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Minks v. Commonwealth

Supreme Court of Kentucky

April 17, 2014

WILLIAM L. MINKS, APPELLANT
v.
COMMONWEALTH OF KENTUCKY, APPELLEE

Released for Publication May 8, 2014.

Page 803

ON APPEAL FROM BRECKINRIDGE CIRCUIT COURT. HONORABLE BRUCE T. BUTLER, JUDGE. NO. 11-CR-00056.

FOR APPELLANT: Shannon Renee Dupree, Assistant Public Advocate.

FOR APPELLEE: John Conway, Attorney General of Kentucky, David Bryan Abner, Assistant Attorney General.

OPINION OF THE COURT BY JUSTICE ABRAMSON. All sitting. All concur.

OPINION

Page 804

ABRAMSON, JUSTICE.

William Minks appeals as a matter of right from a judgment of the Breckinridge Circuit Court sentencing him to a twenty-year prison term for possession of a controlled substance (methamphetamine) in the first degree, possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacturing methamphetamine, and for being a second-degree persistent felony offender. Minks raises two issues on appeal. He asserts as error an issue of first impression in this Court, namely whether he was denied due process of law when the trial judge who signed the

Page 805

search warrant for his residence also presided over his suppression hearing. Second, Minks claims that the search warrant was deficient because the four-corners of the affidavit upon which the warrant issued did not establish probable cause that contraband or evidence of a crime would be found at his residence. Having carefully considered both arguments, we affirm the judgment and sentence of the Breckinridge Circuit Court.

FACTS

In March, 2011, Breckinridge County Deputy Sheriff Chris Woosley traveled to William Minks's trailer to serve an arrest warrant on Minks's brother, John. Minks answered the door, confirmed that John was inside the residence, and asked Deputy Woosley to remain outside. While there, Deputy Woosley noticed the odor of marijuana emanating from inside the trailer. Without waiting further, he entered the residence, finding John seated on the couch. When Deputy Woosley asked where the marijuana was located, John retrieved a plate of marijuana from underneath the couch and stated that it belonged to him. Deputy Woosley arrested John and asked Minks for his consent to search the trailer. Minks refused to consent, and Deputy Woosley returned to the courthouse to prepare an affidavit for a search warrant. Breckinridge Circuit Court Judge Bruce Butler signed the warrant and Deputy Woosley returned to the trailer.

Upon executing the search warrant at Minks's residence, Deputy Woosley discovered a box filled with equipment commonly used in manufacturing methamphetamine. Officers also discovered two bags with a small amount of methamphetamine in a pillow case. Minks was charged with possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia, manufacturing methamphetamine, and being a persistent felony offender in the second-degree. After finding Minks guilty on all charges, the jury recommended a sentence of twenty years, and the trial court sentenced Minks accordingly.

ANALYSIS

I. The Trial Judge Was Not Required to Recuse Himself From Presiding Over the Suppression Hearing.

Following the indictment, Minks filed a motion to suppress the evidence recovered during the search of his residence. That same day, Minks filed a motion to transfer the case to another Breckinridge County circuit judge on the grounds that Judge Butler, who had signed the search warrant and was to preside over the suppression hearing, was potentially a witness at the hearing. After considering the motion, Judge Butler declined to transfer the case. In an order denying the motion, Judge Butler cited Hirning v. Dooley, 2004 SD 52, 679 N.W.2d 771 (S.D. 2004) as supportive of his belief that he was not required to recuse himself from the suppression hearing, despite having signed the search warrant. Judge Butler then conducted the suppression hearing and denied Minks's motion to suppress.

Minks now argues that he was denied due process of law and a fair trial when the same judge who signed the search warrant for his residence presided over the suppression hearing concerning the fruits of that search. He asserts that the Kentucky Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits this practice, as it gives rise to the " appearance of impropriety" on the part of the trial court. The Commonwealth counters that Judge Butler properly refused to recuse himself because there was no ...


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