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United States v. Braden

United States Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit

December 29, 2016

United States of America Plaintiff- Appellee
James Stephen Braden, Jr. Defendant-Appellant

          Submitted: September 21, 2016

         Appeal from United States District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri - Cape Girardeau

          Before COLLOTON, MELLOY, and SHEPHERD, Circuit Judges.

          MELLOY, Circuit Judge.

         James Braden, Jr. was convicted by a jury of one count of possession with the intent to distribute marijuana, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 924(c). Braden was sentenced to 75 months' imprisonment. Braden appeals, arguing the district court[1] erred by failing to suppress a statement he made to officers when the officers arrived to execute a search warrant and before he was given Miranda warnings.[2] Braden also argues the district court erred by finding that the warrant was supported by probable cause. Finally, Braden argues the district court erred by denying a motion to set aside the verdict due to an officer's testimony that drug cases often involve the presence of firearms. We affirm.


         On June 17, 2014, Braden's twelve-year-old son went to the Hayti, Missouri police department to report that his father, Braden, was a drug dealer and was in possession of marijuana and firearms. Officer Shane Wiseman interviewed the boy. Braden's son provided detailed information about where his father stored the marijuana and firearms, including a map showing the layout of the home and where the items were located.

         After interviewing the boy, Officer Wiseman contacted the Pemiscot County Prosecuting Attorney's Office, which directed Officer Wiseman to contact the Southeast Missouri Drug Task Force. Officer Wiseman contacted Task Force Officer Eddie Holloway. Officer Holloway came to the police department, and Braden's son voluntarily repeated the information he had provided to Officer Wiseman.

         Following his interview with Braden's son, Officer Holloway prepared an affidavit for a search warrant. The affidavit included detailed information about the home and the evidence to be seized. The affidavit identified the source of the information as a confidential juvenile informant and described Officer Holloway's belief as to the reliability of the information. Though the affidavit did not indicate the relationship between the informant and Braden, Officer Holloway informed the judge reviewing the affidavit that the confidential source was Braden's son. The judge found that the affidavit established probable cause and issued a search warrant.

         Officer Holloway, Officer Wiseman, and other officers executed the search warrant. Braden's son, who was outside when the officers arrived, went inside to get Braden. Braden met the officers outside, was placed in handcuffs, and was informed that the officers had a search warrant. Without giving Braden Miranda warnings, Officer Wiseman asked if there was marijuana in the house. Braden responded that there was "weed in the house, but you'll have to go find it."

         As Officer Holloway approached the home, he was able to smell marijuana. Inside the home, the officers searched a closet in Braden's bedroom, where they found a storage container with approximately 12 pounds of marijuana. Near the storage container, the officers found a Ruger 9mm semi-automatic pistol and $11, 000 in cash. On a shelf in the closet, officers found a box of 9mm ammunition and a box of .22 caliber ammunition. On and inside a dresser in Braden's bedroom, the officers found a bowl with marijuana residue, two digital weighing scales, and three gallon-sized bags with marijuana. In the kitchen, the officers found a loaded .22 caliber pistol and a notebook with entries consistent with drug transactions. Finally, the officers found an unloaded .22 caliber rifle in a storage room. When officers searched Braden's person, they found $1, 770 in cash.

         After he was charged, Braden moved to suppress the evidence resulting from the search of his home, arguing that the search was unreasonable. The magistrate judge recommended denying the motion, finding that the search warrant was supported by probable cause or, alternatively, that even if probable cause were lacking, the officers acted in objective good-faith reliance on the validity of the search warrant. Braden did not object to the magistrate judge's findings, and the district court subsequently adopted the magistrate judge's recommendation.

         At trial, Officer Holloway testified as both an expert and a lay witness. Officer Holloway testified about the items recovered from Braden's home and about his experience in the field as a narcotics detective. Braden did not object to Officer Holloway's status as an expert. During his testimony, Officer Holloway stated that "Ninety-nine percent of all drug dealers carry guns with them to protect their dope and money." During cross-examination, he clarified that "99 percent somewhere down the line" involve firearms. Braden did not object to this testimony.

         After trial, Braden filed a motion to set aside the verdict, arguing that Officer Holloway gave false and misleading testimony when he testified that "ninety-nine percent" of drug dealers carry guns. The district court denied the motion, finding that Officer Holloway's testimony was not misleading because, on cross-examination, he qualified his statement by saying that "somewhere down the line, " drug ...

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