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State v. Cousan

Court of Criminal Appeals of Oklahoma

August 15, 2019

STATE OF OKLAHOMA, Appellant,
v.
WILLIAM LEE COUSAN, Appellee.

          AN APPEAL FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF COMANCHE COUNTY THE HONORABLE IRMA J. NEWBURN, DISTRICT JUDGE

          JILL OLIVER ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ATTORNEY FOR STATE

          TERESSA WILLIAMS OKLAHOMA INDIGENT DEFENSE SYSTEM ATTORNEY FOR DEFENDANT

          FRED C. SMITH DISTRICT ATTORNEY JILL D. OLIVER ASST. DISTRICT ATTORNEY ATTORNEYS FOR STATE

          JEREMY STILLWELL APPELLATE DEFENSE COUNSEL ATTORNEY FOR APPELLEE

          OPINION

          ROWLAND, JUDGE.

         ¶1 The State of Oklahoma charged Appellee William Lee Cousan by Amended Information in the District Court of Comanche County, Case No. CF-2016-635, with Illegal Drug Trafficking (Count 1), in violation of 63 O.S.Supp.2015, § 2-415, Unlawful Possession of Drug Paraphernalia (Count 2) (misdemeanor), in violation of 63 O.S.2011, § 2-405, and Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon (Count 3), in violation of 21 O.S.Supp.2014, § 1283. The State filed a Supplemental Information alleging two prior drug-related felony convictions for sentence enhancement of the alleged felonies. The magistrate bound Cousan over at preliminary hearing and thereafter he filed a motion to suppress all evidence seized from his person by the arresting officers as well as all statements he made to police. [1] He claimed that the police exceeded the scope of the search warrant by detaining him blocks away from the premises authorized to be searched and by searching his person during an investigative stop. The detention and search, he maintained, were neither incident to arrest nor incident to the search warrant issued for his motel room. Cousan argued that, under the totality of the circumstances, his detention and the resulting search of his person were unreasonable and unlawful. The Honorable Irma J. Newburn, District Judge, sustained Cousan's motion to suppress evidence taken from his person in open court, and the State announced its intent to appeal. Judge Newburn filed a written order one week later, sustaining the motion to suppress and dismissing the charge of Illegal Drug Trafficking. The State of Oklahoma filed the instant appeal of the district court's order, seeking review of two issues:

(1) whether the district court erred in ruling the search of Cousan was unreasonable; and
(2) whether the district court erred in ruling the search of Cousan was not a lawful search incident to a valid search warrant.

         ¶2 We reverse the district court's order for the reasons discussed below and remand this matter for further proceedings.

         BACKGROUND

         ¶3 The Lawton Police Department received an anonymous tip, on October 26, 2016, that Cousan was selling crack cocaine out of a motel room at a local Motel 6. Detective Kimberly Morton set up a surveillance of the room and observed numerous people coming and going from Cousan's motel room. Lawton police officers stopped three people after they left the motel room, garnering more information about the activities going on inside the room. Det. Morton obtained a search warrant for the motel room based on all of this information. [2] She notified the other special operations officers, including the officers who had stayed behind to continue surveillance of the motel room, of the issuance of the search warrant and went about making preparations for executing it.

         ¶4 Lieutenant John Mull was one of the officers watching the motel room while Det. Morton secured the search warrant. Before Det. Morton returned to the motel with the search team, Lt. Mull observed Cousan exit the motel room and get into the passenger side of a brown pickup. There was no indication that Cousan was aware of the officers' presence or had any knowledge of the impending search. Lt. Mull watched the pickup leave the motel from his unmarked police car and enlisted the aid of Sergeant Christopher Adamson, who was driving a marked patrol car, to stop the pickup. [3] Lt. Mull followed Sgt. Adamson and observed him stop the pickup approximately eight blocks from the motel. It is unclear how many officers, who were also watching the motel, participated in the traffic stop in addition to Lt. Mull and Sgt. Adamson. According to Lt. Mull, Cousan exited the pickup, acting suspiciously as well as aggressively towards the officers, threatening to come after them. Cousan attempted to reach back into the truck and they feared he might have a gun based on information they had already obtained. Sgt. Adamson moved Cousan away from the pickup and searched his person. Sgt. Adamson pulled a Mentos container out of Cousan's pocket, containing "very large chunks of crack cocaine" weighing in excess of ten grams, and placed him under arrest. Meanwhile, Det. Morton ...


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