United States District Court, D. Arizona
Murray Snow Chief United States District Judge
before the Court are Defendant Durnell Trimble's Motion
to Suppress Evidence (Doc. 43), Motion to Suppress Statements
(Doc. 44), and Motion to Dismiss Superseding Indictment (Doc.
45). For the following reasons, the Court grants the motions
to suppress evidence and statements, and denies the motion to
January 26, 2018 at approximately 1:58 p.m., four Navajo
Nation Police Department Officers in three police vehicles
approached a house in Ganado, Arizona on the Navajo
Reservation to investigate reports of gun and drug activity.
Specifically, the Officers were investigating a recent theft
of firearms from a Criminal Investigations Office, as well as
reports that an individual had been selling drugs and alcohol
on the property.
house is surrounded by a barbed wire fence, and the driveway
entry to the home has a gate in front of it. Throughout the
property are several “No Trespassing” signs, both
on the exterior fencing, as well as on the housing
structures. Before approaching, the officers did not obtain a
warrant to search the property. After passing through an open
gate, the officers parked their patrol cars in a dirt area
near the house where other vehicles were parked and
approached the home. Officers Alejandro Dayea and Dean
Goldtooth approached the front door to perform a “knock
and talk” and the three remaining officers positioned
themselves around the front of the home to see if anyone
would flee from the house. Ms. Beulah Begay and her
boyfriend, Mr. Keenan Smith, responded to the officers. She
informed the Officers that Mr. Trimble was also staying at
the residence, and the Officers asked if he could be
questioned. Ms. Begay woke up Mr. Trimble, who came to the
door to answer the questions. After answering the
Officers' questions and producing identification, Mr.
Trimble offered to call the homeowner, Ms. Terrilyn Curley.
Ms. Curley then gave the Officer Dayea permission to search
Officers then instructed Ms. Begay, Mr. Smith, and Mr.
Trimble to sit in the living room while the conducted the
search of the home. Officer Goldtooth stood in the living
room with them during the search.
search of the house did not produce any contraband. After
this initial search was finished, Officer Dayea announced to
Ms. Begay and Mr. Trimble that the Officers were leaving the
premises. But after exiting the home, one of the officers
noticed a bottle of alcohol on the floorboard of Ms.
Begay's vehicle and proceeded to search her car over her
objection. At this point, Mr. Trimble asked why the
officers had not left the premises as they indicated they
would. While the officers were searching Ms. Begay's
vehicle, Mr. Trimble asked if he could use the restroom.
Officer Goldtooth escorted him to the bathroom. At some point
prior to this escort, Officer Goldtooth performed a pat down
of Mr. Trimble. While Mr. Trimble used the restroom, Officer
Goldtooth remained standing near the outhouse.
officer then noticed that Mr. Trimble's car had a plastic
bag which he believed contained alcohol. At some point before
the Officers searched Mr. Trimble's vehicle, they parked
one of the patrol cars behind it. (See Exs. 7, 30).
Mr. Trimble and Officer Dayea disagreed about whether alcohol
could be seen from the window of the vehicle. Yet none of the
officers took photos of the vehicle before they began to
search it. The sole photographs offered in evidence
demonstrate an opaque plastic bag on the seat of the truck
that completely covers its contents. Further, all parties
acknowledge that Mr. Trimble's vehicle had tinted
windows, and so any observations of the plastic bag were made
through the tinted windows. In addition to the alcohol,
officers spotted the butt of a rifle in the back of the
vehicle. Despite Mr. Trimble's objections, the officers
instructed Mr. Trimble to provide them with the keys so they
could search the vehicle for contraband. Once officers opened
the truck and removed a shotgun and ammunition, Officer Dayea
asked Mr. Trimble if he was aware of the weapons. At this
point, Mr. Trimble admitted that he had a previous felony
conviction and he did not want them to search the vehicle for
that reason. The search of Mr. Trimble's vehicle produced
three firearms, several rounds of ammunition, and
approximately 23 grams of methamphetamine.
Trimble now moves to suppress the evidence produced in this
search. (Doc. 43). He also argues that his statements to the
officers should be suppressed because he was seized without
probable cause in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights.
(Doc. 44). Finally, he argues that the indictment should be
dismissed because the officers failed to preserve exculpatory
evidence. (Doc. 45).
burden of proving that a warrantless search falls within an
exception to the warrant requirement is on the
government.” United States v. Scott, 705 F.3d
410, 416 (9th Cir. 2012). It is also “the
government's burden to show that evidence is not fruit of
the poisonous tree.” United States v. Shetler,
665 F.3d 1150, 1157 (9th Cir. 2011). However, it is the
Defendant's burden to demonstrate Fourth Amendment
standing. Rawlings v. Kentucky, 448 U.S. 98, 104
Motion to Suppress Evidence