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United States v. Daniels

May 27, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA
v.
KHALEEF DANIELS



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Padova, J.

MEMORANDUM

Defendant Khaleef Daniels has been charged with one count of conspiring to making false statements to a federal firearms dealer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 371 (Count 1); one count of making false statements to a federal firearms dealer, aiding and abetting, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 924(a)(1)(A) and 2 (Count 2); six counts of making false statements to a federal firearms dealer, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(a)(1)(A) (Counts 3-8); one count of possession with intent to distribute 5 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (Count 9); and one count of possessing a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 924(c) (Count 10).

Presently before the Court is Mr. Daniels's Motion to Suppress four statements that he made during a search of his home. Mr. Daniels argues that the statements were the product of custodial interrogation, obtained in violation of his Miranda rights. The Government argues that the statements were spontaneous utterances and not the product of any interrogation, and therefore are admissible in spite of the absence of Miranda warnings. After a hearing on May 11, 2010, we granted Mr. Daniels's Motion with respect to two of his statements and deferred decision regarding the other two statements. For the following reasons, we now deny the Motion with respect to the two statements on which we deferred decision.

I. BACKGROUND

The following facts were developed at the May 11, 2010 hearing. On October 24, 2006, Philadelphia police detectives James Kopaczewski and Christopher Marano, along with ten to twelve other Philadelphia police officers, executed a search warrant at 2032 South Hemberger Street, in Philadelphia. (5/11/2010 N.T. at 8, 35.) Upon arriving at the row home at that address, the officers knocked on the door, but received no response. (Id. at 8.) They therefore entered the house using a battering ram. (Id. at 16.) Upon crossing the threshold, the officers entered into the row home's living room. (Id. at 9.) There was a couch to the officers' left, and a hospital bed next to the couch. (Id.) Mr. Daniels, who is wheelchair-bound, was asleep on the bed. (Id. at 8-9.) Detective Kopaczewski and two other officers sat Mr. Daniels up on the bed, while "the rest of [the] team swept the house." (Id. at 9.)

Detective Kopaczewski told Mr. Daniels his name and stated that he had a search warrant for his residence for firearms. (Id. at 10, 18.) He then asked Mr. Daniels if there were any firearms in the residence and Mr. Daniels replied that there were not (the "first statement"). (Id. at 10.) Detective Kopaczewski and another officer then lifted Mr. Daniels up, checked to see if he had any weapons on his person, and then placed him in a wheelchair that was sitting right next to the bed. (Id.) Detective Kopaczewski then lifted up the mattress and found a Glock .45 caliber firearm loaded with fourteen rounds, one in the chamber and thirteen in the clip. (Id.) As he began the procedure to render the firearm safe, Mr. Daniels stated, "Watch it, it has a head in it. It's mine. Niggers are after me." (the "second statement"). (Id.) At this point, about two minutes had passed since Detective Kopaczewski asked Mr. Daniels if there were any firearms in the residence. (Id. at 24-25.)

Approximately five minutes later, Detective Marano, having noted that Mr. Daniels was wearing only a t-shirt and an adult diaper, asked Mr. Daniels if he wanted a pair of pants, and Mr. Daniels responded that he did. (Id. at 10, 36.) There were pants hanging partially on the bed and partially on the couch, and Detective Marano picked them up and asked Mr. Daniels, "Are these yours?" (Id. at 10-11, 29, 36-37.) Mr. Daniels replied "yes" (the "third statement"). (Id. at 11.) Detective Marano searched the pants, reaching into the pants pocket, and pulled out a clear plastic baggie which contained 31 smaller plastic baggies. (Id.) He "looked at [Mr. Daniels] as if to say are you kidding," and showed the drugs to Mr. Daniels. (Id. at 37, 40-41.) Detective Marano did not, however, ask Mr. Daniels if the drugs were his. (Id. at 42.) Nevertheless, Mr. Daniels then stated, "I knew you were going to find them anyway." (the "fourth statement"). (Id. at 11, 37-38, 42.)

Mr. Daniels argued in his Motion to Suppress that the Court should suppress all four statements he made during the execution of the search warrant. At the May 11, 2010 hearing, we granted his Motion insofar as it sought suppression of Mr. Daniels's first and third statements, which were in response to the executing officers' two direct questions, i.e., his "no" response to the question of whether there were firearms in his house, and his "yes" response to the question of whether the pair of pants on the bed belonged to him. (See id. at 57; 5/11/10 Order at ¶ 7a.) However, we deferred decision regarding the second and fourth statements, i.e., "Watch it, it has a head in it. It's mine. Niggers are after me," and "I knew you were going to find them anyway." (5/11/10 Order at ¶ 7b.) We asked the parties to submit supplemental briefing on the question of whether these two statements, neither of which were prompted by direct questions, were somehow contaminated by the Miranda violations that preceded them.

II. LEGAL STANDARD

In Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the Supreme Court held that a person who is subject to "custodial interrogation" must "be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement that he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney . . . ." Id. at 444. A statement is the product of police interrogation if it is the result of "questioning initiated by law enforcement officers after a person has been taken into custody or otherwise deprived of his freedom in any significant way." Id. "Interrogation" includes not only "express questioning," but also any "words or actions on the part of the police . . . that the police should know are reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response from a suspect." Rhode Island v. Innis, 446 U.S. 291, 300-01 (1980). An "incriminating response" is "any response -- whether inculpatory or exculpatory -- that the prosecution may seek to introduce at trial." Id. at 302 n.5. Miranda does not "have application to a situation where one, not under stress of interrogation, simply volunteers a statement which perchance turns out to be inculpatory." United States v. Fioravanti, 412 F.2d 407, 413-14 (3d Cir. 1969); Miranda, 384 U.S. at 478 ("Volunteered statements of any kind are not barred by the Fifth Amendment and their admissibility is not affected by our holding today.").

Where a defendant seeks to suppress statements given to law enforcement, "'the government bears the burden of establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that the statement was not the product of custodial interrogation conducted in the absence of Miranda warnings.'" United States v. Barnes, Crim. A. No. 05-134, 2005 WL 1899502, * 2 (E.D. Pa. Aug. 8, 2005) (quoting United States v. DeSumma, 44 F. Supp. 2d 700, 703 (E.D. Pa. 1999)).

III. DISCUSSION

Mr. Daniels argues that the second and fourth statements should be suppressed for two essential reasons. First, he argues that Detectives Kopaczewski and Marano elicited the statements "by virtue of their conduct," without first advising him of his Miranda rights. Def.'s Mem at Second, he argues that the statements were not voluntary, because he made them immediately after, and during the same search in which, he was asked questions that we have already determined constituted custodial interrogation. We disagree that either of these reasons supports suppression of the two remaining statements.

We first conclude, based on the evidence presented at the hearing, that the detectives did not elicit the two statements at issue with either direct questioning or "words or actions" that they should have known were "reasonably likely to elicit an incriminating response." Innis, 446 U.S. at 301. Detective Kopaczewski's credible testimony at the hearing was that the second statement immediately followed the detective's physical efforts to make the firearm safe, not any questioning. Likewise, Detective Marano's credible testimony at the hearing made clear that the fourth statement was not responsive to any questioning, but rather was a spontaneous response to Detective Marano's finding the crack cocaine packets in Mr. Daniels's pants. Moreover, we conclude without hesitation that neither Detective Kopaczewski's efforts to make the gun safe nor Detective Marano's showing the drugs to Mr. Daniels constituted actions that the detectives should have known was reasonably likely to ...


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