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United States v. Burroughs

United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit

January 21, 2016


Argued October 6, 2015

Appeal from the United States District Court for the District of Columbia. (No. 1:12-cr-00033-1).

Sandra G. Roland, Assistant Federal Public Defender, argued the cause for appellant. With her on the briefs was A.J. Kramer, Federal Public Defender. Tony Axam Jr., Assistant Federal Public Defender, entered an appearance.

Lauren R. Bates, Assistant U.S. Attorney, argued the cause for appellee. With her on the brief were Vincent H. Cohen, Acting U.S. Attorney, and Elizabeth Trosman, George Eliopoulos, and David B. Goodhand, Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

Before: GRIFFITH, MILLETT and PILLARD, Circuit Judges. OPINION filed by Circuit Judge PILLARD.


Page 834

PILLARD, Circuit Judge:

Eddie Burroughs appeals the district court's denial of his motion to suppress drug-related evidence police discovered in his home. District of Columbia police officers initially arrested Burroughs for carjacking. They searched Burroughs incident to the carjacking arrest and discovered evidence implicating him in a robbery. As part of their investigation of the robbery, officers searched Burroughs's home pursuant to a warrant and found drugs. The United States then prosecuted and convicted Burroughs of

Page 835

three counts of possession of illegal drugs with intent to distribute them. Burroughs was never prosecuted for carjacking; in a preliminary hearing after his warrantless arrest, the Superior Court of the District of Columbia found that the police lacked probable cause for that arrest. Burroughs contends that because the police lacked probable cause for the arrest that led to the search warrant, the district court should have suppressed the drug evidence as the fruit of an illegal arrest.

Burroughs makes two arguments in support of suppression. First, he argues that the district court was bound by the superior court's no-probable-cause determination. Because Burroughs did not raise that issue before the trial court and did not demonstrate good cause for that failure, we assume that plain-error review applies and find none. Second, Burroughs argues that the district court clearly erred in finding that Burroughs was one of four suspects who fled from the stolen car. That finding was not clearly erroneous, for it was supported by testimony from an officer whose credibility Burroughs does not contest. The district court's finding supplied probable cause for Burroughs's arrest.


Just after midnight on November 26, 2011, Officer James Haskel of the Metropolitan Police Department flew in a police helicopter in pursuit of a suspected stolen car. He tracked the car to a parking lot (" the upper parking lot" ) in a block in southeast Washington.[1] Officer Haskel watched from the air as four men bailed out of and fled the car. He gave clothing descriptions for three of the four fleeing suspects and directed officers on the ground toward them. He reported over the radio that all the men were running southeast toward a wood line and that one of them made it to another parking lot within the block (" the lower parking lot" ), which lies southeast of where the car had stopped. That man was attempting to walk nonchalantly in the lower parking lot.

Police officers on the ground soon arrested three men within the block: Burroughs, Cody Hartsfield, and a juvenile. The juvenile was arrested in the woods between the upper and lower parking lots. Burroughs was arrested in the lower parking lot. Hartsfield was arrested east of the upper parking lot in front of a building identified as either 3425 Sixth Street or 3425 Fifth Street (the precise street is not relevant). Haskel facilitated two of the three arrests--that of the juvenile and one other--by shining light on the suspects from the helicopter and directing officers on the ground to stop them. The parties dispute whether the second person Officer Haskel tracked was Burroughs or Hartsfield. The parties do not dispute that if Haskel continuously observed Burroughs, the police had probable cause to arrest Burroughs for carjacking.


After Burroughs was arrested for carjacking but before he was charged with federal drug offenses, he appeared with fellow arrestee Hartsfield for a preliminary hearing before a magistrate judge of the Superior Court of the District of Columbia. The ...

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