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United States v. Briggs

United States District Court, E.D. Virginia, Newport News Division

July 14, 2017

ADRIAN D. BRIGGS, Defendant.


          Raymond A. Jackson United Slates District Judge.

         This matter comes before the Court on a Motion to Suppress Photo Array Identification Evidence submitted by Adrian D. Briggs ("Defendant"). Having thoroughly reviewed the parties' filings in this case, the Court finds this matter is ripe for judicial determination. For the reasons set forth below, Defendant's motion is DENIED.


         On Thursday, August 11, 2016, at approximately 4:30 a.m., Nathan Goodwin ("Victim") was sitting in his car in the parking lot of the Crestwood Suites hotel in Newport News, Virginia. According to Victim, a man ("the perpetrator") knocked on Victim's window and asked to use Victim's cell phone because he was stranded in the area. Victim exited the vehicle and gave the perpetrator his cell phone. Victim got back into his vehicle and allowed the perpetrator to make several calls. The perpetrator used the cell phone intermittently during the next 15-20 minutes. Between phone calls, the perpetrator made small talk with Victim, requested and received $4 for bus fare from Victim, and sat in the backseat of Victim's car at one point.

         Then, as the perpetrator was standing outside the car, Victim noticed a handgun in the perpetrator's waistband. Alarmed by this, Victim told the perpetrator that he needed to leave to pick up his son. The perpetrator drew the handgun, told Victim to exit the car and leave his wallet inside, and then fled the area in Victim's car. Victim then ran inside the hotel and called the police.

         When Victim spoke to police, he described the perpetrator as a Black male with "darker skin, " clean shaven, no tattoos or scars on the face, with a short "edged up" haircut, wearing a white long-sleeved shirt. Victim said, "I'm 6' 1 so he was a few inches shorter than me ... 5'8 or 5'9." Victim also described the perpetrator as a "skinnier guy" in his late teens to early twenties. Victim's full statement is included as Exhibit 1 to Defendant's Reply in Support of the Motion to Suppress. See ECF No. 20, Ex. 1. Law enforcement personnel told Victim that, if and when they found his vehicle, they would ask Victim to identify the items in the car that did not belong to him because those items would likely be linked to the perpetrator.

         Later that day, Victim's credit card was used at ¶ 7-Eleven in Hampton, Virginia. There is video footage of a person getting out of the stolen vehicle and returning to the vehicle after the credit card was used. The next day, Friday, August 12, 2016, law enforcement officers found the vehicle in Hampton. They identified several items in the vehicle that did not belong to Victim. One of these items was a cigar wrapper. In October 2016, Detective Davis ("Det. Davis") of the Newport News Police Department received an email from the State Crime Lab informing her that the fingerprints on the cigar wrapper belonged to "Adrian Briggs". At some point thereafter, Det. Davis contacted Victim and asked him if he knew anything about the cigar wrapper in the vehicle or if he knew anyone named Adrian Briggs. Victim replied in the negative to both questions.

         On November 3, 2016, Det. Davis asked Ms. Coner, a Crime Analyst with the Newport News Police Department, to set up a photo array for a suspect named Adrian Briggs. Ms. Coner did not know any other information about Defendant or about the description Victim had given of the perpetrator. Ms. Coner conducted a search in the photo database using Defendant's name and received three search results. Ms. Coner testified that, under standard photo array procedure, she would include the most recent photo of a suspect in the array. However, in this case, the most recent photo of Defendant depicted him with an injured lip. Therefore, Ms. Coner testified that she used the next-most recent photo of Defendant.

         To acquire the five "filler" photos necessary to complete the photo array, Ms. Coner then conducted a search in the photo database for all photos matching Defendant's race, sex, age (within 2 years) and weight (within 20 pounds). This search returned approximately 1, 000 possible filler photos. Of these, Ms. Coner selected five for inclusion in the photo array. Ms. Coner testified that her goal in selecting these photos was to ensure that Defendant's photo was not unnecessarily or suggestively distinguishable from the filler photos. Of the six men in the photos, only two are wearing a white crew-neck shirt: Defendant and another man, whose crew-neck shirt is under a white collared shirt. All six photos are attached as Exhibit 1 to the Government's Response in Opposition to the Motion. See ECF No. 16, Ex. 1.

         On December 1, 2016. Det. Davis took the six photos provided by Ms. Coner, placed each photo into a separate folder, shuffled the order of the folders, and then gave the folders to Detective Erickson ("Det. Erickson") of the Newport News Police Department. Det. Erickson did not know which of the photos belonged to Defendant. Later that day, Det. Erickson presented the photo array to Victim. Det. Davis was present in the room. Before giving the folders to Victim, Det. Erickson gave Victim the following nine admonishments:

1) The suspect may or may not be in the line-up;
2) The police will continue to investigate the incident regardless of whether identification is made;
3) The line-up administrator does not know who the suspect is;
4) Individual photos will be viewed one at a time; 5) Photos are in random order;
6) Take as much time as needed in making a decision about each photo;
7) All photos will be shown, even if identification is made prior to ...

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