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United States v. Hardison

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

June 14, 2017

United States of America Plaintiff-Appellee
v.
Louis A. Hardison, also known as Mohammed L. Carrol Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: March 9, 2017

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Western District of Missouri - Joplin

          Before RILEY, [1] Chief Judge, GRUENDER, Circuit Judge, and SCHREIER, [2] District Judge.

          RILEY, Chief Judge.

         Louis Hardison appeals his conviction for being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2), arguing the district court[3] erred in combining an evidentiary hearing on his motion to suppress with his bench trial and in not excluding all evidence obtained as a result of a search of his home. We affirm, finding (1) no error in the procedure the district court used in this case, and (2) Hardison voluntarily consented to the search. See 28 U.S.C. § 1291 (appellate jurisdiction).

         I. BACKGROUND

         In the early morning hours of November 27, 2013, Dushawnne Hoyt reported a domestic disturbance involving a firearm. Officers from the Neosho Police Department (Missouri) responded to the call. Hoyt told officers Hardison put a knife to her throat, threatened to kill her, and then held a gun to her head, again threatening to kill her. Officer Trent Gold approached Hardison, who was then standing inside his residence at the front door, to ask Hardison if they could speak inside the home. Hardison replied, "sure."

         Another officer, Sergeant Brad Fienen, arrived on the scene later while Officer Gold was inside the home with Hardison. Sergeant Fienen entered the residence and asked Hardison if he had a gun inside the home. Hardison pointed to a green duffel bag and told Sergeant Fienen, "The only gun I have is in there." Sergeant Fienen secured the gun from the bag and, because he observed it did not match Hoyt's description of the gun Hardison threatened her with, asked Hardison if he had another firearm. After hesitating, Hardison told the officers there was another gun, led the officers to the bedroom, and said while pointing in the room, "In the ductwork, there's a gun down there. You can go get it." Sergeant Fienen removed the grate to the air conditioning and retrieved a second firearm, which did match Hoyt's description. Hardison told the officers he knew he was not supposed to be in possession of a firearm as a felon and he knew he was going to prison.

         The grand jury returned a one-count indictment charging Hardison with being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§ 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). The district court issued a scheduling and trial order on December 19, 2014, requiring the parties to file all pretrial motions on or before twenty days from that date. Hardison's bench trial was scheduled to begin June 15, 2015. On June 12, 2015, the Friday before Hardison's Monday trial date and well-past the court's deadline for filing pretrial motions, Hardison filed a motion to suppress all evidence obtained "as a result of the November 27, 2013, detention, seizure, arrest, and search of [Hardison]." Hardison "request[ed] an evidentiary hearing be granted or that the matter be permitted to be taken up with his bench trial." (Emphasis added).

         Hardison's bench trial commenced on schedule. Citing concerns for efficiency and fairness "given the timing, " the district court "decided the best way to take up . . . the propriety of the evidence is to simply receive evidence on the suppression motion at the same time [it] hear[s] the evidence related to the trial and then the Court will not consider that evidence that it believes should be suppressed if the Court reaches that conclusion." Neither party objected to proceeding in this manner, a manner Hardison initially had proposed, and counsel for both parties explicitly agreed to the procedure.

         The government introduced several exhibits of evidence obtained as a result of the search of Hardison's home, and the district court noted it would "assume that [Hardison] ha[s] an objection to the exhibits and the testimony of what happened after [the officer] goes in the home, " and would not "make any final ruling on the admissibility of that evidence" until after the trial was completed. Hardison was the only witness for the defense. Neither Hardison nor his attorney clarified that Hardison intended his testimony to be limited to the issue of suppression. Hardison testified he did not consent to a search and he had sole dominion and control over the residence. Hardison's attorney objected to only one question-"Isn't it true that the officer found weapons and firearms at your home on November 27, 2013?"[4]-and the district court accepted Hardison's answer pending its decision as to the suppression motion.

         Two weeks after the trial, the district court issued an order denying Hardison's motion to suppress, finding Hardison voluntarily consented to the search. In a separate order, the district court found Hardison knowingly possessed firearms, as evidenced by Hardison telling "the officers where in the residence the weapons could be found. The firearms were found in [Hardison's] home, he testified that he placed them there, and he testified that he resides alone and exercises complete dominion and control over his residence." The district court found Hardison guilty of being a felon in possession of a firearm. Hardison filed numerous pro se motions, including a pro se motion for a new trial, all of which the district court denied. Hardison filed a timely notice of appeal "from the judgement [sic] and sentence" of the district court.

         II. DISCUSSION

         A.Combined Evidentiary Hearing and ...


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