United States District Court, S.D. Indiana, New Albany Division
ORDER ON DEFENDANT'S MOTION TO DISMISS INDICTMENT
AND SUPPRESS EVIDENCE
EVANS BARKER, JUDGE.
October 11, 2017, the Grand Jury returned a Second
Superseding Indictment charging defendant Ryan L. Hardin
(“Hardin”) with three counts of drug and firearms
crimes. [Dkt. 60] (charging violations of 18 U.S.C. § 2,
21 U.S.C. §§ 841(a)(1), (b)(1)(B) (“Count
1”); 18 U.S.C. § 924(c)(1) (“Count
2”); 18 U.S.C. § 922(g)(1) (“Count
3”)). Before the Court is Hardin's
Trombetta-Youngblood motion seeking
dismissal of the indictment for the government's failure
to preserve certain evidence, and, in the alternative, to
suppress evidence. For the reasons set out below,
Hardin's motion is denied.
government alleges that, in January 2017, an undercover
Jeffersonville, Indiana, police detective bought
methamphetamine from Hardin and an accomplice, Sara Allen
(“Allen”). Hardin and the detective got into an
argument about the weight of methamphetamine purchased and
Hardin punched the detective in the face. As waiting
Jeffersonville police officers moved to arrest Hardin, the
officers observed Hardin throw something under a nearby car.
Hardin and Allen were both arrested. From under the nearby
car, the officers recovered a handgun, which, as Hardin's
motion alleges and the government agrees, at least one of the
officers handled without wearing gloves.
motion alleges, and the government again agrees, that while
Allen was in the booking area of the local county jail
following her arrest, a jail officer persuaded her to turn
over a small bag of narcotics, which the jail officer then
flushed down a drain. It is not clear whether the bag
contained methamphetamine, heroin (which the detective
believed Allen to be in possession of), or another substance.
police officers' failure to handle the recovered handgun
in such a way as to preserve any fingerprint evidence on its
surface, and for the jail officer's destruction of the
bag of narcotics turned over by Allen, Hardin now seeks
dismissal of the indictment on due process grounds. Dkt. 77
(“Motion to Dismiss-Loss of Evidence”).
the Supreme Court's decisions in California v.
Trombetta, 467 U.S. 479 (1984), and Arizona v.
Youngblood, 488 U.S. 51 (1988), two in the long line of
cases following the decision in Brady v. Maryland,
373 U.S. 83 (1963), an accused establishes a denial of due
process by the government's failure to preserve
“potentially useful evidence, ” Illinois v.
Fisher, 540 U.S. 544, 545 (2004), and is entitled to
dismissal of the indictment against him, see United
States v. Watts, 29 F.3d 287, 290 (7th Cir. 1994), if
the accused shows “that the government acted in bad
faith, that the exculpatory nature of the evidence was
apparent, and that the evidence could not be obtained
elsewhere.” Tabb v. Christianson, 855 F.3d
757, 768 (7th Cir. 2017).
duty the Constitution imposes on [the government] to preserve
evidence, that duty must be limited to evidence that might be
expected to play a significant role in the suspect's
defense.” Trombetta, 467 U.S. at 488. In other
words, the evidence must be material to the defense. See
Id. at n.8, 489. Here, we cannot perceive such
materiality either in terms of its exculpatory or impeachment
value in the evidence whose destruction is alleged to be a
denial of due process.
the recovered handgun, neither Hardin nor the government is
able to state to what degree, if any, its ungloved handling
destroyed or failed to preserve material evidence.
See Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (Dkt. 77), p. 2
(asserting handgun has been “contaminated to a
degree”); Gov't's Resp. Br. Opp. (Dkt. 79), p.
4 (“The level of contamination . . . is
unknown.”). Hardin contends that handling the gun
“prevented any fingerprint analysis” from being
conducted on it, Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (Dkt. 77), p. 2, but
he does not explain how this is so. The only exculpatory
value in fingerprinting the gun lies in showing the absence
of Hardin's fingerprints on it. Hardin has not explained,
and we cannot perceive, how the gun's handling destroyed
the possibility of showing such absence.
the bag of narcotics, we are similarly unable to see any
exculpatory value to Hardin in Allen's possession of
contraband. We agree with the government that “the
evidence is not conceivably exculpatory” and that
Hardin has presented “no argument that it is.”
Gov't's Resp. Br. Opp. (Dkt. 79), p. 3.
a state or local law enforcement officer's bad faith, if
any, is not to be automatically imputed to a federal
prosecution. United States v. Aldaco, 201 F.3d 979,
984 (7th Cir. 2000). On this score, Hardin faults the
“government's failure to monitor its agents”
as “a failure which is tantamount to bad
faith[.]” Def.'s Mot. Dismiss (Dkt. 77), p. 6. But
local police officers are not agents of the federal
government, see, e.g., Arizona v. United States, 567
U.S. 387 (2012) (holding that, for this reason, local police
officers cannot enforce federal immigration law), and the
federal government has no duty to supervise local police
officers. Without showing some connection between the
state's failure to preserve evidence and the federal
prosecution, see Aldaco, 201 F.3d at 984, Hardin
cannot show the federal government's bad faith
in the state's failure to preserve potentially useful
evidence. Even if the local police officers' actions were
imputed to federal law enforcement officials under the facts
of this case, we find no basis for a bad-faith determination.
alternative, Hardin asks us to suppress the testimony of
witnesses at trial. Hardin never identifies a legal basis for
suppression, nor whose testimony as to which matters he
believes warrants suppression. Lacking any notion of what we
are asked to do and why ...