Wednesday, January 04, 2012

Leon Saves Search Warrant Without Nexus Between Suspect, Home

US v. McKenzie-Gude: The aunt of McKenzie-Gude's friend Yevsukov alerted police that McKenzie-Gude had brought an AK-47 (which was registered to McKenzie-Gude's father) and various chemicals to her home. She also alleged that McKenzie-Gude and Yevsukov were "constantly" discussing weapons and explosives, providing police with "data sheets" about the chemicals, as well as other information. Police talked with Yevsukov, who denied that McKenzie-Gude brought the gun to the aunt's home. McKenzie-Gude refused to talk to police. Based on the aunt's information, a state police officer and fire marshal obtained a warrant to search the home McKenzie-Gude shared with his father, although it failed to state that either of them actually lived there. The search uncovered evidence that led to McKenzie-Gude being charged with possession of a firearm not registered to him. After an unsuccessful suppression motion, McKenzie-Gude entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to 61 months in prison.

On appeal, McKenzie-Gude challenged both his conviction and sentence. As to the conviction, he renewed his argument that the evidence seized from his home should have been suppressed. The Government conceded that the warrant was defective because the affidavit did not link McKenzie-Gude to the residence to be searched, but argued that the Leon good-faith exception saved the evidence from suppression. Specifically, it argued that the officers acted with "objective reasonableness" because they had evidence that McKenzie-Gude lived at the house even if it was not in the warrant application. The court agreed that such evidence could be considered and concluded that the officers who executed the warrant, who also obtained it, acted in good faith. The court also rejected McKenzie-Gude's argument that he was entitled to a Franks hearing based on either inaccuracies in the warrant application or omissions from it. As to McKenzie-Gude's sentence, the court rejected (after brief discussions) each of his three factual challenges to the district court's Guideline calculations.

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