United States District Court, W.D. Kentucky, Bowling Green Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
N. Stivers, United States District Court Chief Judge
matter is before the Court on Objection of Defendant Billy
Ray Mitchell (“Mitchell”) (DN 52) to the
Magistrate Judge's Findings of Fact, Conclusions of Law,
and Recommendation (“R&R”) (DN 51). For the
following reasons, the Objection is OVERRULED, and the Court
ADOPTS the R&R in full.
SUMMARY OF FACTS AND CLAIMS
case arises from a controlled drug buy conducted by the
Bowling Green-Warren County Drug Task Force. (R. & R. 2,
DN 51). The suspect involved in that event identified
Mitchell as his supplier. (R. & R. 2). Officers
subsequently discovered that Mitchell had a felony record and
obtained a search warrant for his home from the Warren
Circuit Court. (R. & R. 2).
officers found the home empty, they forced entry. (R. &
R. 2). Upon entering, they smelled marijuana and then saw a
handgun in plain view in the bedroom. (R. & R. 2). An
officer outside the home had a conversation with
Defendant's neighbor. (R. & R. 2). During the
conversation, a car drove by, which the neighbor identified
as belonging to Defendant. (R. & R. 2-3). A police
officer, Officer Patrick Donoghue (“Officer
Donoghue”), was following Defendant when the officers
searching the house located the gun. (R. & R. 3). At that
point, Officer Donoghue received instructions to conduct a
felony stop. (R. & R. 3). Before he could effectuate the
stop, Defendant turned into a Walmart parking lot, exited his
vehicle, and began approaching the store. (R. & R. 3).
Officer Donoghue drew his gun, ordered Defendant to lie down,
and handcuffed him. (R. & R. 3).
other officers, Detective Clifton Phelps (“Detective
Phelps”) and Officer Ryan Dillon, arrived on the scene,
where they approached Mitchell's vehicle and smelled
marijuana. (R. & R. 3). The officers searched the
vehicles and discovered cocaine and methamphetamine as well
as marijuana on Defendant's person. (R. & R. 3).
Mitchell was in custody in Officer Donoghue's cruiser.
(R. & R. 3). Detective Phelps asked Mitchell for the
combination to a safe located in Mitchell's home. (R.
& R. 3). Mitchell provided the information, but Officer
Phelps realized Mitchell had not yet been read his Miranda
rights. (R. & R. 3). Officer Phelps then read Defendant
his Miranda rights. The officers then went to Mitchell's
home, used the combination to open the safe, and found large
amounts of cocaine and crystal methamphetamine. (R. & R.
3-4). Additionally, the officers discovered two sawed off
shotguns in a hall closet. (R. & R. 3).
was subsequently indicted on charges related to the
possession of drugs with intent to distribute as well as
being a felon in possession of a firearm. (Indictment, DN
11). Mitchell moved to suppress certain statements made
during his arrest and evidence gathered during a search of
his home and vehicle. (Def.'s Mot. Suppress, DN 34;
Def.'s Mot. Suppress, DN 35). The suppression motion was
referred to Judge Brennenstuhl to conduct an evidentiary
hearing, if necessary, and for issuance of a report and
recommendation of disposition pursuant to 28 U.S.C.
§§ 636(b)(1)(A) and (B). Judge Brennenstuhl
conducted an evidentiary hearing and issued a report and
recommendation. (R. & R., DN 51). Defendant timely filed
an objection. (Def.'s Obj. R. & R., DN 52).
Brennenstuhl recommended that the Court grant in part and
deny in part Defendant's motions to suppress. (R. &
R. 10). More specifically, Judge Brennenstuhl concluded that
Defendant's statement containing the combination to his
safe should be suppressed because Defendant uttered the
statement prior to advisement of his Miranda rights. (R.
& R. 9). Judge Brennenstuhl further concluded, however,
that because the fruit of the poisonous tree doctrine has not
been extended to nontestimonial evidence discovered in
violation of Miranda, the contents of the safe are not
subject to suppression. (R. & R. 9-10). Moreover, Judge
Brennenstuhl notes that even if the drugs were subject to
exclusion on Miranda grounds, the inevitable discovery
doctrine bars suppression because the officers conducted a
valid search of the home, and it would have been within their
authority to force entry into the safe even without the
combination. (R. & R. 10).
STANDARD OF REVIEW
ruling on an objection to a magistrate judge's report and
recommendation of disposition on a Defendant's motion to
suppress evidence, the Court conducts a de novo review. 28
U.S.C. §§ 636(b)(1)(A), (B); United States v.
Curtis, 237 F.3d 598, 602 (6th Cir. 2004).
Defendant objects on two grounds: (1) the Magistrate Judge
erred in finding that the inevitable discovery doctrine
applied where no informant mentioned the presence of drugs in
a safe; and (2) the Magistrate Judge erred in concluding that
the safe combination was not testimonial in nature.
(Def.'s Obj. R. & R. 2). Neither argument is
evidence that was unlawfully obtained may be admissible
against a defendant if the evidence would have inevitably
been discovered through lawful means. Nix v.
Williams,467 U.S. 431, 447-48 (1984). Police may force
entry into a safe when searching a home for drugs. United
States v. Church,823 F.3d 351, 357 (6th Cir. 2016).
Mitchell's argument here that officers who were executing
an otherwise valid search warrant for evidence of drugs and
firearms would overlook a locked safe-particularly where the
officers had detained Defendant and located drugs on his
person and a firearm in the home-is patently unreasonable.
The officers in this ...