United States District Court, M.D. Tennessee, Nashville Division
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
WAVERLY D. CRENSHAW, JR. CHIEF UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE
the Court is the Government's motion to reconsider (Doc.
No. 213) the part of the Court's June 20, 2019 Memorandum
and Order (Doc. Nos. 192-193) that granted Defendant
Johnson's motion to suppress evidence from the February
13, 2017 Wal-Mart traffic stop. The Government asks the Court
to reconsider its legal conclusion that Johnson was seized
when his car was blocked by the car of the Metro detectives,
arguing instead that he was seized several seconds later when
the officers made contact with him in his car. The Government
further contends that this correction should lead to a
finding of reasonable suspicion sufficient to defeat the
motion to suppress. Johnson opposes the motion. (Doc. No.
219.) For the following reasons, the motion to reconsider
will be granted.
the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure make no provision for
motions to reconsider, “[c]ourts adjudicating motions
to reconsider in criminal cases typically evaluate such
motions under the same standards applicable to a civil motion
to alter or amend judgment pursuant to [Federal Rule of Civil
Procedure] 59(e).” United States v. Robinson,
5 F.Supp.3d 933, 936 (S.D. Ohio 2014) (quoting United
States v. Titterington, No. CR-2-20165, 2003 WL
23924932, at *1 (W.D. Tenn. May 22, 2003)). Under Rule 59(e),
the Sixth Circuit has held motions to alter or amend judgment
may be granted if there is a clear error of law, newly
discovered evidence, an intervening change in controlling
law, or to prevent manifest injustice. Intera Corp. v.
Henderson, 428 F.3d 605, 620 (6th Cir. 2005) (citing
GenCorp, Inc. v. Am. Int'l Underwriters, 178
F.3d 804, 834 (6th Cir. 1999)). “A Rule 59(e) motion
‘may not be used to argue a new legal
theory.'” Roger Miller Music, Inc. v. Sony/ATV
Publ'g, LLC, 477 F.3d 383, 395 (6th Cir. 2007)
(quoting FDIC v. World Univ., Inc., 978 F.2d 10, 16
(1st Cir. 1992)). The motion “is proper only if it
contains ‘an argument or controlling authority that was
overlooked or disregarded in the original ruling, presents
manifest evidence or argument that could not previously have
been submitted, or successfully points out a manifest error
of fact or law.'” Auday v. Wet Seal Retail,
Inc., No. 1:10-CV-260, 2012 WL 124080, at *1 (E.D. Tenn.
Jan. 17, 2012).
The Court's June 20 Order
June 20 Order, the Court concluded that Metro detectives did
not have reasonable suspicion at the time they seized
Johnson's vehicle. In doing so, the Court examined the
testimony of Detectives Moore and Irwin and concluded that
reasonable suspicion did not exist at the time the driver of
the red truck exited his vehicle. (Doc. No. 192 at 16-19.)
The Court then considered whether subsequent developments
tipped the totality of the circumstances in favor of
reasonable suspicion. (Id.) The Court held that
reasonable suspicion needed to exist by the time the police
detectives “engaged their vehicle lights and blocked
Johnson's car, not after when they exited the police
vehicle and approached his car on foot.” (Doc. No. 192
Court concluded that the testimony of Detective Irwin was
“neither consistent nor credible.” (Id.
at 19.) Detective Moore's testimony did not pose this
problem. Moore explained that it was only after he exited the
parked police car that he witnessed suspicious behavior
between the two individuals in the tan car. (Id.)
The Court granted the motion to suppress because the
detectives had not articulated reasonable suspicion of
criminal activity “when they crossed the aisle, engaged
their lights, and blocked Johnson's vehicle.”
(Id. at 20.)
Court's conclusion regarding the time of the seizure
arose, in part, because it did not appear to be a disputed
issue. The Government's opposition brief, for example,
appeared to focus on the detectives having sufficient facts
to conclude that Johnson was engaged in criminal activity
prior to blocking his car. (See Doc. No. 73 at 6-7.)
This approach continued at the motions hearing, where
Government's counsel and its witnesses appeared to agree
concerning when Johnson was seized. For example, the
Government inquired of Moore: “After you seized Mr.
Johnson, or they're not free to leave because your lights
are on, what did you do next?” Moore replied, “I
exit the vehicle to make contact with the front passenger -
front seat occupant Mr. Johnson.” Likewise, the
Government had this exchange with Irwin:
Q: Typically, when you cut on your lights on your police car,
is someone free to go?
Q. So they're seized at that point?
A. Yes. Yes.
Q. So when you cut your lights on in this video, Mr. Lee and
Mr. Johnson were ...