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Edmond v. United States

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

August 3, 2018

Tralvis Edmond, Petitioner-Appellant,
v.
United States of America, Respondent-Appellee.

          Argued February 6, 2018

          Appeal from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division. No. 1:15-cv-03566 - Matthew F. Kennelly, Judge.

          Before Ripple, Sykes, and Barrett, Circuit Judges.

          RIPPLE, CIRCUIT JUDGE.

         A jury convicted Tralvis Edmond of possession of heroin with the intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1), and possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g). The Government's case was based largely on evidence that the police had recovered while executing a search warrant at a Chicago apartment. The warrant was supported by the tip of a confidential informant who reported purchasing heroin from Mr. Edmond at the apartment.

         Following his conviction, Mr. Edmond filed a motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255, seeking collateral relief from federal custody. He claimed that he had been deprived of the effective assistance of counsel because his trial attorney had not filed a motion to exclude the evidence obtained from the search. The district court evaluated this claim under the familiar two-part analysis of Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984). The court held that Mr. Edmond's trial attorney had performed below an objective standard of reasonableness. It then concluded that, although the search warrant was not supported by probable cause, the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule saved the evidence from exclusion. Therefore, the court reasoned, Mr. Edmond had not shown that he was prejudiced by his attorney's deficient performance, and his claim of ineffective assistance failed.

         Mr. Edmond now challenges the district court's application of the good-faith exception. We agree with the district court that objectively reasonable police officers could have relied in good faith on the search warrant. Because Mr. Edmond has not shown the requisite prejudice under Strickland, we affirm the denial of his § 2255 motion.

         I

         BACKGROUND

         A.

         On May 19, 2010, Chicago Police Officer John Frano filed a complaint for a search warrant in the Circuit Court of Cook County. The complaint recounted a tip that he had received the day before from a confidential informant, who claimed to have purchased heroin in a basement apartment at 736 North Ridgeway Avenue in Chicago. According to the complaint, the informant had identified Mr. Edmond as the seller and had described the location of the drugs as hidden under a bed in a shoebox. The shoebox contained twenty to thirty golf ball-sized bags, and each bag was filled with ten to thirteen smaller bags of suspected heroin. The complaint also described Officer Frano's efforts to corroborate this tip: he drove the informant past the building to confirm the location of the drug sale and showed the informant a photograph of Mr. Ed-mond to confirm the seller's identity. Notably, although the complaint specified the date of the informant's tip, it did not specify clearly the date of the alleged drug sale.[1]

         In the complaint, Officer Frano attested to the reliability of the informant, who had provided dependable information about narcotics activities for the past five years. The complaint further explained that, "[o]n over 6 different occasions in the past two months[, Officer Frano] has acted upon the information provided by this [informant, ] and on these occasions [Officer Frano] has recovered illegal narcotics."[2] The complaint did not mention the informant's criminal record, that he was facing felony drug charges at the time, or that a state court recently had revoked his bail and issued a warrant for his arrest. At the time, the Chicago Police Department's standard practices did not require the inclusion of informants' criminal histories in warrant applications.[3] Before presenting the complaint to the issuing judge, Officer Frano obtained the approval of the state's attorney's office. He did not, at any time, bring the informant before the judge for questioning.

         The judge issued the warrant, and the Chicago Police Department executed a search of the Ridgeway apartment on May 20, 2010. Officers recovered two loaded handguns, three grams of heroin, and eight grams of cocaine. Mr. Edmond was not present during the search but was arrested later. On June 1, 2011, he was charged in a federal indictment with: (1) possession of a firearm as a convicted felon, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1); (2) possession of heroin with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1); and (3) possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute, in violation of 21 U.S.C. § 841(a)(1).

         The case proceeded to trial.[4] The Government presented testimony from police officers involved in the search, including Officer Frano. Mr. Edmond did not testify. The jury found him guilty of the firearm and heroin charges but acquitted him of the cocaine charge. Thereafter, the district court imposed a sentence of 84 months' imprisonment. Mr. Edmond filed a direct appeal, at which point his attorney (the same one who represented him at trial) filed a motion to withdraw. We dismissed the appeal under Anders v. California, 386 U.S. 738, 744 (1967). See United States v. Edmond, 560 Fed.Appx. 580 (7th Cir. 2014).

         B.

         On April 22, 2015, Mr. Edmond filed a pro se motion under 28 U.S.C. § 2255 to set aside his conviction and sentence. He claimed that he had received ineffective assistance of counsel at trial. In particular, he challenged his attorney's decision not to file a motion to suppress the evidence recovered in the search of the Ridgeway apartment. He submitted that the warrant authorizing the search was not supported by probable cause. As a result, he claimed, the search was unlawful and the evidence was excludable as fruit of the poisonous tree.[5]

         The district court ordered an evidentiary hearing on Mr. Edmond's claim and appointed counsel to represent him. The hearing had two parts, which mirrored the familiar two-part test for assessing claims of ineffective assistance of counsel under Strickland. First, the court considered whether Mr. Edmond's trial attorney had performed in an objectively unreasonable manner. The court concluded that his attorney's performance fell below the requisite standard because, based on a misunderstanding of the law, [6] the attorney had decided not to file a suppression motion. See Gardner v. United States, 680 F.3d 1006, 1012 (7th Cir. 2012) (concluding that an attorney's "misapprehension of law" is objectively unreasonable).

         The court then held the second part of the hearing to consider the other part of the Strickland inquiry: whether Mr. Ed-mond had suffered prejudice as a result of his attorney's deficient performance. The parties agreed that the evidence seized from the search was critical to the Government's case, so the court focused on "whether Edmond ha[d] shown a reasonable likelihood that a motion to suppress would have been successful had counsel filed it."[7] This inquiry required a showing that the search warrant was not supported by probable cause and that the good-faith exception did not apply to save the evidence despite any constitutional infirmities with the warrant.

         The district court first determined that the warrant was not supported by probable cause. It based its decision primarily on the failure of the complaint to set forth clearly the date on which the informant allegedly purchased drugs from Mr. Edmond at the Ridgeway apartment. That omission, the court explained, undermined the issuing judge's ability to determine whether the complaint "reasonably suggests that evidence of a crime might currently be found in the location to be searched."[8] Although other factors weighed in favor of finding probable cause, such as the firsthand nature of the informant's observations, the court did not think that these countervailing considerations overcame the "staleness" of the informant's tip.[9]

         Despite this conclusion about probable cause, the court found that the good-faith exception to the exclusionary rule applied. According to that exception, evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment is nevertheless admissible if the officers conducting the unlawful search relied in good faith on a search warrant. United States v. Leon, 468 U.S. 897, 918-23 (1984). Because the receipt of a warrant constitutes prima facie evidence of good faith, Mr. Edmond had the burden to show that the exception should not apply. See United States v. Pappas, 592 F.3d 799, 802 (7th Cir. 2010). In an effort to shoulder that burden, he advanced two arguments: first, that the complaint was so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official reliance on it entirely unreasonable; and second, that Officer Frano had acted in reckless disregard of the truth by omitting from the complaint damaging information about the informant's criminal history and pending criminal charges.

         The court rejected both of these arguments. First, it held that the complaint contained sufficient indicia of probable cause to justify good-faith reliance on the warrant. The court noted that the warrant contained detailed information about the location and packaging of the drugs, Officer Frano's corroboration of both the apartment's location and the seller's identity, and evidence of the informant's recent reliability. Second, the court concluded that Officer Frano had not acted with reckless disregard for the truth. It credited Officer Frano's testimony that he had omitted the informant's criminal history based on the then-common practice of the police department and that he was unaware of the informant's recent bail revocation and arrest warrant. The court also considered the informant's proven reliability and that Officer Frano had obtained the approval of the state's attorney before applying for the warrant. Taken together, this evidence persuaded the court that Officer Frano "did not intend to mislead the judge regarding the informant's credibility."[10] Having rejected both of Mr. Edmond's arguments, the court denied his § 2255 motion.

         Mr. Edmond now challenges the district court's determination that the good-faith exception applies to defeat his showing of prejudice. He maintains that the trial judge would have granted a motion to suppress and that, therefore, he was deprived the effective assistance of counsel under Strickland.

         II

         DISCUSSION

         We review de novo the district court's legal conclusions, including its determination that the good-faith exception applies. United States v. Koerth, 312 F.3d 862, 865 (7th Cir. 2002). We review the court's underlying ...


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