You are on page 1of 52


L 09-0098 * * * *****o0o*****



GOVERNMENT'S RESPONSE TO DEFENDANTS’ PRETRIAL MOTIONS Now comes the United States of America by its attorneys, Rod J. Rosenstein, United States Attorney, and Philip S. Jackson, Assistant United States Attorney, and in response to the defendants’ various pretrial motions submits as follows. I. Facts and Circumstances During the autumn of 2007, detectives of the Baltimore (Maryland) Police Department received information from a confidential informant that an individual he/she knew as “Chuck” was distributing large amounts of cocaine city-wide. The informant further indicated that “Chuck’s” base of operations was the west-side of Baltimore, and that “Chuck” resided with his mother in that area. The residence of “Chuck’s” mother was identified by the informant as 3041 Presstman Street. The detectives subsequently identified “Chuck” as Trenell D. Murphy (Murphy). During the course of their investigation, the detectives actually saw Murphy going to and from that residence. The above-cited confidential informant had a long track record (in excess of one year) of supplying accurate information to law enforcement. Information imparted by this confidential informant had been independently corroborated by other informants and by other investigative techniques. For that reason, this confidential informant was considered by the detectives to be

reliable. After receiving this information, the detectives were transferred to the east-side of Baltimore, and at that time took no further investigative measures with respect to Murphy. When in early 2009, the detectives were transferred back to the west-side of Baltimore, they renewed their attention toward Murphy. In that vein, in the evening hours of February 19, 2009, detectives set up surveillance in the vicinity of 3041 Presstman Street. Those detectives observed parked alongside 3041 Presstman Street a black Chevy truck bearing MD registration 88V422. According to Motor Vehicle Administration records, that truck was listed to Trenell David Murphy. During the course of their surveillance, the detectives observed Murphy exit from the front door of 3041 Presstman Street and go to the driver’s side door of a blue Honda Odyssey minivan which was parked in front of the house. Murphy then re-entered the dwelling through the front door. According to MVA records, that Honda minivan is also registered to Murphy. Later that evening, the detectives observed a dark blue colored Honda Accord station wagon park directly in front of 3041 Presstman Street. An unidentified African-American male then exited the car. After knocking on the front door, the unidentified male was allowed to enter the dwelling. Approximately one hour later, the same unidentified male and a second male (later identified as Murphy) exited from the front door of 3041 Presstman Street. Each male was carrying a white plastic bag; each of which were tied off at the top and appeared to be full to its capacity. The first male put the bag he was carrying into the dark blue Honda station wagon and Murphy put the other bag into the bed of the black Chevy truck. Both then separately drove the vehicles from the area. -2-

The black Chevy was followed by detectives to the 1400 block of Ellamont Street where Murphy pulled to the curb, retrieved the white plastic bag from the bed of the truck, and discarded that bag into the gutter. Murphy then re-entered the truck and drove from the area at a high rate of speed. Detectives almost immediately recovered the discarded bag and found it to contain one (1) razor blade with white residue, suspected cocaine, one (1) Bicycle playing card with white residue, suspected cocaine, and numerous pages of newspaper, dated February 4th, 2009, with white powder residue, suspected cocaine. The investigating detectives recognized the white powder residue described above as cocaine through its texture and by the unique aroma given off by cocaine. The dark blue Honda Accord station wagon was also followed out of the area by detectives. As the vehicle traveled through the 800 block of Ellicott Drive the driver discarded the white plastic bag onto the street, and suddenly accelerated at a high rate of speed. The detectives also recovered that discarded bag, and found it to contain numerous pages of newspaper, dated February 4th, 2009, with white residue, suspected cocaine, one (1) large silver foil bag with residue, suspected cocaine, and numerous rectangular shaped saran wrap packages and rubber bladders with white residue, suspected cocaine. The detectives recognized these items to be consistent with the manner in which kilogram quantities of cocaine are packaged for transportation. Furthermore, the detectives recognized that individuals involved in the wholesale distribution of narcotics commonly discard the remnants of their activities at a location remote from the locus of their illegal activity in an attempt to avoid creating a nexus between their activities and the location where they handle their product.


At that point, the detectives continued to maintain surveillance on 3041 Presstman Street in contemplation of obtaining a search and seizure warrant. In that regard, during the early morning hours of February 20, 2009, Judge John Hargrove (of the State of Maryland’s District Court) reviewed and authorized a search warrant targeting 3041 Presstman Street. A copy of that warrant and its affidavit is attached hereto as Exhibit A. At approximately 1:45 a.m., the detectives executed said search warrant. Upon gaining entry, Murphy was taken into custody and advised of his rights per Miranda vs. Arizona by Detective Ivo Louvado. Murphy verbally acknowledged understanding his rights. At that time Murphy related that he had U.S. currency in his room but that there were no narcotics in the house. Detective Craig Jester asked Murphy if he had any vehicles near the around the house, and Murphy stated that he had a Honda Accord minivan parked in front of the house but no other vehicles. Detective Jester asked Murphy directly about the black Chevrolet truck, but Murphy denied knowledge of the truck multiple times, even though it was registered in his name. The detectives located keys to the Chevy truck in the room in which they had originally found Murphy. At that point, Murphy then indicated that he did not want his family to get into any trouble, and directed the police to the bed of the Chevy truck in which he related that he had a large amount of cocaine. On that information, the police then looked under the cover of the bed of the Chevy truck and observed what they many items wrapped up in material identical to what had been seized from the plastic bags earlier discarded by the Defendant and the unknown male. A copy of the pertinent police report is attached hereto as Exhibit B.


Rather than leave what they thought to be contraband worth hundreds of thousands of dollars in a vehicle parked on a public street, the police at that point secured the items found in the bed of the Chevy truck, transported those items to Baltimore Police headquarters, and then sought and obtained another search warrant for those items. (See attached Exhibit C). That warrant was obtained at approximately 8:00 a.m. on February 20th. Pursuant to that search warrant, the detectives further searched the items seized from the bed of the Chevy truck and discerned that they in fact contained approximately forty (40) wrapped kilogram-sized bricks of suspected cocaine, which they recognized through their training and experience. During the course of execution of the search warrants, police detectives took digital photographs of the Presstman Street residence and the items seized from the bed of the Chevy truck. A sampling of those photos is attached hereto as Exhibit D. The date/time stamp appearing on those photos indicates that they were taken during the early morning hours of February 19, 2009; a time prior to the incident recounted herein. That digital camera has been retrieved by the detectives and has been found to have been mis-programmed as to the date/time stamp. II. Analysis & Argument A. Motion to Suppress Seized Evidence By his motion, the Defendant Trenell Murphy avers that the evidence seized, as outlined above, were acquired in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. 1. Search Warrant - Presstman Street Residence In issuing a search warrant, “the task of the issuing magistrate is simply to make a -5-

practical, common-sense decision whether, given all the circumstances set forth in the affidavit before him ... there is a fair probability that contraband or evidence of a crime will be found in a particular place. And the duty of a reviewing court is simply to ensure that the [issuing] magistrate had a substantial basis for concluding that probable cause existed.” Gates, 462 U.S. at 238-39. Put another way, in assessing whether a search warrant was properly issued, a court need only be satisfied that the facts presented to the magistrate judge in applying for a search warrant would have “warrant[ed] a man of reasonable caution’ to believe that evidence of a crime [would] be found” on the premises to be searched. United States v. Williams, 974 F.2d 480, 481 (4th Cir. 1992) (quoting Texas v. Brown, 460 U.S. 730, 742 (1983)). Here, there was ample evidence from which to conclude that the issuing judge had a substantial basis for authorizing the search warrant. The instant affidavit recounts the following: a. the affiants had received information from an undescribed source that “Chuck” a.k.a. Trenell Murphy was a narcotics trafficker who used 3041 Presstman Street as a “stash house” (Exhibit A, pp. 8-9); b. during the third week of February, 2009, the affiants had observed a black Chevy pickup truck registered to Murphy parked proximate to the Presstman Street residence (Exhibit A, p. 9); c. the affiants had also observed Murphy exit and enter the Presstman Street residence (Exhibit A, p. 9); d. the affiants observed an unidentified male park in front of the Presstman Street residence, knock on the door and be allowed inside (Exhibit A, p. 9); e. an hour later, that same male in the company of another male, left the Presstman Street residence, each carrying a plastic bag apparently full to near capacity (Exhibit A, pp. 9-10); f. each male entered a separate vehicle (one of which was the Chevy truck registered to Murphy) and then drove away from the residence (Exhibit A, p. 10); -6-

g. shortly after driving from the immediate area of the Presstman Street residence, both males discarded the white plastic bags on the street (Exhibit A, pp. 10-11); h. found in both of the discarded bags was evidence of narcotics trafficking to include residue of a white powder suspected to be cocaine (Exhibit A, p. 10-11); In light of the facts outlined above (especially the fact that evidence of narcotics trafficking had been recently been seized after it had been observed to be carried out of the targeted residence), it was a reasonable conclusion for the issuing magistrate to conclude that evidence of a crime would be found on the premises to be searched. 2. Defendant’s Statement - Fifth Amendment As outlined above, and as summarized in the attached Exhibit B, while executing the aforesaid search warrant, the investigating detectives came in contact with the Defendant, and thereafter the Defendant made certain inculpatory statements, which the Government intends to adduce at trial. Because at the time of the police questioning Murphy was in “custody”, the mandate of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1965) here applies; i.e. that an accused be apprised of certain rights prior to the instigation by law enforcement officers of any custodial interrogation. In order to protect rights granted by the Fifth Amendment that “no person ... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself,” in Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436 (1966), the Court mandated that certain prophylactic procedural rules must be followed during custodial interrogations. In that regard, the Court mandated that a suspect in custody “must be warned that he has a right to remain silent, that any statement he does make may be used as evidence against him, and that he has a right to the presence of an attorney, either retained or appointed.” Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U.S. 436, 444 (1966). -7-

At the scheduled pre-trial motions hearing, the Government intends to adduce evidence that the requirements of Miranda were indeed followed, and that therefore the post-arrest statements of the Defendant are admissible evidence. 3. Fourth Amendment - Search of Chevy Truck As outlined above, on the Defendant’s arrest, the investigating detectives seized what they suspected to be a cache of narcotics from the bed of the Defendant’s Chevy truck parked outside the Presstman Street residence. Once seized, they took the items to police headquarters where they then sought and obtained a search warrant before searching those items and finding out that in fact the items seized were comprised of roughly 40 kilograms of cocaine. a. Warrantless Search/Seizure Authorized Although in the instant matter the detectives took the step of seeking out a detached and neutral magistrate before searching the cache of seized narcotics, they could have in fact, done the same without a warrant. See, United States v. Patterson, 150 F.3d 382 (4th Cir. 1998). In Patterson, an accomplice implicated Patterson in a bank robbery and told the officers that he drove a blue Honda, which on the day of the robbery had been driven to a store where it was switched for a stolen vehicle used in the crime. A patrol officer was dispatched to Patterson’s home and reported that he did observe a blue Honda outside the residence. The police towed and searched the vehicle without a warrant leading to the recovery of several pieces of incriminating evidence. The Court held that probable cause existed to seize the vehicle as an instrumentality of the crime based solely on the accomplice’s statement that the vehicle was used as transportation on the day of the robbery.


The significance of Patterson is that where, as here, there is credible evidence that a motor vehicle has been used to facilitate a crime, it can be warrantlessly searched by the police. As there is no dispute that the Defendant’s Chevy truck had been used in connection to a narcotics crime, the vehicle could have been warrantlessly searched. See also, United States v. Dickey-Bey, 393 F.3d 449, 457 (4th Cir. 2004) (a search warrant is unnecessary where the police had probable cause to believe that had been used as an instrumentality in a narcotics conspiracy). b. Search Warrant - Automobile Notwithstanding their ability to lawfully search the Defendant’s vehicle warrantlessly, the investigating detectives in this matter had sought and obtained judicial authority in the form of a warrant to search the contents of that vehicle; a copy of which is attached hereto as Exhibit C. In support of that search warrant, there was submitted an affidavit that recounted the following facts: a. all of the facts recounted in points a. - h. in the Presstman Street affidavit above, b. that on February 20, 2009, the police had sought and obtained a search warrant targeting that Presstman Street address (Exhibit C, p. 11); and c. that in executing that search warrant, the police had questioned the Defendant about the Chevy truck, and the Defendant had repeatedly denied any knowledge of it, notwithstanding the facts that the vehicle was registered in his name and there was a key to the truck found in the same room as the Defendant (Exhibit C, p. 11-12). Again, by any gauge, there was present in that affidavit sufficient evidence for the issuing magistrate to reasonably conclude that evidence of a crime would be found in the vehicle to be searched. This is so particularly because the Defendant had been deceptive in trying to distance -9-

himself from the vehicle. See e.g., United States v. Moses, 540 F.3d 263, 269 (4th Cir. 2008) (in reviewing a search warrant affidavit, the court found significant that on the defendant’s arrest for a narcotics violation, he attempted to deflect the arresting officers’ attention away from a particular apartment, which contributed to the court’s conclusion that the affiant could reasonably conclude that the targeted residence contained evidence of the narcotics crime under investigation). By analogy, the Defendant’s attempt to deflect the investigating detectives’ attention away from his vehicle, was and could be a material consideration for the issuing magistrate in her calculus of the existence of probable cause in support of the issuance of the instant warrant. III. CONCLUSION For the foregoing reasons, the defendant’s pre-trial motion to suppress evidence should be denied.

Respectfully submitted, Rod J. Rosenstein United States Attorney


/s/ Philip S. Jackson Assistant United States Attorney 36 S. Charles Street, 4th Floor Baltimore, Maryland 21201 (410) 209-4800


CERTIFICATION It is this 8th day of April, 2009, certified that a copy of the foregoing Government's Response to Defendant’s Pre-trial Motions was sent electronically and through the mail to Gordon Tayback, Counsel for Trennell Murphy, 22 E. Fayette Street, Suite 600, Baltimore, MD 21202.

/s/ Philip S. Jackson Asst. United States Attorney