Thursday, January 02, 2014

No Fourth, Sixth Amendment Errors for Robbery (and Related) Conviction

US v. Dargan: Dargan was arrested for being involved in a three-man armed robbery (the other two had guns, Dargan had a knife) of a Maryland jewelry store.  After his arrest, officers obtained a search warrant for his home authorizing the recovery of "indicia of occupancy."  They recovered a receipt for a $461 belt, bought with cash the day after the robbery.  He was charged with a Hobbs Act robbery and use and carrying of a firearm during a crime of violence.  Dargan moved to suppress the receipt, but the district court concluded that although it did not fall within the boundaries of the warrant it was properly seized as being in plain view.  At trial, the Government produced testimony from a witness who was in jail with one of Dargan's codefendants who allegedly confessed to robbing a jewelry store with two others, although he did not identify Dargan.  Dargan was convicted and sentenced to 135 months in prison.

On appeal, Dargan challenged his conviction in two ways, both of which the Fourth Circuit rejected.  First, Dargan argued that the receipt should have been suppressed because it was beyond the scope of those things authorized to be seized pursuant to the warrant, namely "indicia of occupancy."  The court disagreed (with the district court as well as Dargan) and concluded that the receipt was the type of evidence that officers "could plausibly have thought that the occupant of the premises was also the purchaser."  Second, he argued that the admission of the codefendant's statements to a cellmate were both inadmissible hearsay and violated the Confrontation Clause.  On the hearsay argument, the court concluded that the statements fell within the hearsay exception for statements against interest, being made by an unavailable witness, being inculpatory, and having corroboration by other evidence.  On the Confrontation Clause argument, the court concluded that the clause was not applicable because the codefendant's statements were "plainly nontestimonial" and thus not the kind it covered.

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