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United States v. Are - 590 F.3d 499 (7th Cir. 2009)

Rule:

For a Brady violation to exist, entitling a defendant to a new trial, he must establish: (1) that the prosecution suppressed evidence; (2) that the evidence was favorable to the defendant; and (3) that it is material to an issue at trial. Evidence for Brady purposes is deemed suppressed if: (1) the prosecution failed to disclose the evidence before it was too late for the defendant to make use of the evidence; and (2) the evidence was not otherwise available to the defendant through the exercise of reasonable diligence. 

Facts:

After an extensive investigation, multiple defendants, including defendants Oluwadamilola Are and Antwan Daniels were charged and convicted in federal district court of drug conspiracy, in violation of 21 U.S.C.S. § 846, and related drug distribution and firearms offenses. Officers conducted a search of Are's home and arrested him. At trial, an officer testified that Are's wife (Tenielle) was not pulled over in her car and the car searched after she left the Are home on the day of the search—at least not that he knew of. At trial, Tenielle testified to the contrary. During a break in the trial, the prosecution learned that an expert on "traps" (compartments concealed in automobiles for the storage of drugs/cash) had been asked to search Tenielle's car. That information was confirmed after defendants were convicted. The prosecution never divulged the information about the search of Tenielle's car. Are filed a post-trial motion for new trial, alleging that the prosecution's failure to disclose evidence of the search was a Brady violation. The motion was denied, and Are appealed.

Officers arrived at Daniels' home with an arrest warrant. They were allowed into the home by his wife, who directed the officers to the master bedroom, where Daniels was located. Daniels was arrested, and before he was given Miranda warnings, and in response to questioning by officers, he indicated that a rifle was located under the dresser in the bedroom. The rifle was later located in the bedroom, but it was in the closet, not under the dresser. On appeal, Daniels claimed that the trial court erred by not granting his motion to suppress his post-arrest statement and the rifle.

Issue:

(1) Did the district court err by denying Are's motion for a new trial based on an alleged Brady violation? (2) Did the district court err by denying Daniels' motion to suppress both his post-arrest statement about the location of rifle and the rifle itself?

Answer:

(1) No; (2) No.

Conclusion:

The court affirmed the district court's judgment. The court ruled: (1) As to Are, the evidence and testimony regarding whether or not agents knew about the search of Tenielle' car, the prosecution never relied on false statements or testimony, and thus there was no requirement that the prosecution "correct" false testimony. Failure to disclose evidence of the search did not violate Brady, either. (2) An agent's question to Daniels about the presence of a weapon in the house fell within the "public safety" exception to Miranda. It was reasonable for the officers and agents to believe that Daniels might have a gun on the premises and to ask him whether he had any weapons in the house. Furthermore, the presence of Daniels' wife and children bolstered the conclusion that the question about a weapon fells within the public safety exception. 

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