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United States v. Turner

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

August 16, 2019

United States of America Plaintiff - Appellee
Samuel Turner Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: May 15, 2019

          Appeal from United States District Court for the District of Nebraska - Lincoln

          Before COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.


         At approximately 11:30 p.m. on August 9, 2017, a dispatcher alerted Lincoln Police Department ("LPD") Officer Christopher Monico to a possible disturbance near the trailer court where Defendant Samuel Turner lives. As Monico drove through Turner's trailer court looking for a suspect, Monico observed a woman standing next to a cluster of mailboxes and stopped to talk to her. The woman was Kimberlie Bridges, an acquaintance of Turner's and the mother of his child. Officer Craig Price arrived on the scene shortly thereafter to serve as backup.

         While Monico and Price were talking to Bridges, Turner walked over to them. As Turner approached, Monico shined a flashlight on Turner and asked him about the reported disturbance. Turner asked Monico to lower the flashlight because it was in his face. As Monico did so, he saw that Turner was standing on what looked like a bag containing a large quantity of methamphetamine.

         Monico ordered Turner and Bridges to place their hands on a nearby vehicle. Turner did not comply. The officers approached Turner. As they did, Turner reached down, touched the bag of methamphetamine, and attempted to grab it. The officers physically seized him and, after some resistance, handcuffed him and placed him in a cruiser. As they did, Turner stated that the "dope" was not his.

         A second bag of methamphetamine was discovered near Bridges. Price secured the bag. He and Monico arrested Bridges. They then searched Turner and found, among other things, a cell phone, which Turner said was his.

         A few days later, Monico asked Officer Corey Weinmaster to process Turner's cell phone pursuant to a search warrant. Weinmaster extracted information from the phone, including photographs and text messages. The photographs included one of Turner, two of cash in different denominations, and a screenshot of a text-message conversation between two people. The conversation ended with a message that said, in part, "[S]am said you better bring him his money stop playing games with ppl." The text messages included one sent from Turner's phone which told the recipient to pick up a pool and to "[b]ring that money." A second outgoing message made a reference to the intended recipient exchanging sexual favors for "dope." A third outgoing message said, "Hey this is sam calling see if you got that money."

         Turner was indicted on October 17, 2017, and charged with knowingly and intentionally possessing with intent to distribute five or more grams of methamphetamine in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1). He subsequently pled not guilty at an initial appearance.

         Turner filed a motion "to suppress [his] stop and subsequent arrest." He claimed that Monico and Price lacked a reasonable suspicion to detain and question him when they stopped near his house to investigate the disturbance. A magistrate judge conducted a suppression hearing, finding that: (1) the officers had not seized Turner when they questioned him about the disturbance; and (2) they had a right to detain Turner when they found what looked like a bag of methamphetamine under his foot. The district court, [1] at the magistrate judge's recommendation, denied the motion.

         Turner also filed a motion requesting that the court issue a subpoena duces tecum. Turner sought "investigative reports and materials prepared by [the LPD]" about "calls" officers made to his "home at the time of his arrest," "calls" they made at his home over "the two days prior" to his arrest, and "calls" they made "to [his] trailer court or [the] immediately surrounding area." Turner claimed that the reports would provide "exculpatory evidence" because they would show that he had not been trafficking drugs and that someone else may have dropped the bag of methamphetamine. The district court denied Turner's motion for a subpoena after a hearing.

         The district court then held a three-day jury trial in February 2018. Monico and Price testified about the events of August 9, 2017, as described above. A forensic scientist testified that the bag found under Turner's foot contained more than thirty grams of actual methamphetamine. Weinmaster described how he extracted materials from Turner's phone and what he extracted. Over Turner's objections-Turner claimed that the exhibits consisted of inadmissible hearsay and were not properly authenticated-the photographs and text messages were admitted into evidence. Weinmaster stated that by looking at the exhibits alone, he could not tell whether the pictures originated on Turner's phone or were sent to it. Weinmaster could, however, tell that the text messages had been sent from the phone. He and two officers from the LPD's drug unit testified that the photographs and text messages were significant because they contained images and language often found on drug dealers' phones.

         Other officers described an interview they conducted with Turner after he was arrested and had waived his rights under Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966). The officers described how Turner confessed to being a methamphetamine user and told them that they might find evidence of people contacting him about drugs on his cell phone. Yet another officer testified that the ...

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