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Click here for the full text of this decision FACTS:Law enforcement in Houston received a tip that a man named “Angel” might have been a witness to a quadruple homicide, be in possession of the weapons used in the homicide and be planning to flee to Mexico with those weapons. The tipster stated that Angel was staying with his girlfriend and provided her address in Pasadena. The day after receiving the tip, the police did not seek a warrant. Rather, six officers set up surveillance outside the residence. Three or four hours later, a car drove away from the residence. The officers stopped the car and interviewed the driver, a man named Bernardo, who confirmed that a man named Angel was in the residence. At the request of the police, Bernardo agreed to call the residence and ask Angel to come to the location of the stop to retrieve his car. Approximately 20 minutes later, Juan Angel Martinez and his girlfriend Georgina Amatt left the house, totally unaware that they were under surveillance. The police stopped them a few blocks away. They immediately placed Martinez in the back of a police cruiser, where he consented to being transported to the police station for questioning. Meanwhile, a Spanish-speaking officer obtained consent from Amatt to search her residence, which resulted in the discovery of three firearms. The police quickly learned that Martinez’s middle name was Angel, but, contrary to the tipster’s information, neither Martinez nor the discovered weapons had anything to do with the quadruple homicide. Martinez was charged only with being an illegal alien in possession of firearms and with being a felon in possession of firearms, in violation of 18 U.S.C. ��922(g)(5)(A), 922(g)(1) and 924(a)(2). Martinez filed a motion to suppress the statements given and the evidence seized. The district court held a lengthy suppression hearing at which both sides presented the testimony of multiple witnesses. Afterward, the district court granted the motion to suppress the statements but denied the motion to suppress the evidence. The court later conducted a bench trial and found Martinez guilty of being a felon in possession. The district judge sentenced him to a term of 92 months plus three years supervised release. On appeal, Martinez argued that the district court erred in denying his motion to suppress the weapons discovered at Amatt’s home. He argued that the informant’s tip was not itself reliable and specific enough to give rise to a reasonable suspicion that Martinez had engaged in criminal activity. Martinez added that the police might have established the reliability of the information by taking steps to corroborate it, but they did not adequately do so. Without reasonable suspicion, he says, the stop of his vehicle was unlawful, and the firearms must be suppressed as the fruit of that poisonous tree. HOLDING:The court reversed the district court’s denial of the suppression motion, vacated Martinez’s conviction and sentence, and remanded the matter for further proceedings. The crucial fact in this case, the court stated, is that the government bore the burden of proving reasonable suspicion. Where that suspicion hinges on an informant’s tip, the court stated, part of the government’s burden is to address the reliability of that information. The court first examined whether the police had reasonable suspicion to stop Martinez’s car. An informant’s tip, the court stated, may in certain cases provide reasonable suspicion depending on various factors including: the credibility and reliability of the informant; the specificity of the information contained in the tip or report; the extent to which the information in the tip or report can be verified by officers in the field; and whether the tip or report concerns active or recent activity or has instead gone stale. The court then ascertained the credibility and reliability of the informant. The government made no effort to illustrate his or her reliability in the district court. Therefore, at the time of the stop, the only verified information that the police had was that a man named Angel was in a specified residence. But notably absent, the court stated, was any verified information that criminal activity was afoot. This information, the court stated, was insufficient to give rise to reasonable suspicion. Next, the court addressed whether the seized evidence was fruit of the poisonous tree that must be suppressed. Specifically, the court considered whether the evidence discovered in Amatt’s home was a fruit of the illegal stop or whether there was some break in the chain sufficient to purge the taint of that violation. Even though the officers executed an unjustified stop of the vehicle, the court stated, a subsequent consent to search may dissipate the taint of a prior Fourth amendment violation. To evaluate consent given after a Fourth Amendment violation, the court stated that the admissibility of the challenged evidence turned on a two-pronged inquiry: 1. whether the consent was voluntarily and freely given; and 2. whether the consent was an independent act of free will. The first prong focuses on coercion and the second prong focuses on the causal connection with the constitutional violation, the court stated. Examining the second prong, the court considered: 1. the temporal proximity of the illegal conduct and the consent; 2. the presence of intervening circumstances; and 3. the purpose and flagrancy of the initial misconduct. The court found that all of the factors favored the defendant’s position that the causal link was unbroken. First, there was immediate temporal proximity between the illegal stop and Amatt’s consent. The Spanish speaking officer obtained her consent at the scene of the stop, while other officers were placing Martinez into a police cruiser. Second, there were no intervening circumstances of any kind that might have broken that chain. Third, and finally, one major purpose, if not the major purpose, of the misconduct was to gain permission to search the home. Thus, the court found that all signs indicated that there was not a break in the causal chain between the illegal stop and the subsequent discovery of the evidence in Amatt’s home. Accordingly, the court held that the evidence in question must be suppressed. OPINION:Benavides, J.; Reavley, Jolly and Benavides, J.J.

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