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United States v. Johnson

United States District Court, N.D. Ohio, Western Division

May 16, 2017

United States of America, Plaintiff
Derrick L. Johnson, Defendant


          Jeffrey J. Helmick United States District Judge

         This matter is before me on Defendant Derrick L. Johnson's motions to suppress his confession and the evidence discovered through the warrantless search of the dwelling in which he was arrested. (Doc. Nos. 10 & 11). I held a suppression hearing on January 26, 2017, and took the matter under advisement. For the reasons stated below, I deny Johnson's motions to suppress.


         At the time of his arrest, Johnson was on parole through the state of Ohio, under the supervision of Adult Parole Authority Officer Jason Raynor. On May 15, 2015, Johnson signed a form agreeing to abide by five standard conditions of supervision. (Gov't Exh. 4).[1] Johnson individually initialed each condition. (Id.). This form also gives notice to parolees of three consequences of their status as parolees, one consequence being that they are “subject to warrantless searches” pursuant to Ohio Revised Code § 2967.131. (Id.). Johnson initialed the first two of these three, including the notice regarding warrantless searches. (Id.). Johnson then signed the form acknowledging his receipt and understanding of these conditions, and Officer Raynor signed as a witness. (Id.).

         On May 9, 2016, Officer Raynor informed Officer Jamie Murphy, a parole officer and task force member with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, that Johnson was in possession of a firearm, which would be a violation of the terms of his parole. Johnson's mother had contacted Officer Raynor to report that Johnson had threatened to cause bodily harm to her with a gun. Johnson had also texted a picture of a gun to his mother.[2] Officer Murphy contacted Officer Marc Thompson, a parole officer and deputy with the United States Marshals Service (“USMS”), and they decided to arrest Johnson the following day.

         Johnson's mother indicated he was staying at his girlfriend Patricia Brazzel's house. So, on May 10, 2016, a USMS task force, including Officers Murphy and Thompson, went to Brazzel's residence to arrest Johnson. Officer Murphy testified that he and two other officers approached the front door, while Officer Thompson and perhaps other officers approached the back door. Brazzel opened the back door upon Officer Thompson's command. It is at this point the witnesses' accounts begin to differ somewhat.

         Officer Murphy and Brazzel testified that a task force member came in through the back door and opened the front door for the remaining officers. Officer Thompson said he remained at the back door and did not enter the residence until Johnson was in custody. He also testified that no one else entered through the rear of the apartment. Instead, according to Officer Thompson, he instructed Brazzel to open the front door for the other officers. Regardless of their means of entry, task force members entered Brazzel's home with guns drawn and arrested Johnson. Officers then removed Johnson from the residence.

         Brazzel next testified that two or three officers went back upstairs after Johnson was removed from the residence. Officers Murphy and Thompson corroborated this, testifying that some officers performed a security sweep of the residence to ensure the premises were safe.

         Officers Murphy and Thompson testified that after the completion of the security sweep, the two of them spoke with Brazzel and asked if she would consent to a search of her residence for weapons and drugs. Both officers testified that Brazzel responded by telling the officers “no problem” and to “go ahead.” Brazzel, however, testified that when asked if she would consent to a search, she told the officers they were already searching. Brazzel testified that officers were already upstairs and she believed it would have been futile to deny consent at that point.

         The witnesses agree that officers found the gun at issue following the above conversation. Officers Murphy and Thompson said they found the gun upstairs under a pile of men's clothes in Brazzel's bedroom closet. Officers showed the gun to Brazzel, who said she had no idea the gun was there.

         Officer Murphy then went to the jail and questioned Johnson about the gun. Johnson signed a form acknowledging and waiving his Miranda rights. (Gov't Exh. 2). Officer Murphy discussed each of Johnson's rights with him. Johnson appeared to have no difficulty understanding his rights. Officer Murphy made an audio recording of the interview, beginning after Johnson signed the waiver of his rights. Through most of the interview, Johnson denied possessing the gun. (Gov't Ehx. 3 at 6:49-9:40). But he eventually confessed. (Id. at 12:24-:44).


         The Fourth Amendment protects “[t]he right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures.” In areas where an individual has a legitimate privacy interest, the Fourth Amendment prohibits warrantless searches of an individual's home or ...

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