United States District Court, M.D. North Carolina
MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER
OSTEEN, JR., DISTRICT JUDGE
of an investigation into a fatal shooting, law enforcement
sought and received a search warrant from a Magistrate in
Rowan County authorizing a search of 1508 Lakewood Drive,
Salisbury, North Carolina, on December 4, 2016. (Def.'s
Mot. to Suppress, Ex. A, Search Warrant (Doc. 14-1).) The
warrant was issued on the application and affidavit of an
officer with the Salisbury Police Department. (Id.)
Defendant Aaron Darius Holtzclaw (“Defendant”)
challenged the search warrant on the basis that it fails to
establish probable cause for the search. This court
previously found that the facts contained in the affidavit
underlying the search warrant application “fall short
of providing probable cause to search Defendant's alleged
residence at 1508 Lakewood Drive for ‘[c]ell phones,
other electronic media devices,' ‘[a]ny weapons, to
include handguns,' and ‘[a]ny clothing that
contains blood for the purpose of DNA.'” (Mem. Op.
& Order (Doc. 21) at 11 (quoting Mot. to Suppress, Ex. A,
Search Warrant (Doc. 14-1) at 4).) This court not only found
probable cause absent, but also found that the affidavit
failed to provide a nexus between the items to be seized and
the property to be searched. (Id.)
Even if this Court were to determine that probable cause did
not exist to support the issuance of the search warrant, that
finding would be unavailing to the defendant. Leon
directs that a court should not suppress the fruits of a
search . . . unless “a reasonably well-trained officer
would have known the search was illegal despite the
(Government's Resp. to Def.'s Mot. to Suppress
(“Government's Resp.”) (Doc. 17) at 9 (citing
United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 922 & n.23
(1984)). In response, Defendant argues that “[t]he
affidavit supporting the search warrant cannot be saved by
the Leon good faith exception.” (Def.
Holtzclaw's Suppl. Br. (“Def.'s Suppl.
Br.”) (Doc. 24) at 1.)
United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897 (1984), the
Supreme Court established the good-faith exception to the
The Court identified four circumstances in which the
good-faith exception would not apply: (1) “if the
magistrate or judge in issuing a warrant was misled by
information in an affidavit that the affiant knew was false
or would have known was false except for his reckless
disregard of the truth;” (2) if “the issuing
magistrate wholly abandoned his judicial role in the manner
condemned in Lo-Ji Sales, Inc. v. New York”;
(3) if the affidavit supporting the warrant is “so
lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official
belief in its existence entirely unreasonable;” and (4)
if under the circumstances of the case the warrant is
“so facially deficient - i.e., in failing to
particularize the place to be searched or the things to be
seized - that the executing officers cannot reasonably
presume it to be valid.”
United States v. DeQuasie, 373 F.3d 509, 519 (4th
Cir. 2004) (citations and footnote omitted). Under any of
those circumstances, the good-faith exception does not apply,
and any evidence gathered pursuant to the deficient warrant
must be excluded from trial. United States v.
Andrews, 577 F.3d 231, 236 (4th Cir. 2009).
making a determination as to the good-faith exception under
Leon, it is appropriate to look outside an affidavit
in determining whether the officer's reliance was
objectively reasonable because Leon notes that the
good-faith exception is determined “in light of all the
circumstances.” United States v.
McKenzie-Gude, 671 F.3d 452, 459 (4th Cir. 2011);
cf. United States v. Bynum, 293 F.3d 192,
197-98 (4th Cir. 2002) (information not presented in
affidavit but known to officer about informant's
credibility rendered reliance on warrant reasonable).
burden of proof is on the Government to establish objectively
reasonable reliance under Leon. See United
States v. Voustianiouk, 685 F.3d 206, 215 (2d Cir.
2012); United States v. Corral-Corral, 899 F.2d 927,
932 (10th Cir. 1990); United States v. Michaelian,
803 F.2d 1042, 1048 (9th Cir. 1986); United States v.
Maggitt, 778 F.2d 1029, 1034 (5th Cir. 1985); see
also Leon, 468 U.S. at 924 (“When officers have
acted pursuant to a warrant, the prosecution should
ordinarily be able to establish objective good faith without
a substantial expenditure of judicial time.”).
the Leon context, we begin with the assumption that
there was not a substantial basis for finding probable cause;
the only question is whether reliance on a warrant that lacks
such a ‘substantial basis' was nevertheless
reasonable.” Andrews, 577 F.3d at 236 n.1;
see also United States v. Doyle, 650 F.3d 460, 470
(4th Cir. 2011).
affidavit in this case establishes that a shooting occurred
at the Firewater Restaurant and Lounge on December 4, 2016,
and one victim was killed. (Mot. to Suppress, Ex. A, Search
Warrant (Doc. 14-1) at 6-7.) Thereafter, the affidavit
provides in relevant part:
During the investigation Salisbury Police obtained
information from multiple witnesses that Aaron Darius
Holtzclaw was present during the shooting and is a suspect of
Salsibury [sic] Police Detectives located Aaron Darius
Holtzclaw at his residence, 1508 Lakewood Dr. Salisbury NC.
Aaron Darius Holtzclaw agreed to go with Salisbury Police
Detectives to the Salisbury Police Department to be
interviewed, he was informed he was not under arrest and he
would be coming under his own free will. Holtzclaw said he
understood and agreed to go with the Detectives.
While at Holtzclaw's residence, 1508 Lakewood Dr.,
Holtzclaw stated that he was at Firewater at the time of the
shooting and that he was driving a black 2016 Jeep Patriot
(NC# DMT9138), which is a rental car from Enterprise.
Holtzclaw stated that the black jeep was shot into during the
shooting at Firewater. Detectives verified this and observed
a bullet hole in the drivers side of the windshield of the