United States District Court, E.D. Michigan, Northern Division
ORDER GRANTING DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO SUPPRESS,
SUPPRESSING EVIDENCE, AND ESTABLISHING SCHEDULING
L. LUDINGTON United States District Judge.
January 18, 2017, Defendant Jermaine Leon Houston was stopped
after two Michigan State Troopers observed him walking on
10th Street in Saginaw, Michigan, instead of walking on the
abutting sidewalk, as required by state law. After asking
Houston if he could pat him down, the Troopers discovered a
magazine on Houston's person, and a pistol on the ground
nearby. As a result, on March 22, 2017 the grand jury issued
an indictment charging Defendant Houston with one count of
being a felon in possession of a firearm in violation of 18
U.S.C. § 922(g)(1). See ECF No. 18. On April 3,
2017 Defendant Houston moved to suppress evidence of the
magazine and gun, as well as statements he made to the
Troopers. See Mot. Suppress, ECF No. 18. For the
reasons stated below, Houston's motion will be granted,
and the evidence will be suppressed.
Jermaine Leon Houston was born on May 23, 1976, and was 40
years old on the date of the relevant events. When in school
Houston attended special education classes, and he proceeded
only as far as the tenth grade. See Comer Tr. 3. The
evidence presented by Defendant demonstrates that Houston has
a long history of mental illness, has been diagnosed with
major depressive disorder, impulse disorder, and unspecified
developmental disorders of scholastic skills, and suffers
from various substance abuse disorders. In October of 2012
Houston was assessed as having a Global Assessment of
Functioning (“GAF”) of 50. See ECF No.
25. He received treatment and counseling for these conditions
as recently as January 25, 2017. See ECF No. 27. As
a result of these conditions, Houston received social
security disability income. See Comer Tr. 2. Houston
also has a criminal history that includes carrying a
concealed weapon and domestic violence. At the time of the
events at issue Houston resided with his mother, Dorothy
Comer, on Janes Avenue in Saginaw, Michigan.
early morning hours of January 18, 2017, Michigan State
Troopers Tyler Schuiteman and Clint Korpalski were on patrol
in a marked car in the City of Saginaw. When traveling down
South 10th Street, the Troopers observed a male walking in
the roadway where sidewalks were provided. Under Michigan
Compiled Law 257.655, “[w]here sidewalks are provided,
a pedestrian shall not walk upon the main traveled portion of
the highway. Where sidewalks are not provided, pedestrians
shall, when practicable, walk on the left side of the highway
facing traffic which passes nearest.” Mich. Comp. Law
257.655(1). “A person who violates this section is
responsible for a civil infraction.” Mich. Comp. Law
257.655(2). At the motion hearing held on May 15, 2017 and
continued on May 23, 2017, the Troopers identified the male
as Defendant Houston. See Schuiteman Tr. 5-8,
Korpalski Tr. 4-5.
the Troopers drove towards Defendant Houston, Houston moved
onto the sidewalk. See Schuiteman Tr. 6-7, Korpalski
Tr. 5. After they followed him for an additional 20 yards or
so, Defendant walked up a driveway of a residence on 10th
Street. Id. Unbeknownst to the Troopers, Houston was
only about a half of a block away from his mother's
house. See Comer Tr. 1-2. Also unbeknownst to the
Troopers, the residence was inhabited by Defendant's
Godmother, Janice Peterson West. See West. Tr. 1.
Houston did not attempt to enter the residence. Instead, he
walked from the driveway into the backyard. The Troopers
responded by shining the spotlight of their patrol car into
the backyard of the residence, where they observed Houston
standing near a fence on the south side of the residence.
See Schuiteman Tr. 7. The Troopers then asked
Houston to come out from behind the house so that they could
speak with him. See Schuiteman Tr. 10, Korpalski Tr.
6, 18. Houston did as he was asked, and approached the
Troopers' vehicle. Id. Trooper Korpalski then
exited the vehicle to speak with Houston.
making contact with Houston, Trooper Korpalski did not ask
for identification. Trooper Korpalski testified that he first
asked Houston whether he had anything illegal on his person,
to which Houston replied that he did not. See
Korpalski Tr. 19. Trooper Korpalski then testified that he
asked Houston if he could conduct a search of his person, to
which Houston allegedly consented. Id. Korpalski did
not recall the specific words or phrasing he used in
requesting consent for the search. Id. Upon
conducting the search, Korpalski discovered a loaded
9-millimeter magazine in Houston's front right jacket
pocket. Id. at 8, 21. Trooper Korpalski then
handcuffed Houston, detained him, and placed him in the back
of the patrol car. Id.
Houston was detained, Trooper Schuiteman went into the
backyard of the residence to search for any other contraband
or weapons. See Schuiteman Tr. 11. After Trooper
Schuiteman failed to locate anything, Trooper Korpalski began
a search of the backyard. Trooper Korpalski eventually
discovered a 9-millimeter pistol on the south side of the
residence along the fence line, where Houston had previously
been standing. See Korpalski Tr. 9. Trooper
Korpalski testified that the gun matched the type of magazine
found on Houston's person. Id. Korpalski
proceeded to photograph the weapon and secure it in the
patrol vehicle. Id.
Government has provided the Court with a disk containing
audio and visual of the events that took place inside the
patrol car as the Troopers drove Houston to the Saginaw
County Jail. The video shows that Trooper Schuiteman was in
the driver's seat, Trooper Korpalski was in the
passenger's seat, and Defendant Houston was in the back
of the patrol car. The video also demonstrates that Houston
was “very emotional” immediately following his
arrest, sobbing and wailing in the back of the car.
See Schuiteman Tr. 24. While the audio is difficult
to discern, Trooper Korpalski read Houston his Miranda rights
at the outset of the encounter. During the hearing both
Troopers testified that this was the content of the initial
exchange. See Schuiteman Tr. 13, Korpalski Tr. 22.
When Korpalski initially asked Houston if he understood his
rights, Houston did not respond, but instead continued to
wail. Over the next few minutes, Korpalski repeated the
question multiple times. Eventually, the Troopers testified
that Houston responded by saying “yes”,
“all right, ” or “yeah.” See
Schuiteman Tr. 24; Korpalski Tr. 12. Again, the audio of this
exchange is extremely difficult to discern. During the course
of the following conversation Houston calmed down, and
acknowledged that he had possessed the gun, explaining that
he had recently been robbed and was scared. See
Korpalski Tr. 13. He further admitted that the gun belonged
to his sister, that he took it without her knowledge, and
that he knew he was not supposed to possess any firearms.
Id. See also Schuiteman Tr. 22.
Troopers then ran a LIEN report, which led to the discovery
that there was valid warrant for Houston's arrest for
failure to pay child support. See Schuiteman Tr.
22-23. From the record, it seems that this is the time when
the Troopers first became aware of the warrant. It is unclear
whether any prosecution was pursued related to that warrant.
The video ends when the vehicle arrives at the Saginaw County
Schuiteman testified that Houston was primarily placed under
arrest for “further investigation for any kind of CCW
case or felon in possession of a firearm and whatnot.”
See Schuiteman Tr. 22. He testified to his belief
that Houston placed the Troopers on notice of the potential
violations at the scene of the incident, where Houston
informed them that he had just gotten out of prison for some
gun cases. Id. at 21. However, ...