CAAFlog » September 2015 Term » United States v. Harrell

CAAF decided the Air Force case of United States v. Harrell, 75 M.J. 359, No. 16-007/AF (CAAFlog case page) (link to slip op.), on Tuesday, June 28, 2016. The court finds no Fourth Amendment violation in the use of a canine leading to the discovery of marijuana and glass smoking pipes in the appellant’s vehicle, affirming the decision of the Air Force CCA and the appellant’s conditional pleas of guilty.

Chief Judge Erdmann writes for a unanimous court. Senior Judge Cox writes separately, concurring.

CAAF specified a single issue for review:

Whether evidence obtained from a police search of appellant’s vehicle on or about August 4, 2010, was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and should have been suppressed.

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Audio of this week’s Project Outreach oral arguments is available at the following links:

United States v. Harrell, No. 16-007/AF (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio

United States v. Martin, 15-0754/MC (CAAFlog case page): Oral argument audio

CAAF will hear oral argument in the Air Force case of United States v. Harrell, No. 16-007/AF (CAAFlog case page), on Tuesday, April 5, 2016, at 12:15 p.m., at the University of Alabama School of Law. The court will consider the admission of the fruits of a search of the appellant’s vehicle by civilian police officers during a traffic stop, with the following issue specified by the court:

Whether evidence obtained from a police search of appellant’s vehicle on or about August 4, 2010, was obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment and should have been suppressed.

The appellant is a First Lieutenant who – while pending court-martial for the wrongful use of marijuana – was stopped for speeding by a civilian police officer in Ohio. The stop occurred at 26 minutes after midnight. After obtaining the appellant’s information and returning to his police cruiser, the officer radioed for a canine unit. The appellant then exited her vehicle and the officer also exited the cruiser, they spoke, and the officer asked the appellant if she had any illegal drugs in her vehicle. The canine unit arrived soon after, and the dog indicated the presence of narcotics in the vehicle. A subsequent search discovered 1.8 grams of marijuana and two glass smoking pipes with marijuana residue. The appellant was arrested and later surrendered additional marijuana that she had on her person.

The appellant moved to suppress the fruits of the search of the vehicle at trial, asserting that the officer unlawfully prolonged the stop and that the canine was improperly allowed to enter the vehicle (by sticking its nose into an open window) as it walked around the vehicle. The military judge rejected both claims and denied the motion to suppress. The appellant was then allowed to enter conditional pleas of guilty to wrongful possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia in violation of Articles 112a and 133, UCMJ.

The appellant renewed her claims at the Air Force CCA, where they were also rejected. CAAF then granted review.

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The Navy JAG certified a case to CAAF last week:

No. 16-0122/MC. U.S. v. Beau T. Martin. CCA 201400315. Notice is hereby given that a certificate of review of the decision of the United States Navy-Marine Corps Court of Criminal Appeals was filed under Rule 22 this date on the following issue:

DID TRIAL DEFENSE COUNSEL INVITE ERROR WHEN HE OPENED THE DOOR TO HUMAN LIE DETECTOR TESTIMONY DURING THE CROSS-EXAMINATION OF THE VICTIM’S HUSBAND?

The NMCCA’s decision is available here. The certification is strange because the CCA didn’t just affirm the findings and sentence (after finding that the admission of human lie detector testimony was harmless), but it also noted that:

We are aware that the inadmissible opinion testimony originated with the defense during cross-examination. We are also aware of the “invited response” or “invited reply” doctrine, which permits the prosecution to offer comment or testimony as a fair response to claims made by the defense. See United States v. Carter, 61 M.J. 30, 33 (C.A.A.F. 2005). See also United States v. Lewis, 69 M.J. 379, 384 (C.A.A.F. 2011) (“limitation on comments cannot be used by the defense as both a shield and a sword.”) (citations omitted). However, this doctrine does not obviate the error.

United States v. Martin, No. 201400315, slip op. at 8, n.10 (N-M. Ct. Crim. App. Jun. 18, 2015) (emphasis added). The certified issue seems to merely force CAAF to reach the tautological conclusion that an invited error is still an error. Though, perhaps CAAF will go further and limit the use of this doctrine. After all:

Courts have not intended by any means to encourage the practice of zealous counsel’s going “out of bounds” in the manner of defense counsel here, or to encourage prosecutors to respond to the “invitation.” Reviewing courts ought not to be put in the position of weighing which of two inappropriate arguments was the lesser. “Invited responses” can be effectively discouraged by prompt action from the bench in the form of corrective instructions to the jury and, when necessary, an admonition to the errant advocate.

United States v. Young, 470 U.S. 1, 13 (1985).

Update: I forgot that CAAF previously granted review in this case (discussed here) of the CCA’s finding of harmlessness. However, I still think the certification is strange.

CAAF also granted review in an Air Force case:

No. 16-0007/AF. U.S. v. Calyx E. Harrell. CCA 38538. On consideration of the petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Air Force Court of Criminal Appeals, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue specified by the Court:

WHETHER EVIDENCE OBTAINED FROM A POLICE SEARCH OF APPELLANT’S VEHICLE ON OR ABOUT AUGUST 4, 2010, WAS OBTAINED IN VIOLATION OF THE FOURTH AMENDMENT AND SHOULD HAVE BEEN SUPPRESSED.

Briefs will be filed under Rule 25.

The AFCCA’s decision is available here and reveals that the search of the appellant’s vehicle occurred after a police dog gave indications of contraband drugs within (marijuana and glass pipes were found).

Finally, CAAF summarily reversed convictions of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment – but affirmed a conviction of the lesser included offense of assault consummated by a battery – in a trailer case to United States v. Gutierrez, 74 M.J. 61 (C.A.A.F. Feb. 23, 2015) (CAAFlog case page):

No. 15-0747/AR. U.S. v. Kenneth A.R. Pinkela. CCA 20120649. On consideration of Appellant’s petition for grant of review of the decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals, and in light of United States v. Gutierrez, 74 M.J. 61 (C.A.A.F. 2015), we conclude that the evidence was legally insufficient to find beyond a reasonable doubt that Appellant committed the offenses of aggravated assault and reckless endangerment. We further conclude that the evidence was sufficient to affirm assault consummated by a battery as a lesser included offense of aggravated assault. Accordingly, it is ordered that said petition is hereby granted on the following issue:

WHETHER THE EVIDENCE WAS LEGALLY SUFFICIENT TO FIND BEYOND A REASONABLE DOUBT THAT APPELLANT COMMITTED AGGRAVATED ASSAULT AND RECKLESS ENDANGERMENT IN VIOLATION OF ARTICLES 128 AND 134, UCMJ, BY ENGAGING IN UNPROTECTED SEX WHILE HIV-POSITIVE IN LIGHT OF UNITED STATES v. GUTIERREZ, 74 M.J. 61 (C.A.A.F. 2015).

The decision of the United States Army Court of Criminal Appeals as to Charges I and IV and their specifications and the sentence is reversed. The findings of guilty as to Charge IV and its specification are set aside and dismissed. The findings of guilty as to Charge I and its specification are affirmed only as to the lesser included offense of assault consummated by a battery. The remaining findings are affirmed. The record is returned to the Judge Advocate General of the Army for remand to the Court of Criminal Appeals to either reassess the sentence based on the affirmed findings or order a sentence rehearing.