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State v. Starnes

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

November 29, 2017


          Session March 7, 2017

         Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dyer County No. 16-CR-58 R. Lee Moore, Jr., Judge

         Defendant, Rodney Paul Starnes, II, was indicted by the Dyer County Grand Jury for one count of possession with intent to sell or deliver synthetic cannabinoids. Defendant filed a motion to suppress, alleging that the affidavit in support of a search warrant was defective and failed to give rise to probable cause because the affidavit contained no information establishing a confidential informant's basis of knowledge. The trial court granted Defendant's motion based upon the then controlling authority of State v. Jacumin, 778 S.W.2d. 430 (Tenn. 1989), and the State appealed. Following our review of the record and pertinent authorities, including the Tennessee Supreme Court's recent decision in State v. Tuttle, 515 S.W.3d 282 (Tenn. 2017), we reverse the judgment of the trial court and remand for further proceedings in the trial court.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Reversed and Remanded

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Jeffrey D. Zentner, Assistant Attorney General; C. Phillip Bivens, District Attorney General; and Lance E. Webb, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Jason R. Creasy, Dyersburg, Tennessee (on appeal) and James E. Lanier; District Public Defender; and Sean P. Day, Assistant Public Defender (at trial) for the appellee, Rodney Paul Starnes.

          Thomas T. Woodall, P.J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which James Curwood Witt, Jr., and Robert L. Holloway, Jr., JJ., joined.



         Suppression hearing

         On July 19, 2016, the trial court conducted a hearing on Defendant's motion to suppress. The search warrant and supporting affidavit were made exhibits to the hearing. The relevant portions of the affidavit stated:

2. A Confidential Source, hereafter referred to as CS, has contacted the affiant concerning suspect Rodney Starnes, "AKA Hot Rod" selling synthetic cannabinoids from his residence at 55 Kari Circle. CS stated that Mr. Starnes is a well[-]known synthetic cannabinoid dealer and that CS has previously bought synthetic cannabinoids from Mr. Starnes.
3. A vehicle registration query revealed that Rodney Starnes has a gold 2011 Ford pick[-]up truck currently registered to him at the address of 55 Kari Circle[, ] Dyersburg, TN with an expiration date of 11/30/15. A driver's license check also revealed that 55 Kari Circle Dyersburg, TN 38024 belongs to Rodney Starnes.
4. On Monday 11-09-15[, ] Inv. Stoney Hughes and Deputy Chief Glen Cook were conducting a stationary observation of Mr. Starnes['s] residence on 55 Kari Circle after receiving complaints from neighbors that a vehicle pulls up every day at approximately 1530 hours and picks up narcotics. At approximately 1528 hours a dark blue Ford sedan occupied by a white male and a white female received a package from a female individual who exited the residence at 55 Kari Circle. The registration on the sedan came back to 210 Holly Springs Cemetery Road Dyersburg, TN 38024. The residence belonging to Mr. Starnes['s] brother identified as Michael Bryson.
5. On 11-12-2015 Deputy Chief Glen Cook, Inv. Stoney Hughes, Inv. Ken Simpson, Deputy Danny Petrie, and affiant conducted a second stationary observation of the residence at 55 Kari Circle. Deputy Chief Glen Cook observed a gold Ford sedan pull up at the residence and the driver of the aforementioned vehicle go to the rear door of the residence. Then the driver and a female got into the vehicle and left heading towards Finley. Affiant observed the passenger of the vehicle not wearing a seatbelt and a small child not restrained in the vehicle. Affiant then initiated a traffic stop on said vehicle on Oak Street in Finley. During the traffic stop a green substance believed to be marijuana was discovered during a consent search of the vehicle. The occupants were identified as Jessica Ramirez and Felicia Brooks. Miss Brooks was identified as Mr. Starnes['s] girlfriend. An interview was conducted by Inv. Hughes. Miss Brooks admitted that Mr. Starnes sells synthetic cannabinoids and she delivered the package to the car observed by Inv. Hughes ...

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