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State v. Lenoir

Court of Appeals of North Carolina

June 5, 2018

STATE OF NORTH CAROLINA
v.
JESSE JAMES LENOIR

          Heard in the Court of Appeals 21 February 2018.

          Appeal by defendant from judgment entered 16 March 2016 by Judge Robert G. Horne in Rutherford County Superior Court, No. 13 CRS 2557

          Attorney General Joshua H. Stein, by Assistant Attorney General Kimberly Grande, for the State.

          W. Michael Spivey for defendant-appellant.

          DAVIS, JUDGE.

         In this appeal, we revisit the issue of how much factual information a law enforcement officer's affidavit must contain in order to establish probable cause for the issuance of a search warrant. Because we conclude that the affidavit at issue in this case lacked sufficient detail, we reverse the trial court's denial of the defendant's motion to suppress and vacate his conviction.

         Factual and Procedural Background

         On 29 July 2013 at 1:45 p.m., Sergeant Chadd Murray of the Rutherford County Sheriff's Office - along with several other law enforcement officers - went to the home of Jesse James Lenoir ("Defendant") in Forest City, North Carolina to conduct a knock and talk. Defendant's brother, David Lenoir ("David"), answered the door and invited the officers into the residence.

         Sergeant Murray asked David if there was anyone else in the house, and David responded that no one else was present. Sergeant Murray noticed that a light was on in a back bedroom and asked David if he could "check and make sure nobody was there" for the safety of the officers. David gave his consent, and Sergeant Murray walked to the back bedroom where he saw a woman lying on a bed. Sergeant Murray also observed a "glass smoke pipe" on a dresser in the bedroom.

         That same day, Sergeant Murray applied for a search warrant for the residence and submitted a supporting affidavit that stated, in its entirety, as follows:

On July 29, 2013 I went to 652 Byers Road Lot 10 Forest City, N.C. for a knock and talk. Once at the residence I spoke with the tenant at the residence David Lenoir. Lenoir stated he and his brother Jesse Lenoir both lived there. David consented to a search of the residence and stated no one was inside the residence. In a back bedroom was Dawn Bradley sleeping and I could see a smoke pipe used for methamphetamine in plain view. The bedroom she was in belonged to Jessie [sic] Lenoir. Jessie [sic] was unable to be reached. Dawn would not admit to the smoke pipe being hers but she did stated [sic] Jessie [sic] and Rebecca Simmons stayed in that bedroom as well.

         Based upon this affidavit, a search warrant was issued.[1] The officers then conducted a search of the home and discovered a shotgun in the same bedroom where Sergeant Murray had observed the glass pipe. The weapon was hidden from view behind a "speaker box."

         On 31 July 2013, Sergeant Murray questioned Defendant about the shotgun, and Defendant admitted that the gun belonged to him. Defendant was subsequently indicted by a grand jury on 4 November 2013 for possession of a firearm by a felon. A jury trial was held on 16 March 2016 before the Honorable Robert G. Horne in Rutherford County Superior Court. Before the trial began, a hearing was held to address an oral motion to suppress made by Defendant. Despite the fact that the motion was not in writing, the State did not object on procedural grounds to its consideration by the trial court, and the court agreed to hear Defendant's motion. Following the arguments of counsel, the trial court orally denied the motion to suppress.

         At trial, counsel for Defendant failed to object to the admission of evidence as to the shotgun being found in the residence during the officers' search. On 16 March 2016, the jury found Defendant guilty of possession of a firearm by a felon. The trial court sentenced him to a term of 19 to 32 months imprisonment, suspended the sentence, and placed Defendant on supervised probation for 36 months.

         Defendant filed an untimely notice of appeal on 8 April 2018. However, he filed a petition for writ of certiorari on 12 September 2016, and this ...


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