpet, and the running board. Her purse was recovered in the vicinity where the van was found.

When appellant and his son returned home around 7:00 p.m. on October 4, the police placed him in a squad car and took him to the police station. Sergeant Michelle Smolley, Minneapolis Police Department homicide unit, and Special Agent Rick Loewen, a BCA investigator on loan to the Minneapolis police, began questioning appellant around 8:40 p.m. Both officers testified that before they questioned appellant, they gave him Miranda warnings. Appellant said he understood his rights, and indicated that he wished to waive them. The officers interrogated appellant for approximately three hours before conducting a formal question-and-answer statement that was simultaneously transcribed. No other part of the interview was recorded.

At the Rasmussen hearing, appellant disputed much of what the officers had said about the nature of the interview and the timing and content of the Miranda warnings. Appellant testified that he was not told he was under arrest or given any warnings until the interrogation was well underway, that when the warnings were given he was not asked if he understood his rights or was willing to waive them, that he was told, untruthfully, that his fingerprints had been found on the suspected murder weapon, and that he was “half liquored” and unable to use the bathroom during the interview. Appellant also denied giving several of the answers contained in the written statement and said that he was not permitted to read the statement before signing it. Appellant moved to suppress the formal statement and his other comments to police on the grounds that he had not received timely Miranda warnings, that the waiver of his rights was not explicit, and that neither the reading of his rights nor his three-hour interview was recorded. The trial court, in denying the motion, declined to rule on whether there is a constitutionally based recording requirement.

At trial, Agent Loewen testified that appellant told two accounts of the events of October 4, 1992. In both versions, appellant said he and Otha Brown drove to the hospital and then decided to leave. When they returned home appellant, at Otha Brown’s request, went inside to get her purse. He noticed that Michael Jr. was awake and brought him out to the van. Otha Brown then drove to a grocery store. At this point, the stories diverged. Initially, appellant said that Otha Brown dropped him off at the store after giving him $20, and he told the police he had not seen her since. He later changed his story and admitted to being “involved” in Otha Brown’s death.

In a formal statement consistent with his second story, appellant said that while he was looking for his ID on the way to the hospital, he reached into the seat pocket and felt a knife. As in the first story, appellant said he returned to the house where he picked up Otha Brown’s purse and his son. Consistent with the second story, however, appellant stated that when they reached the grocery store Otha Brown tried to give him more money than he wanted. He pushed her away while holding the knife in his hand and she fell to the floor of the van.

The next thing appellant remembered was driving away with bloody hands and throwing the knife out the window. When the officers asked appellant if he had blood on his sweatshirt, appellant said he did and admitted that it “most likely” was Otha Brown’s blood. Forensic tests confirmed that the blood on appellant’s clothes, shoe, wallet, players card, and pocket knife was consistent with the blood of Otha Brown. In addition, appellant’s bloody fingerprints were found inside the van. He also had an abrasion on the inside of his thumb that was consistent with the use of a knife.

This appeal clearly focuses on whether there should be a recording requirement for custodial interrogations under either the Due Process Clause of the Minnesota Constitution 591*591 or the supervisory authority of this court. In previous cases, we have been concerned about the failure of law enforcement officers to record custodial interrogations. State v. Robinson, 427 N.W.2d 217, 224 (Minn.1988); State v. Pilcher, 472 N.W.2d 327, 333 (Minn. 1991). In Robinson we observed that, as a practical matter, many factual disputes about the denial of a defendant’s constitutional rights would be avoided if all conversations between the police and a suspect were recorded. 427 N.W.2d at 224 n. 5. More recently, in Pilcher we “urge[d] * * * law enforcement professionals [to] use those technological means at their disposal to fully preserve those conversations and events preceding the actual interrogation” and warned that we would “look with great disfavor upon any further refusal to heed these admonitions.” 472 N.W.2d at 333. Appellant claims that by failing to preserve the entire interrogation, the police deliberately ignored our warning, thereby depriving him of his right to due process under the Minnesota Constitution.

The trial court distinguished Robinson and Pilcher on the grounds that the police conduct in those cases raised questions about an ambiguous or equivocal statement regarding the need for counsel, whereas in this case appellant does not allege that he asked for an attorney, failed to understand the Miranda warnings, or asked to terminate the interview. Although defense counsel raised the due process issue, the trial court declined to rule on whether appellant was deprived of a state constitutional right.

Appellant relies on Stephan v. State, 711 P.2d 1156 (Alaska 1985), which held that the unexcused failure to electronically record a custodial interrogation violated a suspect’s right to due process under the Alaska Constitution. Id. at 1158. The Alaska Supreme Court found this constitutional right because law enforcement officials had failed to follow the rule it had established five years earlier: “it is incumbent upon [Alaska law enforcement officials] to tape record, where feasible, any questioning [of criminal suspects,] and particularly that which occurs in a place of detention.” Mallott v. State, 608 P.2d 737, 743 n. 5 (Alaska 1980)

A recording requirement, the Stephan court stated, provides a more accurate record of a defendant’s interrogation and thus will reduce the number of disputes over the validity of Miranda warnings and the voluntariness of purported waivers. Stephan, 711 P.2d at 1160-62. In addition, an accurate record makes it possible for a defendant to challenge misleading or false testimony and, at the same time, protects the state against meritless claims. Recognizing that the trial and appellant courts consistently credit the recollections of police officers regarding the events that take place in an unrecorded interview, the court held that recording “is now a reasonable and necessary safeguard, essential to the adequate protection of the accused’s right to counsel, his right against self incrimination and, ultimately, his right to a fair trial.” Id. at 1159-60. A recording requirement also discourages unfair and psychologically coercive police tactics and thus results in more professional law enforcement.

Other courts have noted the protections that a recording requirement would provide but no state as yet has followed the Stephan decision.[3] Commentators have advocated a recording requirement. Yale Kamisar, Brewer v. Williams: A Hard Look at a Discomfiting Record, 66 Geo.L.J. 209 (1977-78); Glanville Williams, The Authentication of Statements to the Police, Crim.L.Rev. 6 (Jan. 1979). The Uniform Rule of Criminal Procedure 243 (1974) provides that information about rights, any waiver, and all questioning shall be recorded where feasible, and must be recorded when the questioning occurs at a place of detention. The Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure § 130.4(3) (1975) also contains a recording requirement.

592*592 The United States Supreme Court has not addressed the recording issue directly but even if custodial interrogations do not need to be recorded to satisfy the due process requirements of the Federal Constitution, we are not precluded from finding a recording requirement under the Minnesota Constitution. This court has “the power to provide broader individual rights under the Minnesota Constitution than are permitted under the United States Constitution.” State v. Murphy, 380 N.W.2d 766, 770 (Minn.1986).

We are persuaded, as was the Stephan Court, that the recording of custodial interrogations “is now a reasonable and necessary safeguard, essential to the adequate protection of the accused’s right to counsel, his right against self incrimination and, ultimately, his right to a fair trial.” Stephan, 711 P.2d at 1150-60. We are disturbed by the fact that law enforcement officials have ignored our warnings in Pilcher and Robinson. In Stephan, the state argued on behalf of the police department that the failure to record an entire interrogation was based on the “chilling effect” recordings had on a suspect’s willingness to talk. 711 P.2d at 1162. Here, however, the state simply asserts that such a requirement is not constitutionally required and questions whether the requirement would, in fact, provide greater protections for defendants or make a substantial difference in police practices.

We choose not to determine at this time whether under the Due Process Clause of the Minnesota Constitution a criminal suspect has a right to have his or her custodial interrogation recorded. Rather, in the exercise of our supervisory power to insure the fair administration of justice,[4] we hold that all custodial interrogation including any information about rights, any waiver of those rights, and all questioning shall be electronically recorded where feasible and must be recorded when questioning occurs at a place of detention. If law enforcement officers fail to comply with this recording requirement, any statements the suspect makes in response to the interrogation may be suppressed at trial. The parameters of the exclusionary rule applied to evidence of statements obtained in violation of these requirements must be decided on a case-by-case basis. Following the approach recommended by the drafters of the Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure, suppression will be required of any statements obtained in violation of the recording requirement if the violation is deemed “substantial.” This determination is to be made by the trial court after considering all relevant circumstances bearing on substantiality, including those set forth in § 150.3(2) and (3) of the Model Code of Pre-Arraignment Procedure.[5] If the court finds a violation not to be substantial, it shall set forth its reason for such finding. 593*593 The rule and the remedy will apply prospectively from the date of the filing of this opinion. The Advisory Committee on Criminal Rules may further consider the issue of the proper scope of the exclusionary rule in this context.

Though the police in this case disregarded our prior warnings in Robinson and Pilcher, we affirm appellant’s conviction because even if the unrecorded statements had been suppressed the result would have been the same. Appellant makes no claim that the unrecorded interrogation contained exculpatory evidence and the evidence against him without the statements was very strong.

On the night Otha Brown was killed, appellant convinced her to drive him to the hospital but there is no evidence in the record that they ever arrived at the hospital. Shortly after the time Otha Brown was killed appellant was photographed attempting to use her bank card and, according to several witnesses, appellant was at a crack house handing out Otha Brown’s credit cards and checks with the understanding that he would receive a portion of any proceeds from their use. One of the witnesses who went on a drug run in Otha Brown’s van after she was killed testified that he noticed a red substance on the running board where the police later found a substantial amount of Otha Brown’s blood. Another witness testified that appellant mentioned that he had killed someone for money. When appellant was arrested, his clothes, shoes, and wallet were covered with Otha Brown’s blood. Moreover, his bloody fingerprints were found in the van and the murder weapon matched a knife from the Browns’ kitchen. In light of this evidence, any error in admitting the unrecorded statements was harmless.

Appellant also challenges the admission of three photographs — two of which showed Otha Brown with her grandchildren and one of which showed Otha Brown at Disney World with Mickey Mouse. The admission of photographs is a matter left to the discretion of the trial judge and will not be reversed absent a clear abuse of discretion. State v. Friend, 493 N.W.2d 540, 544 (Minn. 1992). Here, where the photographs were used to provide background information about the family and to personalize Otha Brown and where the number of photographs used for these purposes was small, the trial court did not err in admitting them.

Appellant makes a pro se challenge to the trial court’s instruction that the jurors “should discuss the case with one another and deliberate with a view to reaching agreement if you can do so without violence to your individual judgment.” Appellant claims that the term “violence” had a negative impact on the jury’s understanding of reasonable doubt because it distorted the intensity a juror must feel before changing his or her mind. He also claims that it was error to give the instruction to a nondeadlocked jury. Neither argument is persuasive. First, the sentence appellant complains about is not an instruction on reasonable doubt, but is part of an instruction about the duty of the jurors to discuss the case and is taken directly from CRIMJIG 3.04 (Unanimous Verdict — Duty of Jurors to Discuss). Moreover, in State v. Martin, 297 Minn. 359, 371-72, 211 N.W.2d 765, 772 (1973), we specifically approved the language used in this instruction. We also approved of the instruction being given at the outset of deliberation, because “[t]he jury is forewarned of how it should proceed to forestall a deadlock” and because the “potential for coercion is minimized if the charge is simply reread at a time when the jury appears to be deadlocked.” Id. Thus, the trial court did not err in instructing the jury.

We affirm the judgment of conviction.


TOMLJANOVICH, Justice (concurring in part, and dissenting in part).

I agree with the majority that the conviction in this case be affirmed; however, I vigorously dissent from that portion of the majority’s opinion holding that an unexcused failure to electronically record a statement during custodial interrogation must result in a suppression of that statement.

Custodial interrogations need not be recorded to satisfy the due process requirements of the United States Constitution relating to the preservation of evidence, as 594*594 established in California v. Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479, 104 S.Ct. 2528, 81 L.Ed.2d 413 (1984); see Stephan v. State, 711 P.2d 1156 (Alaska 1985). Moreover, as the majority indicates, of all the states that have addressed this issue, only the Alaska Supreme Court has held that the unexcused failure to record a statement during custodial interrogation must result in suppression of the statement.[1] I am unwilling at this time to depart from the rule of the vast majority of courts in this country.

While the recording of statements is desirable in many respects, I am not persuaded that recording is essential to the adequate protection of the accused’s right to a fair trial. I am especially reluctant to assume in the absence of any evidence that trial and appellate courts “consistently credit the recollections of police officers,” slip opinion at 7, and thereby routinely abandon their obligation to fairly assess the credibility of witnesses.

An exclusionary rule is a drastic remedy. I believe such a drastic remedy should be applied only after a full hearing of all the policy implications and with adequate notice to law enforcement. See State v. Spurgeon, 63 Wash.App. 503, 820 P.2d 960, 963 (1991). This is particularly true where a right is not found to be rooted in the state constitution.

I would recommend the matter be referred to the Supreme Court Advisory Committee on Rules of Criminal Procedure for further consideration.

[1] Pursuant to Minn.Stat. §§ 609.185(1) and § 609.185(3).

[2] Pursuant to Minn.Stat. § 609.19(1).

[3] See People v. Raibon, 843 P.2d 46, 49 (Colo. App.1992); Commonwealth v. Fryar, 414 Mass. 732, 610 N.E.2d 903, 909 n. 8 (1993); State v. Buzzell 617 A.2d 1016, 1018-19 (Me.1992); Williams v. State, 522 So.2d 201, 208 (Miss. 1988); Jimenez v. State, 105 Nev. 337, 775 P.2d 694, 696 (1989); State v. James, 858 P.2d 1012, 1017-18 (Utah App.1993); State v. Spurgeon, 63 Wash.App. 503, 820 P.2d 960, 961-63 (1991). See also State v. Rhoades, 119 Idaho 594, 809 P.2d 455, 462 (1991); State v. Gorton, 149 Vt. 602, 548 A.2d 419, 422 (1988).

[4] See State v. Borst, 278 Minn. 388, 397, 154 N.W.2d 888, 894 (1967).

[5] Section 150.3(2) and (3) provide as follows: (2) Violations Deemed Substantial. A violation shall in all cases be deemed substantial if one or more of the following paragraphs is applicable:

(a) The violation was gross, wilful and prejudicial to the accused. A violation shall be deemed wilful regardless of the good faith of the individual officer if it appears to be part of the practice of the law enforcement agency or was authorized by a high authority within it.

(b) The violation was of a kind likely to lead accused persons to misunderstand their position or legal rights and to have influenced the accused’s decision to make the statement.

(c) The violation created a significant risk that an incriminating statement may have been untrue.

(3) Circumstances to Be Considered in Determining Substantiality. In determining whether a violation not covered by Subsection (2) is substantial, the court shall consider all the circumstances including:

(a) the extent of deviation from lawful conduct;

(b) the extent to which the violation was wilful;

(c) the extent to which the violation was likely to have led the defendant to misunderstand his position or his legal rights;

(d) the extent to which exclusion will tend to prevent violations of this Code;

(e) whether there is a generally effective system of administrative or other sanctions which makes it less important that exclusion be used to deter such violations;

(f) the extent to which the violation is likely to have influenced the defendant’s decision to make the statement; and

(g) the extent to which the violation prejudiced the defendant’s ability to support his motion, or to defend himself in the proceeding in which the statement is sought to be offered in evidence against him.

[1] The Alaska Supreme Court did not rely on its supervisory powers but held that an exclusionary rule was necessary to protect a suspect’s right to due process under the Alaska Constitution.

Probationers and Parolees have a limited expectation of privacy

A Parolee or a person on probation soon finds out that the application of their Constitutional Rights is analyzed much different than a person not on Parole or probation. The person may be required to do drug testing, make scheduled meetings, or as the following case shows, be subjected to searches of their person or residence without the requirement of a search warrant. In this case, the parolee learned from the Court that his expectation of Privacy under the 4th Amendment of the Constitution is much less than the citizen not on parole or probation. I have included a summary of the case first, followed by the entire opinion for you to read how the application of your Rights are analyzed by the Court when you are on probation or parole.

State of Minnesota v Heaton
(CT APPS, 05-07-2012, A11-659, St. Louis Co)

Issue: Search of parolee’s person and residence

In this case, the court holds that a parolee’s house and person can be searched pursuant to a valid parole condition and upon reasonable suspicion.

The facts which gave rise to the reasonable suspicion were as follows:

Defendant Heaton was a passenger in a car that was stopped by the police. An occupant, not Defendant Heaton, was arrested on an outstanding warrant. Defendant Heaton had $3000 in cash on his person which he said he got from a sale of his car. However, Defendant Heaton could not provide proof of the transaction, or the name of the person to whom he sold the car.

Defendant Heaton’s Parole officer was notified by police about the stop. The Parole Officer waited for Defendant Heaton to return to his apartment and then searched him. During the search, the Parole Officer found methamphetamine, $2,600 in cash and a gun in Defendant Heaton’s apartment. Defendant Heaton was subsequently convicted of a drug offense and gun possession. Defendant Heaton was then sentenced to 60 months and 100 months concurrent.

Conviction affirmed there was reasonable suspicion to search. The concurring opinion states that a Parole Officer does not even need reasonable suspicion to search.

State of Minnesota, Respondent,
Stirling Michael Heaton, Appellant.
Filed May 7, 2012


Concurring specially, Ross, Judge
St. Louis County District Court File No. 69DU-CR-10-2498

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, John B. Galus, Assistant Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; andMark S. Rubin, St. Louis County Attorney, Duluth, Minnesota (for respondent) David W. Merchant, Chief Appellate Public Defender, Jodie Lee Carlson, Assistant Public Defender,
St. Paul, Minnesota; andBradley T. Smith, Special Assistant Public Defender, Dorsey & Whitney LLP, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for appellant)
Considered and decided by Ross, Presiding Judge;Halbrooks, Judge; and

No more than reasonable suspicion is required to search a parolee’s home
when the search is conducted pursuant to a valid parole condition.



On appeal from his convictions of possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of methamphetamine, appellant argues that (a) his right to be free from warrantless searches was violated when his parole officer conducted a search of his apartment and (b) because he did not consent to the warrantless search, the district court erred by not suppressing evidence
discovered during the search. Because a valid, warrantless search of a parolee’s home may be conducted if the search was conducted pursuant to a valid parole condition and was supported by reasonable suspicion, we affirm.

On July 13, 2009, appellant was released from prison after his incarceration for unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited person;
appellant was then placed on intensive supervised release. Before appellant’s release, the parole officer assigned to supervise appellant
familiarized himself with appellant’s criminal history and prior contacts with law enforcement, including a previous parole compliance search in 2006
that resulted in the discovery of a loaded pistol. Discovery of the firearm led to appellant’s conviction. Appellant’s release status was reduced on July 13, 2010, from intensive supervised release to supervised release status. Appellant’s conditions of release stated: “The offender will submit at any time to an unannounced visit and/or search of the offender’s person, vehicle or premises by the agent/designee.” There is no dispute that appellant signed the conditions of release.

On July 22, 2010, appellant was a passenger in a vehicle stopped by Carlton County law enforcement. Another occupant of the vehicle was arrested on an outstanding warrant. During the stop, appellant was searched, and officers found that he was carrying $3,000 in cash. Appellant told the officers that the cash came from the sale of his car, but he was unable to provide documentation regarding the transaction. The
next day, appellant’s parole officer was informed by law enforcement
about the traffic stop. Appellant also contacted the parole officer that day, as required by his parole release conditions, and told him of the contact with law enforcement. The parole officer thought it “very odd” that appellant, with a modestly paying job, would carry $3,000 in cash with no documentation to explain the source of the income. Based on the discovery of the cash and the parole officer’s knowledge of the 2006 search, the parole officer determined that “there was a strong possibility” that appellant’s apartment contained contraband. The parole officer, accompanied by three plain clothes police officers, went to appellant’s apartment and knocked on the door, but appellant was not there. The parole officer then went to the restaurant where appellant worked as a cook, but he was unable to speak with him because the restaurant wa
s busy. The parole officer returned to appellant’s apartment, where the officers remained, and waited for appellant to return.

Around midnight, appellant was dropped off at home by a co-worker and found the parole officer and the police officers waiting for him in an alley behind his apartment. Appellant was handcuffed and searched, during which approximately $2,600 in cash was found on appellant, and appellant’s apartment key was removed from his pocket.
The parole officer then directed everyone to enter appellant’s apartment and used appellant’s key to unlock the front door of the apartment. After entering the apartment, the parole officer with all three police officers present asked appellant about the traffic stop and the large amount of cash he had been carrying. Appellant told the parole officer that he had sold his car to a man from the Mille Lacs/Hinckley area and knew the buyer’s first name but not his last. Appellant could not provide a receipt or any other documentation regarding the sale.

At this point, the parole officer explained his concerns about the stop and the cash appellant had been carrying and told appellant he wanted to conduct a compliance search of the apartment. The parole officer testified that he then asked appellant for consent to search the apartment. The parole officer further testified that appellant “was silent. He did not say
no, he did not say yes.” One of the officers escorted appellant to the bathroom and stayed with him for the duration of the search. During t
he search, a pistol wrapped in a bandana was found under the kitchen sink and suspected methamphetamine and drug paraphernalia were located
on top of the kitchen cabinets. These items were seized and inventoried.
The state charged appellant with possession of a firearm by a felon, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 624.713, subd. 1 (Supp. 2009), and two counts of second degree possession or sale of methamphetamine, in violation of Minn. Stat. § 152.022, subds. 1, 2 (2008).

Appellant moved to suppress the evidence of the firearm and drugs, claiming that he did not consent to the search, that the parole officer who authorized and conducted the search lacked reasonable suspicion, and the search was pretextual. The district court denied appellant’s motion to suppress, calling the decision “a very close case.”

The district court applied two distinct tests to its analysis of whether the agents conducted a valid search: the special needs test under Griffin v. Wisconsin, 483 U.S. 868, 107 S.Ct. 3164(1987), and the totality of the circumstances test under State v. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d 128 (Minn. 2007)
(citing United States v. Knights, 534 U.S. 112, 122 S. Ct. 587 (2001)). Under both, the district court determined that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion and therefore valid.

Appellant waived his right to a jury trial and agreed to a bench trial on stipulated facts. The district court found appellant guilty of the firearms offense and one count of possession of methamphetamine and sentenced him to concurrent executed prison terms of 60 months for the gun offense and 100 months for the drug offense. This appeal follows.


Did the district court err by not suppressing evidence discovered during the warrantless search of appellant’s residence on the ground that the officers lacked reasonable suspicion?


A district court’s ruling on constitutional questions involving searches and
seizures is reviewed de novo. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at136. We review
the district court’s factual findings for clear error. Id. Appellant argues that the district court erred by denying his motion to suppress the evidence discovered during the warrantless search because his parole officer lacked reasonable suspicion of wrongdoing.

An individual’s right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures is guaranteed by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and Article I, Section 10, of the Minnesota Constitution. The Fourth Amendment is a personal right, the protection of which may be invoked by showing that a person “has an expectation of privacy in the place searched, and that his expectation is reasonable.” Minnesota v. Carter
, 525 U.S. 83, 88, 119 S.Ct. 469, 472 (1998). The Minnesota Supreme Court has held that probationers have a diminished expectation of privacy, and, accordingly, their homes may be searched without a warrant as long as a valid condition of probation exists and authorities have reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 139–40. But Minnesota courts have not addressed whether an appellant’s status as a
parolee similarly diminishes the expectation of privacy and likewise permits a warrantless search when police officers can establish reasonable suspicion or whether police officers need any suspicion at all.

Respondent asserts that a suspicionless search of a parolee’s home is permitted, relying on Samson v. California, 547 U.S. 843, 126 S. Ct. 2193 (2006). Samson and the instant case share factual similarities, but Samson differs substantively. In Samson, the applicable statute stated that a parolee “shall agree in writing to be subject to search or seizure by a parole officer or other peace officer at any time of the day or night, with or without a search warrant and with or without cause.” Id. at 846, 126 S. Ct. at 2196 (citing Cal. Penal Code Ann. §3067(a) (West 2000)). The parole search condition imposed under Minnesota law states that “the offender shall submit at any time to an Appellant does not dispute the validity of his parole conditions. Unannounced search of the offender’s person, vehicle, or premises.” Minn. Stat. §244.14, subd. 4 (2008). Unlike the search condition recited in California law, appellant’s search condition pursuant to Minnesota law contains no language explicitly eliminating suspicion or cause in connection with the search of a parolee. And although respondent suggests that the “at any time” language in Minn. Stat. § 244.14, subd. 4, allows a suspicionless search, in our view, the “at any time” language merely provides a temporal condition, allowing a search at any point during the day, such as the search that occurred here shortly after midnight.

Accordingly, Samson’s authorization of a suspicionless search does not
Apply here. Therefore, as in Anderson, we begin by balancing the parolee’s right to privacy against any legitimate government interests to determine if reasonable suspicion, rather than a warrant and probable cause, is required to search a parolee’s home. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 140. In doing so, we note that appellant’s expectation of privacy was diminished simply by his status as a parolee, just as a probationer’s expectation of privacy is diminished by his status as a probationer. Id.
at 139–40; see also Samson, 547 U.S. at 850, 126 S. Ct. at 2198 (“[P]arolees have fewer expectations of privacy than probationers, because parole is more akin to imprisonment than probation is to imprisonment.”). Additionally, it is undisputed that appellant signed the conditions of the state’s reliance on State v. Bartylla, 755 N.W.2d 8 (Minn. 2008), is likewise
unavailing. Citing Samson, Bartylla held that the warrantless, suspicionless collection of DNA as a result of a prior felony conviction did not violate the Fourth Amendment. Id. at 17–19. Notably, Bartylla involved an ncarcerated person rather than a conditional releasee. And nothing in Bartylla suggests that its holding is applicable to other, more intrusive suspicionless searches, such as the search of a home.

Defendant’s release, which stated that he would “submit at any time to an unannounced visit and/or search of the offender’s person, vehicle or premises by the agent/designee.” By agreeing to this condition of parole, appellant diminished his reasonable expectation of privacy. Knights, 534 U.S. at 119–20, 122 S. Ct. at 591–92; Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 139.
And, as with probationers, the state has a legitimate, substantial interest in ensuring that parolees abide by the terms of parole and “protecting potential victims from illegal conduct” the parolee may commit. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 140; see also Samson, 547 U.S. at 844, 126 S.Ct. at 2195 (“A State has an ‘overwhelming interest’ in supervising parolees because ‘parolees . . . are more likely to commit future criminal offenses.’” (quotation omitted)).

Accordingly, we hold that these legitimate government interests extend to parolees and probationers alike and conclude that the search of a parolee’s home requires only reasonable suspicion. Therefore, a warrantless search of appellant’s apartment was lawful if reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct can be established.

Reasonable suspicion requires specific, articulable facts that, taken together with rational inferences from the facts, reasonably warrant the intrusion at issue. State v. Davis, 732 N.W.2d 173, 182 (Minn. 2007). The showing required is not high, but it requires “more than an unarticulated hunch” and the ability of an officer “to point to something that objectively supports the suspicion at issue.” Id. (quotation omitted). In determining whether reasonable suspicion exists, we weigh the totality of the circumstances, which may include otherwise innocent factors. State v. Martinson, 581 N.W.2d 846, 852 (Minn. 1998). The district court determined that the search of appellant’s apartment was based on
“more than an unarticulated hunch” and was therefore supported by reasonable suspicion.

The district court identified four facts to support its determination: (1) the parole officer knew that appellant, as a parolee, had recently been placed
on a reduced supervision status; (2) the parole officer knew that appellant possessed a significant amount of cash and had a “thin” explanation for why he possessed it; (3) the parole officer knew of appellant’s limited financial means; and (4) the parole officer knew that, when stopped, appellant was with an individual who had an outstanding warrant.

Appellant argues that these four factors separately and collectively point to innocent behavior that cannot give rise to reasonable suspicion. But individual factors consistent with innocent behavior may, when taken
together, amount to reasonable suspicion. Id. (citing Reid v. Georgia, 448 U.S. 438, 441, 100 S.Ct. 2752, 2754 (1980) (stating circumstances could arise where innocent factors together may justify suspicion that criminal activity was afoot)).
Appellant first argues that, absent other indications of wrongdoing, possessing a large amount of cash does not establish reasonable suspicion. Appellant contends that the two cases cited by the district court on the cash possession factor, United States v. Johnigan, 90 F.3d 1332 (8th Cir. 1996) and United States v. Stephenson, 924 F.2d 753 (8th Cir. 1991) are inapposite. In Stephenson, appellant argues, possession of cash was not the sole reason upon which the district court determined that reasonable suspicion existed. Stephenson, 924 F.2d at 759. Though true, this observation actually supports the district court’s reasoning because the district court here, likewise, did not rely solely on 10 the possession of cash to support its determination that the officers had reasonable suspicion for the search.

In its order, the district court stated that “possessing a large quantity of cash without an adequate explanation, in light of the surrounding circumstances, is sufficient to establish reasonable suspicion.” (Emphasis added.) Here, the surrounding circumstances included appellant’s recent change in supervision status, his lack of documentation for the large amount of money he possessed, and his previous parole violation for possessing drugs and a firearm.

Appellant is correct, however, that the district court’s reliance on Johnigan
was misplaced because reasonable suspicion in Johnigan was based on the suspect’s outstanding warrants, not the cash later found in a search incident to arrest. Johnigan, 90 F.3d at 1336. On its own, the possession of
$3,000 may be an innocent circumstance, but when considered as part of
the totality of the circumstances, it supports the district court’s finding that the parole officer had reasonable suspicion for the warrantless search.

Second, appellant argues that his status as a parolee and his criminal history, on their own, do not give rise to reasonable suspicion. Specifically, appellant argues that all parolees have criminal records and to allow criminal history to be a basis for reasonable suspicion would result in unlimited warrantless searches in the homes of parolees.

Appellant’s argument has some merit, but this record persuades us that appellant’s argument nevertheless fails. We note first that the district court’s rationale was not based on appellant’s criminal history per se. Rather, the district court supported its reasonable-suspicion determination based on the change in appellant’s supervisory status, not his criminal history. And although the parole officer did rely on appellant’s history regarding the 2006 search and his subsequent conviction, the parole officer’s knowledge of appellant’s 2006 parole violation was also information “that objectively supports” the parole officer’s suspicion that criminal activity was afoot. Davis, 732 N.W.2d at 182. Third, appellant argues that the fact that appellant was in the presence of an individual with an outstanding warrant, on its own, does not indicate that appellant was engaged in criminal activity.

Appellant notes that suspicion must be particularized to the suspect and
that association with a person previously engaged in criminal activity does
not support reasonable suspicion. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 138 (quotation omitted); State v. Diede, 795 N.W.2d 836, 844 (Minn. 2011); see also State v. Varnado, 582 N.W.2d 886, 890 (Minn. 1998) (holding that mere association with suspected drug dealer, including driving dealer’s car, did not provide reasonable basis to suspect person may be armed and dangerous). Appellant asserts that, though his companion at the time of the stop in Carlton County had an outstanding warrant, there was no indication that appellant was engaged in criminal activity. Appellant’s argument is persuasive because our supreme court has held that particularized suspicion of appellant’s criminal activity is required. State v. Martinson, 581 N.W.2d at 850 (stating that reasonable suspicion requires “a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person . . . of criminal activity”) (quotations omitted). But even discounting this factor, based on the totality of the circumstances, we conclude that the search was supported by reasonable suspicion. Fourth, appellant argues that his limited financial means should not be used to support reasonable suspicion. Appellant provides no caselaw to support this argument.
He simply asserts that he provided a plausible explanation for being in possession of the cash—the sale of his car—which was corroborated by the fact that his car was not parked at his home when officers arrived, and appellant was later dropped off by a coworker. But appellant neglects to mention that he could not provide the last name of the purchaser or verify the sale of the car with documentation of any kind. Appellant also asserts a policy argument, noting that if reasonable suspicion can be predicated upon limited financial means, many innocent people of limited means will be implicated. This argument again mistakenly presumes that appellant’s limited means is viewed in isolation, when, in fact, it is but one part of a totality-of-the-circumstances analysis.

We conclude that ample reasonable suspicion existed to conduct a search of appellant’s home, given that the parole officer knew that appellant possessed a large amount of cash unsupported by documentation, even though he held a low-paying job, and had previously violated his parole by possessing drugs and a firearm. Because we conclude that reasonable suspicion existed to search appellant’s apartment, we need not reach appellant’s consent argument.

Appellant additionally argues that his right against warrantless searches was violated under the state constitution. Courts look to the state Constitution as a basis for individual rights “with restraint and some delicacy,” particularly when the right at stake is guaranteed by the same language in the federal constitution. Bartylla, 755 N.W.2d at 18; Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 140 (quotation omitted). Bartylla and Anderson deemed the
federal precedent on warrantless searches as adequate protection of the basic rights and liberties of state citizens and not a radical departure from Fourth Amendment precedent. 13 Bartylla, 755 N.W.2d at 19; Anderson, 733 N.W.2d at 140. The same reasoning applies here, eliminating the need for a separate analysis under the state constitution.


Because appellant was a parolee when officers searched his home and the search was conducted pursuant to a condition of parole and supported by reasonable suspicion, the district court did not err when it refused to suppress the firearms, drugs, and drug paraphernalia that were seized in the search of appellant’s home.


ROSS, Judge (concurring specially)

I respectfully disagree with the majority’s declaration that the reasonable suspicion standard applies to searches of parolees, and so I write separately, concurring only in the result. The United States Supreme Court’s black-letter holding in Samson v. California seems to provide the unambiguous standard that we must apply to Heaton’s Fourth Amendment challenge: “[W]e conclude that the Fourth Amendment does not prohibit a
police officer from conducting a suspicionless search of a parolee.” 547 U.S. 843, 857, 126 S. Ct. 2193, 2202 (2006). We should follow that holding.

I believe that two mistaken premises have led the majority to its mistaken conclusion that Samson does not apply to measure the constitutionality of the parolee search in this case. The majority first mistakenly adopts the reasonable suspicion standard by assuming that State v. Anderson, 733 N.W.2d 128 (Minn. 2007), is more factually similar to this case than Samson. I believe that the assumption is wrong. Samson involved the
suspicionless search of a parolee who was on supervised release from prison while serving a sentence for possession of a firearm as a felon. 547 U.S. at 846, 126 S.Ct. at 2196. This case identically involves the suspicionless search of a parolee who was on supervised release from prison while serving a sentence for possession of a firearm as a felon. In contrast to these mirror-image cases, Anderson involved the search of a probationer, not a parolee, 733 N.W.2d at 131, and, as the Samson court explained, a parolee has less of an expectation of privacy for Fourth Amendment search purposes than does a probationer. Samson, 547 U.S. at 850, 126 S. Ct. at 2198 (“On this continuum, parolees have fewer expectations of privacy than probationers, because parole is more akin to imprisonment.”).

The majority’s second mistake is that it renders significant what seems to be an insignificant difference between the parolee-release agreement in Samson and the similar agreement in this case. In Samson, the applicable parole agreement provided that the parolee was required “to be subject to search or seizure by a parole officer or other peace officer at any time . . . with or without a search warrant and with or without cause.” 547 U.S. at 846, 126 S. Ct. at 2196 (quotation omitted). Similarly in this case, consistent with state statutory and administrative law, Heaton’s parole agreement acknowledged that he “will submit at any time to an unannounced visit and/or search of [his] person, vehicle, or premises by the agent/designee.” It is true, as Heaton and the majority point out, that, unlike the parole agreement in Samson, Heaton’s agreement here did not expressly include the words “with or without cause.” But this is merely a semantic, not substantive, difference. The difference between having to
“submit . . . to” an “unannounced search” occurring “any time” and having to be “subject to” a “search . . . with or without cause” occurring “at any time” is not constitutionally material; each provision delivers the same obliterating blow to any reasonable parolee’s expectation of privacy. This is because each informs the parolee that he is subject to an unanticipated search at any time, and the suspicionless nature of that potential search is just as implicitly clear under the Minnesota language as it is explicitly clear under Samson’s California language. “Anytime” means anytime; and it cannot really be anytime if it is limited only to those times when reasonable suspicion exists.

When a misdemeanor in State Court might be a Felony in Federal Court

What may be considered a misdemeanor in State court may not be considered as such in Federal Court. Client’s are often shocked when they learn that offenses they thought were minor in State Court have a dramatic effect when sentenced in Federal Court. In the Case of United States v. Coleman, a misdemeanor conviction in State Court turned out to be a considered a felony for sentencing purposes in Federal Court and gave the Defendant a career offender status.

If would like to read more on this case, please see the summary and complete decision posted below. See the rest of my site to see how I can help your situation.


Fact Summary:

Defendant Coleman appealed his sentence for heroin possession and distribution conviction after entering a guilty plea. At sentencing, Defendant Coleman received an enhancement for a State misdemeanor offense that he believed should not have been counted as a qualifying felony under the career offender Sentencing Guidelines.

Defendant Coleman argued that the Sentencing Commission exceeded its statutory authority by not using the “violent felony” convictions definition from Armed Career Criminal Act.

The Federal Court of Appeals Ruled that Congress did not tell Commission how to define “felony” in setting higher Guidelines range for certain felony recidivists. The Federal Court of Appeals found there was a presumption of reasonableness to sentence in middle of Guidelines range and affirmed the Sentence.

Below is the Complete Decision

United States Court of Appeals
No. 10-1498
United States of America, * Appellee, *Appeal from the United States
v. * District Court for the
* Southern District of Iowa.
Herbert Lee Coleman, *
Appellant. *
Submitted: October 18, 2010
Filed: March 30, 2011
Before SMITH, COLLOTON, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.
SHEPHERD, Circuit Judge.Herbert Lee Coleman appeals from his sentence of 170 months imprisonment imposed after his conviction for conspiracy
to distribute heroin and distribution of heroin. See 21 U.S.C. §§ 841, 846. Coleman contends the district court procedurally erred and imposed an unreasonable sentence. We affirm.

Coleman pled guilty. At his sentencing hearing, the district court calculated a base offense level of 26 and a criminal history category of III. The district court applied the career offender enhancements contained in the United States Sentencing Coleman professes to challenge the career offender Guidelines definition of felony on substantive reasonableness grounds
. Because Coleman effectively argues that the district court incorrectly app
lied the career offender Guidelines range, we construe his argument as one
of procedural error. See United States v. Feemster , 572 F.3d 455, 461 (8th Cir. 2009) (en banc) (describing how procedural error includes
improper application of the Guidelines).
Guidelines section 4B1.1 and increased Coleman’s offense level to 32 and his criminal history category to VI. The district court subtracted three offense levels for acceptance of responsibility. With an offense level of 29 and a criminal history category of VI, Coleman’s Guidelines range was 151 to 188 months imprisonment. The district court sentenced Coleman to 170 months imprisonment. Coleman argues that the district court erred by treating Coleman’s state misdemeanor conviction that was punishable by imprisonment for less than two years as a qualifying felony under the career offender Sentencing Guidelines.

Acknowledging that the district court correctly applied the definition of “prior felonyconviction” contained in section 4B1.2 of the Sentencing Guidelines, Coleman contends the Sentencing Commission exceeded
its statutory mandate in section 4B1.2 by not using the definition for qualifying “violent felony” convictions from the Armed
Career Criminal Act (ACCA), 18 U.S.C. § 924(e)(2)(B).

According to Coleman, if the Sentencing Commission had given “prior
felony conviction” the definition of “violent felony” from the ACCA, his misdemeanor conviction is not a qualifying felony because “violent felony” only includes state misdemeanor convictions punishable by imprisonment for more than two years. We review the district court’s application of the Sentencing Guidelines de novo. United States v. Daniels, 625 F.3d
529, 534 (8th Cir. 2010).

We conclude that the Sentencing Commission acted well within its statutory
authority in defining “prior felony conviction” for purposes of the career offender Guidelines differently than “violent felony” under the ACCA. Congress directed the Sentencing Commission to set higher Guidelines ranges for certain felony recidivists, 28 U.S.C. § 994(h), but did not specify how the Commission should define “felony.”

Accordingly, the Commission was free to define “prior felony conviction” for purposes of the career offender Guidelines as an “adult federal or state conviction for an offense punishable by death or imprisonment for a term exceeding one year.”United States Sentencing Commission, Guidelines Manual, §4B1.2, comment. (n.1). Although Coleman is right that the definitions of certain terms in section 4B1.2 andthe Armed Career Criminal Act are used interchangeably, United States v. Craig, 630 F.3d 717, 723 (8th Cir. 2011), there is no basis for concluding that the statutory definitions from the ACCA somehow limit the Sentencing Commission’s statutory authority under section 994(h), United States v. Ross, 613 F.3d 805, 809-10 (8th Cir.
2010) (recognizing distinctions between the definitions in §4B1.1 and §924(e)).

Thus, because the district court correctly applied the definition of a prior felony conviction from section 4B1.2, it properly determined that Coleman should be sentenced as a career offender. Coleman also argues that no presumption of reasonableness applies to a sentence imposed under the career offender Guidelines and that his sentence was substantively unreasonable. Coleman reasons that without the presumption, the district court abused its discretion in not varying downward based on his minor
convictions and the lack of empirical evidence supporting an enhanced sentence for career offenders. We review the substantive reasonableness of a sentence under a “deferential abuse-of-discretion standard.” Gall v. United States, 552 U.S. 38, 41 (2007). “Where, as here, the sentence imposed
is within the advisory guideline range,we accord it a presumption of reasonableness.” United States v. Bauer, 626 F.3d1004, 1010 (8th Cir. 2010).

Coleman complains that the applicable Sentencing Guideline, U.S.S.G. §4B1.1, should not be accorded a presumption of reasonableness because it is the product of congressional direction in the Sentencing Reform Act, 28 U.S.C. § 994(h), not the Sentencing Commission’s application of empirical data and national experience. We apply a presumption of reasonableness to a within-Guidelines-range sentence because it “recognizes the real-world circumstance that when the judge’s discretionary decision accords with the Commission’s view of the appropriate application of § 3553(a) in the mine run of cases, it is probable that the sentence is reasonable.” Rita v. United States, 551 U.S. 338, 350-51 (2007). We have extended this logic to Guideline sections that are “the product of congressional direction rather than the empirical approach described by Rita” because “where a sentencing judge agrees with Congress, then the resulting sentence is also probably within the range of reasonableness.” United States v. Kiderlen, 569 F.3d 58, 369 (8th Cir. 2009)(discussing U.S.S.G. §2G2.2).

Although the presumption of reasonableness applies, even without it we easily conclude that the district court selected a reasonable sentence. In selecting Coleman’s sentence, the district court explained that it had considered all of the factors in section 3553(a), cited Coleman’s complete lack of gainful employment, and took note of Coleman’s cooperation upon arrest. The district court disagreed with Coleman’s description of his criminal history as minor and instead characterized it as extensive and justifying the career offender enhancement. The district court found that a substantial sentence was necessary to afford adequate deterrence, to protect the public, to avoid unwarranted sentencing disparities, and to further the congressional intent of severely sentencing career offenders. It concluded, “[T]he Guideline sentencing system adequately addresses the circumstances of this defendant and the sentencing range is reasonable.” The district court permissibly exercised its discretion to select a sentence in the middle of the advisory Guidelines range.

Finally, Coleman’s argument that the career offender Guidelines are unsupported by empirical evidence is not an issue of substantive reasonableness and not properly made to this court.United States v. Talamantes , 620 F.3d 901, 902 (8thCir. 2010). To the extent the district court could have varied from the career offender Guidelines based on a policy disagreement, Spears v. United States, 129 S. Ct. 840, 843-44 (2009), it was not required to do so, Talamantes, 620 F.3d at 902.

Accordingly, we affirm the judgment of the district court.

And, The Duck Wins

Here is one for our hunters and farmers to be aware of. If you have property that has federal wetlands, or easements to federal wetlands, it is best to contact your local Department of Natural Resources, the Federal Wetland Agency and your attorney before taking any actions. As the Case of United States v. Alvin Peterson shows, interfering with an easement leading to a federal wetland, such as a pond, stream or other access, will lead to a federal offense and possible prison sentence, or federal probation.

To read more about this case see below for a summary and the complete decision by the Federal Court. If you have any questions as to how I might help you, please call me at 651-200-3484 or see my video on my website.

United States v. Alvin Peterson
App. from Dist. N.D.

Fact Summary:

Defendant Alvin Peterson was charged with two misdemeanor violations for draining wetlands on property encumbered by a federal wetland easement. A Federal Judge found Peterson guilty of both violations and sentenced him to 5 yrs.
probation, a fine and restitution.

Defendant Alvin Peterson appealed to the 8th Circuit Federal District Court challenging sufficiency of evidence.


(1) Sufficiency of Evidence

a. Defendant Alvin Peterson asserted there was no evidence that the drained wetlands existed at the time of the easement, that the wetlands he drained were
covered by the easement, or that he had knowledge of the easement’s scope.

b. The 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals Analyzed:

1. The evidentiary photographs showed the wetland existed at the time of the

2. The wetlands were covered by the easement.

3. All that is required under the law is that Defendant Alvin Peterson knew there was a federal easement on that land.

Below is the complete opinion

United States Court of Appeals
No. 10-1577
United States of America,
* Appeal from the United States
v. * District Court for the
* District of North Dakota.
Alvin Peterson, *
Appellant. *
Submitted: October 21, 2010
Filed: January 27, 2011
Before RILEY, Chief Judge, MELLOY and GRUENDER, Circuit Judges.
GRUENDER, Circuit Judge.
Alvin Peterson (“Peterson”) was charged with two Class B misdemeanor
violations for draining wetlands on property encumbered by a federal wetlands easement, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(c), (f)(2). The first violation—number W0900741—alleges Peterson drained wetlands 3, 5, and 8, subject to Walsh County Easement 124X-1-3, on the west 1/2 of
Section 15, Township 156N, Range 59W (“Section 15”). The second violation—number W0900742—alleges Peterson drained wetland 2, subject to Walsh County Easement 56X-2, on the north 1/2, southeast 1/4
of Section 16, Township 156N, Range 59W (“Section 16”). A magistrate
Appellate Case: 10-1577 Page: 1 Date Filed: 01/27/2011 Entry ID: 3749237
The Honorable Alice R. Senechal, United States Magistrate Judge for the
District of North Dakota.
The Honorable Ralph R. Erickson, Chief Judge, United States District Court
for the District of North Dakota.
The judge found Peterson guilty of both violations, United States v. Peterson, 2008 WL4922413 (D.N.D. Nov. 12, 2008), and sentenced him to 5 years’ probation and imposed a $10,000 fine and $1,500 in restitution. Peterson appealed to the district court, see Fed. R. Crim. P. 58(g)(2)(D), and the district court affirmed, United States v. Peterson, No. 2:08-mj-16, (D.N.D. Mar. 1, 2010).

On appeal to this court, Peterson challenges the sufficiency of the evidence solely for his conviction on violation number W0900741, the charge involving wetlands on Section 15. Because substantial
evidence supports Peterson’s conviction, we affirm.

In 1966, Peterson’s parents, Joe Peterson (“Joe”) and Emma Peterson
(“Emma”), conveyed a wetlands easement (“1966 easement”) to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (“FWS”) in exchange for $4,700.
As with many such easements negotiated by FWS before 1976, FWS utilized a standard wetland conveyance document that included the entire tract of land in its legal description. In this case, the 1966 easement purported to grant wetlands protection to FWS for the west 1/2 of Section 15 and for portions of six other sections of land. Although the 1966 easement refers to an attached map certified by the FWS Regional Director, no such map was ever located, if it did exist. However, included with the 1966 easement is an administrative easement summary that delineates the total “tract acreage” (1510.49 acres) and the “wetlands acreage” (314 acres) covered by the easement.

Notably, the easement summary did not delineate how the wetlands acreage was distributed among each of the seven sections.

Appellate Case: 10-1577 Page: 2 Date Filed: 01/27/2011 Entry ID: 3749237
The applicable statute provides that “[n]o person shall disturb, injure, cut,
burn, remove, destroy, or possess any real or personal property of the United States, including natural growth, in any area of the [National Wildlife Refuge] System.” 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(c).

Joe leased the farmland on the west 1/2 of Section 15 to Peterson beginning in 1954. In 1973, after a series of disagreements with Peterson regarding the easement’s coverage, FWS purported to “renegotiate” the 1966 easement with Peterson by having him execute, “for Joseph C. Peterson,” a hand-drawn map of Section 15 that delineated the wetlands on the section covered by the easement (“1973 map”).
Although Joe and Emma remained the owners of the land at the time, they did not sign the 1973 map, and they were not involved in its negotiation. Peterson inherited the west 1/2 of Section 15 in 1975. In 1999, and again in 2003, Peterson constructed ditches to drain water from
certain wetlands on Section 15.

As a result, Peterson was convicted of draining protected wetlands, in violation of 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(c), (f)(2). He was fined, sentenced to probation, and ordered to comply with a wetlands restoration program.
Peterson appealed to this court, and we affirmed.

See United States v. Peterson, 178 Fed. App’x 615, 616 (8th Cir. 2006) (unpublished per curiam) (“Peterson I”).

After the court-ordered restoration was completed in the fall of 2006, Peterson hired a contractor to remove the man-made earthen “plugs” installed during the restoration of wetlands 3, 5, and 8 on Section 15, resulting in more than an 87 percent reduction in water level. FWS issued a
violation notice, and the magistrate judge again convicted Peterson of violating of 16 U.S.C. § 668dd(c), (f)(2), for draining wetlands on property encumbered by a federal wetlands easement. The district court affirmed, and this appeal followed.

Appellate Case: 10-1577 Page: 3 Date Filed: 01/27/2011 Entry ID: 3749237


On appeal, Peterson claims the Government’s evidence was insufficient to prove that the drained wetlands on Section 15 existed at the time of the 1966
easement’s conveyance, that the drained wetlands are covered by the 1966 easement, and that Peterson had the requisite knowledge. He also argues that his actions amounted to a permissible clearing of natural waterways that had become overgrown and silted.

“In passing upon the sufficiency of the evidence to sustain an ultimate finding of guilt following a bench trial, we apply the same standard of review that is applied where a defendant has been found guilty by a jury; that is to say, the finding must be sustained if it is supported by substantial evidence.”
United States v. Erhart, 415 F.3d 965, 969 (8th Cir. 2005) (quoting United States v. Barletta, 565 F.2d 985, 991 (8thCir. 1977)). “On review, we will consider the evidence in the light most favorable to the guilty verdict.” Id.
To convict Peterson of the violation, “the United States must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that identifiable, covered wetlands (as existing at the time of the easement’s conveyance and described in the Easement Summary) were damaged and that the defendant knew that the parcel was subject to a federal easement.” United States v. Johansen, 93 F.3d 459, 467 (8th Cir. 1996) (emphasis and parenthesis in the original) (citing United States v. Vesterso, 828 F.2d 1234, 1244 (8th Cir. 1987)).

First, Peterson argues that the Government failed to show that the drained
wetlands existed at the time of the easement’s conveyance in 1966. We disagree. The Government introduced an aerial photograph of Section 15 taken in 1962, four years before the easement was conveyed. FWS wildlife biologist Mike Estey testified that the wetlands depicted in the 1962 aerial
photograph were of the same approximate size, shape, and location as the drained wetlands. Moreover, the wetlands depicted in the 1962 aerial photograph align closely with the wetlands depicted in the 1973 map.
After reviewing the record, we conclude that the photographic evidence, maps, and We look only to the 1966 easement and easement summary, and not to the 1973 map, to determine whether the drained wetlands were overed by the 1966 easement. Although the Government occasionally refers to the 1973 map as a “renegotiation” of the 1966 easement, it conceded that the 1973 map did not change the terms and scope the 1966 easement: “[
i]t . . . does not make any difference whether [Alvin] Peterson did or did not have the authority to sign the 1973renegotiated map. The easement was recorded in 1966 and the legal rights of the United States stem from the 1966 easement.” To be sure, the 1973 map is evidence that Peterson knew that his property was encumbered by an easement, but this does not influence our inquiry into whether the drained wetlands actually were covered by the 1966 easement.
Expert testimony taken together amount to substantial evidence that the drained wetlands on Section 15 existed at the time of the easement’s conveyance in 1966. Second, Peterson argues that the Government has failed to show that the specific wetlands he drained on Section 15 were covered by the 1966 easement. He asserts that the 1966 easement, which extends over the west 1/2 of Section 15 and six other sections of land, is “not specific
enough to provide adequate notice and a legal encumbrance on Alvin Peterson’s use of his land” because it lacks a contemporaneously-filed map or a section-by-section delineation of covered wetlands acreage. In the absence of a map or a section-by-section delineation of wetlands acreage, Peterson argues that the Government cannot prove which wetlands were
included in the 314-acre total and which wetlands may not have been covered by the easement. The Government argues that “[t]he [drained] wetlands were ‘now existing’in 1966, and therefore covered by the terms of the easement.”
The Government does “not need to legally describe the confines of each
covered wetland under the pre-1976 easements.” Johansen, 93 F.3dat 467. However,because “federal wetland easements are limited to the acreage provided in the Easement Summaries,” id. at 466, it is insufficient to show only that the drained wetlands were in existence at the time of the conveyance of the easement. Without the aid of a map filed with the asement
or some other method of identifying the -6- specific wetlands covered by the easement, however, the Government still can prevail by proving that the easement encumbers all wetlands on the tract that were in existence at the time of the conveyance. Implicit within Peterson’s argument, however, is the assertion that some wetlands acreage on the seven sections—including Section 15— was not covered by the 1966 easement. In contrast, the Government argues that the 1966 easement encumbers all wetlands existing in 1966 on the seven sections, including Section 15. The text of the 1966 easement supports the Government’s argument. The easement prohibits “draining or permitting the draining, through the transfer of appurtenant water rights or otherwise, of any surface water including lakes, ponds, marshes, sloughs, swales, swamps, or potholes, now existing or reoccurring
due to natural causes on the above-described tract” (emphasis added). When the 1966 easement is read together with the easement summary, it is clear that the 1966 easement covers all wetlands then existing on the seven sections—including Section 15—and that those wetlands total 314 acres, as described in the easement summary. The 1966 easement included an additional clause that could potentially exclude some wetlands: “Excepted are certain drainage ditches which the parties of the first part [Joe and Emma] may maintain and/or wetlands which are deleted from the provisions of this easement. The above exceptions are shown on a map certified by
the Regional Director at the time of acceptance.”

The magistrate judge, however, noted that no such map was submitted in evidence and found that the record lacked any evidence to indicate that this clause served to exclude any wetlands in existence in 1966. Peterson, 2008 WL 4922413, at 2. Moreover, before the magistrate judge, Peterson’s counsel characterized this provision as pertaining only to ditches, not wetlands: “it essentially says that if there are ditches or drainages that are maintained prior to 1966 they can continue being maintained.” Likewise,
Peterson does not argue in his briefs on appeal that this clause removed certain wetlands from the scope of the easement; his briefs mention this clause only within a discussion of Peterson’s -7- knowledge of the easement’s scope. Therefore, Peterson has “waived his argument . . . because the issue was not developed in his briefs as required.” Rotskoff
v. Cooley, 438 F.3d 852, 854 (8th Cir. 2006). Even if we were to overlook this waiver, we find no evidence in the record that refutes the magistrate judge’s conclusions that this clause did not exclude any wetlands from the 1966 easement and that all wetlands on the seven sections in existence in 1966 were encumbered by the 1966 easement. Therefore, because the rained wetlands were in existence at the time of the conveyance, and because the 1966 easement covers all wetlands that were in existence at the time of the conveyance, substantial evidence supports the district court’s conclusion that the wetlands Peterson drained on Section 15 were covered by the easement—despite the easement’s failure to include a contemporaneously-filed map or provide a section-by-section breakdown of the wetlands acreage. Third, Peterson argues that the Government failed to show that he knew the scope of the 1966 easement. Peterson overs states the degree of
knowledge required by our precedent: the Government need only prove that Peterson “knew that the parcel was subject to a federal easement.” Johansen
, 93 F.3d at 467. The 1973 map, signed by Peterson, clearly establishes that Peterson knew that Section 15 was subject to a federal easement. Even if
we were to look past the 1973 map, Peterson’s previous conviction nvolving the drainage of the very wetlands at issue in this prosecution provided sufficient notice that the parcel was subject to a federal easement. See
Peterson I, 178 Fed. App’x at 616. Accordingly, substantial evidence supports the conclusion that Peterson knew that Section 15 was subject to a federal easement. Finally, Peterson argues that his actions amounted only to a permissible clearing of natural waterways that had become overgrown and filled with silt. We disagree, as the record evidence demonstrates that Peterson’s work exceeded this description.

The contractor hired by Peterson did not merely clean out ditches or natural-8- waterways. At Peterson’s direction, the contractor removed the man-made earthen plugs—installed as restorative measures required by his previous conviction—and breached the basins of wetlands 3, 5, and 8, resulting in at least an 87 percent reduction in water level. Accordingly, Peterson’s argument is without merit.


For the foregoing reasons, we affirm Peterson’s conviction.

Is This How Ma Barker Got Started?

People are often amazed to find out what they did in the past that may not be considered illegal, or even minor and unrelated to a current charge, can be used as evidence in a current trial by the prosecution. One such scenario is Federal Rule of Evidence 404. This Rule deals with character and acts of an accused. The general rule is that a person’s character or a trait of his character can’t be used at the instant trial to prove that because he acted that way in the past, he must have acted that in the current accusations. Of course, as with everything else, there are exceptions. To see how exceptions were applied in one case where a son taught mom how to shoot a machine gun read the case below

One exception is if the accused offers up a particular trait. Once the accused brings his character into play, then evidence showing this claim not to be true, may be heard by the jury.

Another exception includes matters that include not only previous crimes, but also non criminal acts that are considered wrongs or bad acts. In this instance, again, this information may not be used to prove the character of the person in order to show action in conformity therewith. However, it may be admissible for other purposes, such as proof of motive, intent, preparation, plan, knowledge, identity, or absence of mistake.

Such scenarios are outlined in the case below. In this case, the Defendant chose to video tape himself showing mom how to shoot a machine gun. While this act in itself may not have been a crime, the Court said the video could show the jury the Defendant’s motive to possess, intent to posses, his plan to possess, his knowledge to possess, his lack of mistake in knowing what was possessed and his identity toward the possession of the machine gun.

The Defendant chose to take the stand and raised his character as a proud military person protecting his country as character for the jury to consider before passing judgment of guilty or not guilty. Once this door was opened, the government prosecutor was then able to bring up the Defendant’s dishonorable Discharge. This is an example as to why a Defendant should think long and hard before ever waiving their 5th Amendment Rights to Remain Silent and choose to testify at their trial.

United States v. Guy Allen Op.
App. from E.D. Mo.

Fact Summary: A Federal Jury convicted Defendant Allen of one count of possession of illegal machine guns. The Federal District Court in Missouri sentenced defendant Allen to 24 months in Federal Prison.

Defendant Allen Appealed and argues that the Federal District Court erred with its evidentiary ruling at trial by allowing the federal government to show a video of him teaching his mother to fire a machine gun and also to cross-examine him about his military service and discharge.


(1) Video Footage

A. The 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals Ruled:

1. The Government offered the video under Federal Rule of Evidence 404(b).

2. This court characterizes 404(b) as a rule of inclusion rather than exclusion and will reverse the trial court only when such evidence clearly has no bearing on the issues in the case and was introduced solely to prove defendant’s propensity to commit criminal acts.

3. Evidence is admissible under 404(b) if its:

a. Relevant to a material issue;

b. Similar in kind and not overly remote in time to the crime charged;

c. supported by sufficient evidence;

d. higher in probative value than its prejudicial effect;

4. In this case the video was admissible to show motive, intent, knowledge
or other permissible purposes.

a. Doesn’t matter if the prior act was a crime or not.

(2) Military Service including arrests, charges, subsequent discharge.

a. The 8th Circuit Federal Court of Appeals noted that evidence of character is admissible in criminal cases where the defendant introduces evidence aimed at portraying his own character in a positive light and the prosecution is only
rebutting the inference drawn from such statements.
1. Allen opened the door to being cross examined on his military failings on direct examination by saying he was proud of his military service.

With roomates like this who needs friends

Many times a jury has to determine the credibility of witnesses. This can happen for both lay witnesses and for expert witnesses. See below for for a case that discusses credibility of an expert witness and what federal rule of evidence applies to this evaluation. The Court also discusses what factors are considered for determining constructive possession. If you have any questions, please give me a call at 651-200-3484.

In the case, a roommate thought somebody had burglarized the residence. The roommate then called law enforcement to have them search the house. While searching the house the officers found drugs in the defendant’s room. The defendant was then charged with possession with intent to distribute over 5 grams crack cocaine. The 5 grams was significant because that increased the Defendant’s prison sentence significantly.

At trial, the expert testified that errors in the weighing of the drugs could have resulted in an amount less than 5 grams. In fact, when weighed, the actual amount was under 5 grams. Read the case on my blog to see how the jury was still able to convict the Defendant of over 5 grams.

United States v. Alfred Finch
App. from D. of Neb.

Fact Summary: Officers responded to a possible burglary. The resident, named
Steele, arrived home to find a window pried open and a door “slightly
ajar.” The resident asked officers to check the building for intruders. In one bedroom the officers noticed a plastic bag inside a laundry basket. Inside the bag were 105 small green plastic bags containing crack. There was also a digital scale, .22 caliber bullets and mail addressed to Defendant Alfred Finch. Defendant Finch was Steele’s roommate at the residence. Steele, slept in the bedroom across the hallway from Defendant.

Defendant Finch was indicted by a Grand Jury with Possession With Intent To Distribute more than 5 grams of crack cocaine. Defendant Alfred Finch
went to trial. At trial Finch was convicted of the offense. At trial, Defendant Finch focused his Defense on who really possessed the crack cocaine and also challenged the expert witness who testified as to the weight of the crack cocaine.

The Federal District Court in Nebraska sentenced Defendant Finch to 78 month in Federal Prison.

Issues: Defendant Alfred Finch Appealed his case on the following issues:

(1) On the Sufficiency of Evidence as to possession of the Crack Cocaine.

a. The Federal Court of Appeals 8th Circuits notes that:

1. Possession With Intend to Distribute has 2 elements: (a) possession and (b) intent to distribute.

2. The Possession can be proven as actual possession or constructive possession.

a. Constructive possession occurs when person has dominion over the premises in which the contraband is concealed.

3. There was sufficient evidence that Finch exercised
dominion over the bedroom.

a. Steele testified that he rented house and let Defendant Finch move into the bedroom where the drugs were found.

b. The owner of the house testified that he saw Defendant Finch in that bedroom before.

c. There was mail in the room addressed to Finch.

d. Another person testified that he had purchased
drugs from Finch in that room.

4. Intent can be based on circumstantial evidence such as
drug quantity, packaging, cash, and other relevant evidence.

a. Here there were 105 bags, bullets, a digital
scale and a witness who stated Finch sold to them from the bedroom.

(2) Admissibility of Expert Testimony

a. The Expert used at trial by the government weighed each bag individually and then determined that there was 6.68 grams of crack cocaine. This put the Defendant over the limit of 5 grams for sentencing purposes. This had an effect on the amount of prison time the sentencing guidelines called for.

1. The expert testified that the margin of error on weighing each bag was .03 grams.

2. Finch argued that if the scale was .03 high every time, there could be as little as 3.53 grams because there were 105 bags weighed.

b. At the prosecutor’s request, before trial, the expert emptied each
bag and reweighed it as a whole, the total weight was determined to be 4.28 grams.

1. At trial the Prosecutor attempted to elicit testimony from the expert that testing could have consumed enough drugs in her testing to decrease the amount from over 5 grams to 4.28 grams.

2. Defendant Finch moved to exclude this testimony arguing it was
mere speculation.

a. The Defendant argued to the Federal Court of Appeals that any claim that the expert consumed .76 grams in testing is mere conjecture.

b. The district court allowed this testimony to be heard and considered by the jury.

3. The 8th Circuit Court of Appeals Ruled:

a. The applicable Rule for consideration on the expert is FRE 702.

b. As a general rule, the factual basis of an expert opinion
goes to the credibility of the testimony, not the admissibility. This credibility is for a Jury to decide.

c. The Court determined that that Jury could properly evaluate the credibility of whether amounts were consumed in testing. Therefore the Verdict stands.