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United States v. Arthur

United States Court of Appeals, First Circuit

August 22, 2014

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Appellee,
v.
LYNCH E. ARTHUR, Defendant, Appellant

Page 93

[Copyrighted Material Omitted]

Page 94

APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE DISTRICT OF MASSACHUSETTS. Hon. Denise J. Casper , U.S. District Judge.

Elizabeth Prevett, Federal Defender Office, with whom Jennifer C. Pucci, Federal Defender Office, was on brief, for appellant.

Kelly Begg Lawrence, Assistant United States Attorney, with whom Carmen M. Ortiz, United States Attorney, was on brief, for appellee.

Before Kayatta, Baldock[*] and Selya, Circuit Judges.

OPINION

Page 95

SELYA, Circuit Judge.

The reasonable suspicion that is needed to justify a minimally intrusive police stop is hard to quantify, and there is sometimes a fine line between that degree of suspicion and mere paranoia or a hunch plucked out of thin air. This case requires us to examine that line. After conducting such an examination, we conclude that the district court did not err in finding that the police conduct in this case fell on the right side of the line. We further conclude that the court committed no error in refusing to suppress proffered eyewitness identification evidence. Based on these conclusions, we affirm the denial of the appellant's motions to suppress.[1]

I. BACKGROUND

We briefly sketch the genesis and travel of the case. On October 31, 2011, two armed men robbed a MetroPCS cell phone store in Boston, Massachusetts. Within a matter of minutes, a Boston police officer, Timothy Golden, spotted two men matching the culprits' general description. He stopped the pair, later identified as Ronald Brown and defendant-appellant Lynch E. Arthur, and questioned them. During this conversation, Officer Golden received additional information from other officers that bolstered his suspicions. The men were brought to the scene of the crime and identified by the store clerk in a " show-up" procedure. Arrests followed.

A federal grand jury sitting in the District of Massachusetts subsequently returned an indictment charging both men with Hobbs Act robbery, see 18 U.S.C. § 1951; possessing firearms and ammunition after felony convictions, see id. § 922(g)(1); and carrying firearms during and in relation to a crime of violence, see id. § 924(c)(1)(A). A superseding indictment changed the sequence of the charges against the appellant but not their substance.[2]

The appellant moved to suppress. After an evidentiary hearing, the district court concluded that the stop was justified by reasonable suspicion. See United States v. Arthur, No. 12-10025, 2012 WL 6531928, at

Page 96

*7 (D. Mass. Dec. 12, 2012). The court further concluded that, even though the show-up procedure was impermissibly suggestive, the clerk's identification was reliable and therefore admissible. See Id. at *10.

The appellant entered a conditional guilty plea to all three of the charged counts, see Fed. R. Crim. P. 11(a)(2), reserving the right to challenge the district court's refusal to suppress the challenged evidence. The court sentenced the appellant to a total of 228 months of immurement. This timely appeal ensued.

II. ANALYSIS

The appellant musters two assignments of error. First, he argues that there was no reasonable suspicion supporting Officer Golden's initial stop and that the district court's contrary finding was insupportable. Second, he argues that the district court erred in concluding that the store clerk's identification was reliable under the totality of the circumstances. We address these arguments in turn, " accepting the district court's findings of fact to the extent they are not clearly erroneous and subjecting its legal conclusions to de novo review." United States v. Romain,393 F.3d 63, 68 (1st Cir. 2004). This means that, " [a]bsent an error of law, we will uphold a refusal ...


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