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United States v. King

United States District Court, M.D. Pennsylvania

July 20, 2017



          SYLVIA H. RAMBO United States District Judge

         Before the court is Defendant Jerome King's motion for reconsideration (Doc. 81) of this court's denial of his amended motion to suppress evidence (Doc. 39). After careful consideration, the court will deny Defendant's motion for reconsideration.

         I. Background[1]

         On January 13, 2017, Defendant filed a motion to suppress physical evidence and statements (Doc. 24), and later amended that motion to add an additional basis for suppression, (see Doc. 39). In his amended motion to suppress, Defendant raised four arguments for suppression, including that the police had no reasonable suspicion to detain him, lacked a legal basis to enter his apartment and seize the shotgun, and lacked probable cause to arrest him without a warrant. (Doc. 39 at 2). He further contended that any statements he made while in custody at the hospital were in violation of Miranda, and any other contraband seized from the apartment after the comprehensive police search must be excluded as fruit of the poisonous tree due to the prior unlawful police conduct. (Id.)

         The court held an evidentiary hearing on the motion on April 11, 2017. Following the hearing, the parties filed supplemental briefing on their respective positions. (See Docs. 61, 63, 73, 74). The court subsequently denied Defendant's amended motion to suppress in its entirety. (Docs. 75, 76).

         On June 23, 2017, [2] Defendant filed a pro se motion for reconsideration. (Doc. 81). His motion focuses on one particular ground for suppression: the warrantless entry into his apartment and the associated warrantless seizure of the shotgun. (Id. at 2-4).

         Defendant argues that the court made a clear error of fact regarding where Corporal Henry was located when he first saw the shotgun. The thrust of his argument is that Corporal Henry was standing inside the doorway of Defendant's apartment unit, and not inside the doorway to the common area of the second floor of the apartment building. (Id. at 3-4). Defendant asserts that Corporal Henry's cross-examination testimony and other parts of the record conclusively demonstrate that Corporal Henry was unlawfully inside the apartment unit when he first saw the shotgun, making the warrantless seizure of the shotgun a Fourth Amendment violation and thus requiring suppression. (Id.)

         The Government filed a one-page response to Defendant's motion. (Doc. 82). It asserts that Defendant did not make the requisite showing of “newly discovered evidence, an intervening change in the law, or a legitimate need to correct a manifest injustice” to permit reconsideration of the denial of the suppression motion. (Id. (citing Lazaridis v. Wehmer, 591 F.3d 666, 669 (3d Cir. 2010) (per curiam) (setting forth standard for motion for reconsideration-under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e)-of final judgment of dismissal of complaint)). Defendant's motion for reconsideration is now ripe for disposition.

         II. Discussion

         Defendant asks the court to reconsider the denial of a motion to suppress, which is an interlocutory order. See United States v. Williams, 413 F.3d 347, 354 (3d Cir. 2005) (citing Di Bella v. United States, 369 U.S. 121, 131 (1962)). The standard of review for reconsideration of an interlocutory order is different than the standard of review for reconsideration of a final order or judgment.

         A motion for reconsideration of a judgment or final order, which courts generally interpret as a motion to alter or amend judgment under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 59(e) or for relief from a final judgment under Rule 60(b), [3]requires the showing of “(1) an intervening change in the controlling law, (2) the availability of new evidence that was not available when the court [issued the underlying order]; or (3) the need to correct a clear error of law or fact or to prevent manifest injustice.” United States ex rel Schumann v. Astrazeneca Pharm. L.P., 769 F.3d 837, 848-49 (3d Cir. 2014) (quoting Max's Seafood Café ex rel. Lou-Ann, Inc. v. Quinteros, 176 F.3d 669, 677 (3d Cir. 1999)).

         Reconsideration of an interlocutory order, on the other hand, is more properly considered under Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 54(b), and is appropriate whenever justice so requires. See State Nat'l Ins. Co. v. County of Camden, 824 F.3d 399, 406 & n.14 (3d Cir. 2016) (citing United States v. Jerry, 487 F.2d 600, 605 (3d Cir. 1973) (“[S]o long as the district court has jurisdiction over the case, it possesses inherent power over interlocutory orders, and can reconsider them when it is consonant with justice to do so.”)); United States v. Rojas, No. 1:15-CR-00169, 2017 WL 105932, at *1 (M.D. Pa. Jan. 11, 2017) (Rambo, J.) (quoting Qazizadeh v. Pinnacle Health Sys., 214 F.Supp.3d 292, 295-96 (M.D. Pa. 2016)) (applying “when consonant with justice to do so” standard to motion for reconsideration of interlocutory order involving motion in limine in a criminal case).

         In this case, Defendant has provided no reason for the court to believe that justice requires reconsideration of the interlocutory denial of his suppression motion. Defendant's argument, although somewhat difficult to understand, appears to attempt to point to inconsistencies in the testimony of Corporal Henry and Officer Roadcap that he believes conclusively show that Corporal Henry was standing in the apartment unit when he first perceived the shotgun. For the following reasons, the court does not agree.

         Defendant maintains that when Corporal Henry was cross-examined at the suppression hearing, he testified that Officer Roadcap had followed him up the fire escape and was standing behind him either in the “threshold of the fire escape doorway” to the apartment building, or “just behind” him in the common area. (Doc. 81 at 3 (quoting Doc. 67, Tr. of Hr'g on Mot. to Suppress [hereinafter “Doc. 67”], at 26-27)). According to Defendant, this testimony is inconsistent with Officer Roadcap's testimony that when he followed Corporal Henry up the fire escape, he observed Corporal Henry standing in or inside the apartment building doorway while he waited outside the building on the fire-escape landing. (Id. at 4; see also Doc. 67 at 37). As Defendant argues, “[i]t is clearly impossible for [O]fficer Roadcap to have observed Corporal Henry in the ‘apartment building doorway' when according to Corporal Henry['s] testimony, [O]fficer Roadcap himself was in the ‘apartment building doorway.'” ...

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