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State v. Weatherly

Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee, Jackson

May 17, 2018


          Session February 6, 2018

          Appeal from the Circuit Court for Dyer County No. 16-CR-265 R. Lee Moore, Jr., Judge

         In this appeal, we address the constitutionality of police officers' search of trash located within the curtilage of the home of the Defendant, Williams Zachary Weatherly. The police officers utilized evidence obtained from the Defendant's trash to secure a search warrant for the Defendant's home and vehicle. As a result of evidence seized from the Defendant's trash and during the execution of the search warrant, the Defendant was charged with possession with the intent to sell or deliver more than one-half ounce of marijuana and possession of a firearm during the commission of a dangerous felony. The Defendant filed a motion to suppress. Following a hearing, the trial court granted the motion, finding that the warrantless search of the Defendant's trash was unconstitutional and that the search warrant failed to establish probable cause. The State appealed. Upon reviewing the record and the applicable law, we affirm the trial court's granting of the motion to suppress.

         Tenn. R. App. P. 3 Appeal as of Right; Judgment of the Circuit Court Affirmed

          Herbert H. Slatery III, Attorney General and Reporter; Andrew C. Coulam, Assistant Attorney General; Danny Goodman, Jr., District Attorney General; and Karen Burns, Assistant District Attorney General, for the appellant, State of Tennessee.

          Nathan B. Pride and Angela Hopson, Jackson, Tennessee, for the appellee, William Zachary Weatherly.

          John Everett Williams, J., delivered the opinion of the court, in which Camille R. McMullen and J. Ross Dyer, JJ., joined.




         On December 9, 2015, officers with the Dyersburg Police Department obtained and executed a search warrant of the Defendant's vehicle and home on Keats Street in Dyersburg, Tennessee. The affidavit in support of the search warrant was prepared by Officer Chris Pursell and provided as follows:

1. I am an officer with the Dyersburg Police Department where I have been employed for over seventeen years. Since October of 2013, I have been assigned to a specialized unit that investigates a variety of criminal cases[, ] including the sale and distribution of illegal narcotics. I have been involved in numerous narcotic[-]related cases that have led to both misdemeanor and felony arrests and convictions. I have participated in the execution of numerous search warrants.

         The affidavit continues with approximately five pages of Officer Pursell's knowledge regarding the general practices and activities of drug traffickers. The affidavit also provides:

3. On December 1, 2015, affiant was contacted by Captain Billy Williams of the Dyersburg Police Department in reference to drug activity being conducted by Matthew Pinson at Matthew's residence…. A complaint had been made to the Tennessee Department of Children's Services that Matthew Pinson was using and distributing marijuana and prescription pills at his residence…. During an investigation into Pinson[, ] it was revealed that Pinson's drug supplier was possibly William Zachary Weatherly. This [led] your affiant to do a "trash pull" in order to gather corroborating evidence on this information.
Your affiant checked with the City of Dyersburg Public Works Department, John Damesworth[, ] who indicated that Tuesday was a regularly scheduled trash pickup for Keats St. Damesworth indicated that trash is regularly picked up on Keats St. on Tuesday between the hours of 9 and 10 [a.m.]. On Tuesday, December 8, 2015[, ] at approximately 08:40 am, your affiant and Officer Thayer did recover 4 bags of trash from the South and East sides of the residence…. These bags were then brought to a separate location for further inspection. The following w[ere] located in the bags: One bag consisted of discarded mail addressed to the names Millie Johnson, Millie Johnson Weatherly, William Weatherly, and Zach Weatherly at [the residence on] Keats St. One opened plastic vacuum seal bag labeled "AF Goo 2" which had a strong odor that would be associated with Marijuana emanating from it. Inside the bag was a small amount of green leafy substance which appears to be Marijuana. Research into the term "AF Goo" revealed that AF ...

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