United States District Court, N.D. Alabama, Northeastern Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
MADELINE HUGHES HAIKALA UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.
Barry Lee Williams is charged in the indictment in this case
with possession with intent to distribute methamphetamine in
violation of 21 U.S.C. Â§ 841(a)(1) and (b)(1)(A). (Doc. 1).
Pursuant to the Fourth Amendment, Mr. Williams has asked the
Court to suppress evidence that law enforcement officers
found when they searched an area that was beyond the property
line of his house. As stated during the suppression hearing,
the Court denies that aspect of Mr. Williams's motion to
suppress because Mr. Williams did not have a reasonable
expectation of privacy in the area that officers searched.
(Doc. 68, p. 35).
addition, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment, Mr. Williams asks
the Court to suppress inculpatory statements that he made
during a custodial interrogation. (Docs. 47, 67). Mr.
Williams contends that he invoked his Fifth Amendment right
to remain silent, and after doing so, law enforcement
officers used a cooperating witness to persuade him to tell
officers where he had hidden a substantial amount of meth.
(Doc. 47, pp. 3, 6; Doc. 67, pp. 2-3; Doc. 68, p. 29). Mr.
Williams asserts that the coercive tactics officers used to
elicit his inculpatory statements violate his rights under
the Fifth Amendment. (Doc. 67, p. 2). This opinion addresses
Mr. Williams's suppression arguments concerning his
rights under the Fifth Amendment.
February 3, 2018, the Morgan County Sheriff's Office and
other law enforcement agencies served a search warrant on Mr.
Williams at his residence at 850 Pleasantview Road in Morgan
County, Alabama. (Doc. 68, p. 3). At least 10 officers
participated in the investigation at Mr. Williams's
house. (Doc. 68, p. 12). The officers used a battering ram to
enter the house. (Doc. 68, p. 12). When law enforcement
officers found Mr. Williams, they placed him in handcuffs and
advised him of his Miranda rights. (Doc. 68, pp.
4-6, 14-15). Mr. Williams agreed to talk to the
officers. He told the officers where they could find
methamphetamine in his house. Officers searched Mr.
Williams's house and found methamphetamine and other
items associated with the distribution of illegal drugs.
(Doc. 68, pp. 5-6). The officers then moved Mr. Williams to
the front porch so that they could search his yard. (Doc. 68,
pp. 6, 14). They were looking for a large quantity of
methamphetamine, based on a tip from one of Mr.
in the day, law enforcement officers had arrested Mr.
Williams's associate - Froggy - on outstanding warrants.
Froggy's full name is Melvin Rolin. From the time of his
arrest, Froggy cooperated with the officers. He took officers
to Mr. Williams's house, and he called the courier who
delivered the shipment of methamphetamine to Mr.
Williams's house to confirm the delivery. (Doc. 68, pp.
7, 23, 26). Based on the information they received from
Froggy, the officers at Mr. Williams's house were
convinced that a large quantity of meth was hidden on Mr.
Williams's property, but they could not locate it, even
with the help of a K-9 officer. (Doc. 68, pp. 10, 20).
Dockery, the case agent, decided to approach Mr. Williams and
let him know that Froggy was in police custody. (Doc. 68, pp.
15, 20). Sergeant Dockery had not spoken to Mr. Williams
since officers moved him to the front porch, and there is no
evidence that Mr. Williams spoke to other officers while he
waited on the porch. The record does not indicate how long
officers had been searching Mr. Williams's yard before
Sergeant Dockery decided to approach Mr. Williams. When
Sergeant Dockery told Mr. Williams that the police had Froggy
in custody, Sergeant Dockery got the impression that Mr.
Williams did not believe him. (Doc. 68, pp. 7, 21).
were holding Froggy in a patrol car at a staging area near
Mr. Williams's house. (Doc. 68, p. 21). Sergeant Dockery
left Mr. Williams's house and drove to the staging area
to speak to Froggy. He told Froggy that he had not been able
to find the meth that Mr. Williams supposedly had hidden.
Froggy agreed to speak to Mr. Williams. (Doc. 68, pp. 21-22,
27). Officers brought Froggy to Mr. Williams's house and
gave Mr. Williams and Froggy (both of whom were handcuffed) a
few minutes to talk. (Doc. 68, pp. 22-23, 27). Sergeant
Dockery stood nearby as Froggy and Mr. Williams spoke and
overheard some of their conversation. (Doc. 68, pp. 7,
Mr. Williams asked Sergeant Dockery about the charges that he
likely was facing. Sergeant Dockery explained that he (Mr.
Williams) likely would be charged with conspiracy to traffic
methamphetamine. Mr. Williams then led officers to a brush
pile beyond the end of his property where he had hidden
methamphetamine pills. (Doc. 68, pp. 7-9, 25).
individual in police custody asserts his right to remain
silent or to have the assistance of counsel, police must
“scrupulously honor” the individual's
choice and stop their interrogation. Michigan v.
Mosley, 423 U.S. 96, 103 (1975) (quoting Miranda v.
Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 479 (1966)). Mr. Williams
contends that by remaining silent while officers searched his
yard, he invoked his right to remain silent. The Supreme
Court rejected this argument in Berghuis v.
Thompkins, 560 U.S. 370 (2010).
Berghuis, the Supreme Court held that an individual
who wants to invoke his Fifth Amendment right to remain
silent must do so unambiguously; remaining silent for a
period of time is not sufficient. Berghuis, 560 U.S.
at 380-82. The Supreme Court explained:
[Tomkins] first contends that he “invoke[d] his
privilege” to remain silent by not saying anything for
a sufficient period of time, so the interrogation should have
“cease[d]” before he made his inculpatory
statements . . . Thompkins did not say that he wanted to
remain silent or that he did not want to talk with the
police. Had he made either of these simple, unambiguous
statements, he would have invoked his “‘right to
cut off questioning.'” Mosley, supra, at
103, 96 S.Ct. 321 (quoting Miranda, supra, at 474,
86 S.Ct. 1602). Here he did neither, so he did not invoke his
right to remain silent.
560 U.S. at 380-81.
is no discernable difference between Berghuis and
this case. Shortly after officers entered Mr. Williams's
house and placed him in handcuffs, Sergeant Dockery advised
Mr. Williams of his right to remain silent. Mr. Williams
chose to tell officers about the methamphetamine located in
his house; he does not contend otherwise. There is no
evidence that Mr. Williams spoke to officers after the
officers moved him to the front porch so that they could
search his yard, but there also is no evidence that Mr.
Williams indicated to the officers that he did not want ...