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State v. Belk

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 13, 2015

STATE OF TENNESSEE
v.
CHARLES DERRICK BELK

Session January 6, 2015.

Appeal from the Circuit Court for Obion County No. CC-13-CR-93 William B. Acree, Jr., Judge.

Joseph P. Atnip, District Public Defender (on appeal); and Harold E. Dorsey, Alamo, Tennessee (at trial), for the Defendant-Appellant, Charles Derrick Belk.

Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Caitlin Smith, Assistant Attorney General; Thomas A. Thomas, District Attorney General; and James T. Cannon, Assistant District Attorney General, for the Appellee, State of Tennessee.

Alan E. Glenn, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and Roger A. Page, JJ., joined.

OPINION

ALAN E. GLENN, JUDGE.

FACTS

On April 26, 2013, officers executed a search warrant at the defendant's residence in Union City, Tennessee, as a result of which the defendant was indicted on a host of drug and weapon related offenses.

The defendant filed a motion to suppress the evidence obtained pursuant to the search warrant, arguing that the information the officer relied on to obtain the search warrant was based on hearsay. Specifically, he asserted that the officer relied on information given to him by a criminal informant who relied on hearsay from a third party, whose basis of knowledge was never verified. After hearing the testimony of the officer affiant and reviewing the matter, the trial court denied the motion to suppress, finding there was a sufficient basis of knowledge for the issuance of the search warrant.

At the defendant's trial, Officer Stan Haskins with the Union City Police Department testified that he assisted with the execution of the search warrant at issue in this case. Upon entering the residence, Officer Haskins saw an African-American male, identified as the co-defendant Michael Genes, in the hallway by the bathroom. Genes did not comply with Officer Haskins' order to get on the ground, and the officer had to physically subdue and handcuff Genes. Meanwhile, the defendant emerged from a bedroom next to the bathroom, and other officers placed him on the ground. After Officer Haskins had secured Genes, he noticed that the tank of the toilet was refilling. He secured the area and saw a torn plastic shopping bag containing a few smaller bags of marijuana beside the toilet.

Officer Derrick O'Dell with the Union City Police Department also assisted with the execution of the search warrant in this case. Officer O'Dell testified that he found crack cocaine on top of a plate that was sitting on cans of soup in a kitchen cabinet, as well as "wadded-up baggies" on top of the microwave. The cocaine was packaged in the corner of a plastic bag, tied off in a knot, and there was residue on the plate. He surmised that the amount of residue and how the cocaine appeared to have been chopped up indicated that it had been processed to sell. After photographing the evidence, Officer O'Dell contacted Investigator Palmer, the case agent, who collected the evidence.

Officer O'Dell testified that, in the defendant's bedroom, he photographed a gun, money in a shoe, and two bags of marijuana in the top drawer of a dresser. He also photographed personal paperwork belonging to the defendant and Genes, indicating that both men lived at the address, as well as three bags of marijuana inside a torn white bag on the bathroom floor by the toilet. He noted that the marijuana appeared to be packaged for resale, and each of the three bags contained approximately one ounce of marijuana. He also found a small amount of marijuana, enough for one marijuana cigarette, on Genes' dresser.

Officer Ben Yates of the Union City Police Department also assisted with the execution of the search warrant in this case. Officer Yates searched the defendant's bedroom, where he found money and two small bags of marijuana in the defendant's dresser. He found a pistol containing a hollow-point bullet under the defendant's dresser. Officer Yates went to the Obion County Jail later that day. While there, Officer Yates heard the deputy jailer who was in a cell with the defendant yell for help. Officer Yates ran to the cell to find the deputy jailer holding the defendant away from the toilet, exclaiming that the defendant had thrown something into it. Officer Yates saw plastic bags in the toilet, so he put on latex gloves and pulled the bags out. He handed the bags to Officer Lovell, who had joined them in the cell. Officer Yates stated that, although he did not see the defendant get searched at the time of his arrest, it was the police department's policy to search arrestees before placing them in the patrol car. Officer Yates detailed the department's procedure for searching arrestees and surmised that the only way the defendant could have brought the marijuana into the jail would have been to hide it in his rectum.

Officer Jeff McBride, a correctional officer with the Obion County Sheriff's Department, assisted with the booking of the defendant when he was brought to the jail. Officer McBride patted down the defendant when he was first brought in, and the only area he did not check was the defendant's rectum. When the booking process was almost complete, the defendant asked to use the restroom. Officer McBride escorted the defendant to a holding cell that had a toilet and checked the cell to make sure there was no contraband in it. The defendant asked Officer McBride to leave him alone in the room, and the officer informed him that he could not leave the cell and to not flush the toilet. About that time, Officer McBride saw the defendant drop a couple of bags into the toilet. The officer moved between the defendant and the toilet and called for assistance. A nearby officer came into the cell and retrieved the bags from the toilet. Officer McBride said that it was not possible that the drugs found in the toilet had been deposited by another inmate because he checked the room and flushed the toilet before the defendant entered.

Officer Josh Lovell with the Union City Police Department also assisted with the execution of the search warrant in this case. He searched the defendant's bedroom with Officer Yates and found money hidden under the insole of a shoe in the defendant's closet. Officer Lovell transported the defendant and Genes to the jail after the search concluded. Prior to putting the defendant in the patrol car, Officer Lovell patted down the defendant, starting with the defendant's shoulder and working his way down, checking his waistline, pockets, and legs. At the jail, he saw Officer McBride pat down the defendant. Officer Lovell also witnessed Officer McBride escort the defendant to a cell to use the restroom and heard McBride yell that the defendant was trying to flush something. Officer Lovell responded to the cell and saw Officer Yates digging two bags of marijuana out of the toilet. Officer Yates handed the bags to Officer Lovell, who took them to be processed as evidence.

Officer Shawn Palmer obtained the search warrant to search the defendant's house. Officer Palmer took possession of the evidence found at the scene and either submitted it for testing or locked it up until the case was completed. He sent the crack cocaine found in the kitchen cabinet to the laboratory for testing. He took possession of and sent for testing three individually wrapped bags of marijuana from the bathroom, weighing a combined total of fifty-four grams, and two small bags of marijuana from a dresser drawer in the defendant's bedroom. Officer Palmer believed that the bags of marijuana found in the bathroom were packaged for resale.

Officer Palmer stated that $960 in cash was located in a shoe in the closet in the defendant's bedroom, and $400 in cash was found in a pocket of a pair of pants in Genes' closet. Officer Palmer also took possession of a .45 caliber Taurus semi-automatic handgun found in the defendant's bedroom. Officer Palmer collected the bag of crack cocaine from the plate in the kitchen and scraped the remaining crumbs of crack cocaine off the plate into another bag. They did not find any digital scales at the scene, but Officer Palmer said that drug dealers do not always use scales. Officer Palmer ...


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