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Commonwealth v. Jeannis

Supreme Judicial Court of Massachusetts, Suffolk

May 24, 2019

COMMONWEALTH
v.
STANLEY JEANNIS.

          Heard: February 5, 2019.

         Controlled Substances. Practice, Criminal, Motion to suppress. Search and Seizure, Probable cause, Bodily intrusion, Body examination. Constitutional Law, Search and seizure, Probable cause. Probable Cause.

         Indictments found and returned in the Superior Court Department on June 11, 2015. A pretrial motion to suppress evidence was heard by Robert N. Tochka, J., and the cases were tried before Raffi N. Yessayan, J.

         After review by the Appeals Court, the Supreme Judicial Court granted leave to obtain further appellate review.

          Ian MacLean, Assistant District Attorney, for the Commonwealth.

          Jane Larmon White for the defendant.

          Present: Gants, C.J., Lenk, Gaziano, Lowy, Budd, Cypher, & Kafker, JJ.

          GANTS, C.J.

         During a lawful strip search of the defendant following his arrest, police officers observed a plastic bag protruding from the cleft between his buttocks and caused him to remove it; it was revealed to contain individually wrapped plastic bags of both heroin and cocaine. The issue presented in this case is whether the removal of the plastic bag was within the scope of the strip search, which requires only probable cause, or whether the officers conducted a manual body cavity search of the defendant's rectum, which requires the issuance by a judge of a search warrant based on "a strong showing of particularized need supported by a high degree of probable cause." Rodriques v. Furtado, 410 Mass. 878, 888 (1991) . We conclude that, under the circumstances here, the removal of the plastic bag was within the scope of the strip search and that the actions taken by the police were reasonable within the bounds of the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution and art. 14 of the Massachusetts Declaration of Rights. We therefore affirm the denial of the defendant's motion to suppress the drug evidence. We also affirm his convictions.

         Background.

         We summarize the facts as found by the judge who heard the defendant's motion to suppress, supplemented by uncontradicted witness testimony that the judge implicitly credited. See Commonwealth v. Jones-Pannell, 472 Mass. 429, 431 (2015) .

         On April 7, 2015, members of a Federal Bureau of Investigation task force arrested the defendant in a hotel room in Revere on outstanding warrants. After the defendant was arrested, Lieutenant David Callahan of the Revere police department arrived at the hotel and brought the defendant to the Revere police station for booking. At the station, the defendant complained to Callahan that he had swallowed "fifties," which Callahan understood to mean small bags worth approximately fifty dollars of heroin or cocaine, and that he did not feel well. Callahan did not believe that the defendant was under the influence of narcotics and thought that he was feigning illness, but nonetheless followed established protocol and requested medical assistance.

         Callahan observed the defendant as he sat on a bench during the booking procedure, and noticed that the defendant "sat oddly, leaning to one side." When the defendant told Callahan he might vomit, Callahan, accompanied by Revere police Officer Joseph Singer, escorted the defendant to a nearby cell with a sink and toilet, which was out of sight from other prisoners and not clearly visible to booking officers. As the defendant --who was approximately six feet, two inches tall and weighed approximately 275 pounds at the time of the arrest -- walked to the holding cell, Callahan observed that he was not walking normally. Even though the defendant was not restrained in shackles or handcuffs, his movement was slow, rigid, and tense. Callahan saw the defendant "clenching his buttocks area," and believed that the defendant might have "something secreted in his lower half, " which Callahan recognized could pose a safety risk to the defendant, the police officers, and other prisoners.

         Once inside the holding cell, Callahan ordered the defendant to remove his clothing. The defendant removed his shirt, pants, and socks, but became argumentative when he was asked to remove his underwear. While still wearing his underwear, he continued to clench his buttocks area and attempted to shield his backside from the view of Callahan and Singer. Concerned that he was taking a "fighting stance" or possibly ...


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