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Thursday, March 08, 2012

Ind. Decisions - 7th Circuit decides one Indiana case today

In U.S. v. Spears (ND Ind., Simon), a 20-page opinion, Circuit Judge Williams writes:

On August 1, 2008, a magistrate judge issued a search warrant for the home of Marlon K. Spears, which law enforcement officers executed five days later. Spears was arrested and charged with possessing 100 or more marijuana plants with intent to distribute, being a felon in possession of a firearm, and maintaining a place for the manufacture and distribution of marijuana. He filed multiple motions to suppress the evidence obtained from the search, challenging numerous statements made in the affidavit accompanying the warrant application, including: (1) statements about finding a marijuana stem during a “trash pull”; (2) the existence of PVC piping at Spears’s home; (3) the affiant’s statements that she “received information from” the Northern Indiana Public Service Company (“NIPSCO”) about Spears’s power usage; and (4) statements made about Spears’s criminal history, namely, that he had one in the state of Indiana. The district court eventually conducted a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978). After hearing testimony, the district court found that the warrant did not contain any material false statements that were made intentionally, and denied the motion. The court also found that the warrant did not otherwise lack probable cause.

Spears was convicted of all three counts following a jury trial. He now appeals, arguing that the district court erred in denying his Franks motion to suppress evidence. We find that the district court did not clearly err in finding no Franks violation with respect to the statements made about the marijuana stem discovered in the trash and the existence of piping at Spears’s home. We decline to reach Spears’s arguments regarding the inclusion of the electricity usage information and his criminal history because we find that even if those portions are stricken, the remaining elements of the affidavit support a finding of probable cause. We therefore affirm Spears’s conviction.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on March 8, 2012 12:00 PM
Posted to Ind. (7th Cir.) Decisions