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United States v. Fowlkes

United States Court of Appeals, Ninth Circuit

August 25, 2014

MARK TYRELL FOWLKES, AKA Mark Fowlkes, AKA Marq Tyrell Fowlkes, AKA Shawn Walls, Defendant-Appellant

Argued and Submitted May 7, 2013, Pasadena, California

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Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Christina A. Snyder, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. No. 2:07-cr-00497-CAS-1.


Criminal Law

Affirming in part, reversing in part, and remanding, the panel held that the forcible removal of drugs from the defendant's rectum during a body cavity search at the Long Beach Jail, without medical training or a warrant, violated the defendant's Fourth Amendment rights, and the evidence obtained from this brutal and physically invasive search should have been suppressed.

The panel affirmed the district court's denial of the defendant's motions to suppress evidence obtained through wiretaps, to suppress evidence seized from his apartment, to suppress cocaine base and marijuana seized from his car, to dismiss the indictment on a claim of evidence tampering, and to dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds following a mistrial.

Dissenting in part, Court of International Trade Judge Restani disagreed with the majority's decision to suppress the evidence seized during the jailhouse search because she believes the facts found by the district court render the warrantless search and seizure reasonable under the totality of the circumstances.

Thomas P. Sleisenger (argued), Law Offices of Thomas P. Sleisenger, Los Angeles, California, for Defendant-Appellant.

Cheryl L. O'Connor (argued) and Kevin S. Rosenberg, Assistant United States Attorneys; Robert E. Dugdale, Chief, Criminal Division; and André Birotte Jr., United States Attorney, Office of the United States Attorney, Los Angeles, California, for Plaintiff-Appellee.

Before: Kim McLane Wardlaw and Mary H. Murguia, Circuit Judges, and Jane A. Restani, Judge.[*].


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WARDLAW, Circuit Judge.

Mark Tyrell Fowlkes appeals his conviction for drug distribution and possession with intent to distribute. Fowlkes raises a number of claims on appeal, but only one has merit: that the forcible removal of drugs from Fowlkes's rectum by officers without medical training or a warrant violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Because we conclude that the evidence obtained from this brutal and physically invasive search should have been suppressed, we vacate Fowlkes's conviction in part, vacate his sentence, and remand to the district court.



Drug Enforcement Administration (" DEA" ) agents and Long Beach Police Department (" LBPD" ) officers obtained warrants for wiretaps on two phones (Target Telephones #1 and #2) in July and August of 2006. On September 3, 2006, officers intercepted communications pursuant to the wiretap, which led them to conclude that Fowlkes was arranging a drug deal. Based on that information, LBPD officers placed Fowlkes under surveillance and witnessed what appeared to be a drug deal between Fowlkes and two other individuals, Shaun Lee and Elaine Watson. Lee walked away from the deal, but officers stopped him and found he possessed 0.61 grams of crack cocaine.

On September 4, 2006, the LBPD and DEA intercepted several more phone calls, leading them to conclude that Fowlkes was planning to destroy or remove contraband from his apartment. Within an hour of the last phone call, officers arrived at the apartment. Upon entry, they saw Fowlkes and another individual, Latoya Marshall, as well as a 9mm handgun. The officers handcuffed Fowlkes and Marshall and conducted a protective sweep of the apartment. After securing a warrant, officers searched the apartment and found

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approximately 2.6 grams of crack cocaine, a digital scale, and the loaded 9mm handgun.

On September 13, 2006, after witnessing what appeared to be a narcotics transaction between Fowlkes and an unidentified man, LBPD officers requested that a marked car execute a pretextual traffic stop. Pulled over for an expired registration, Fowlkes and his passenger were asked to exit the vehicle. Fowlkes denied consent to search the car. Asserting that they saw marijuana in the open side panel of the car and a substance they believed was cocaine base on the front seats of the car, officers arrested Fowlkes for felony drug possession and transported him to the Long Beach City Jail for processing.

At intake, the officers strip searched Fowlkes in the jail's strip search room, a five by six enclosure with three concrete walls and an opening in the fourth wall. Five officers observed the strip search, including Officer Jeffrey Harris and Sergeant Michael Gibbs, who brought along his taser, gloves and " assistance" in the form of additional officers because he thought Fowlkes might have drugs. The officers instructed Fowlkes to remove his clothing and face the far wall as they watched him. Fowlkes was instructed to bend over, spread his buttocks, and cough, but according to Sergeant Gibbs, Fowlkes instead moved his hand toward his right buttock. Instructed to repeat the procedure, Fowlkes made a quick movement to his buttocks area with his hand and appeared to Gibbs " to be forcing or forcibly pushing an item inward." Officer Harris testified he believed it was possible Fowlkes was attempting to push something into his anus. However, he did not actually see any object Fowlkes could have been pushing, and he acknowledged that there was no other way for Fowlkes to comply with the directive other than by reaching back and putting his fingers towards his anus. For his part, Sergeant Gibbs testified that he believed Fowlkes appeared " to be forcing or moving an object or further secreting an object" inside his rectum to destroy evidence.

To prevent that, Gibbs " delivered a drive stun tase to the center portion of the defendant's back." Fowlkes's arms went straight into the air, and the officers handcuffed him. Fowlkes began to " squirm[]" and " struggl[e]," and the officers " lean[ed] him against the wall, . . . brace[d] his body up against the wall" so that " [h]e end[ed] up being bent over." With Fowlkes in this position, the officers testified that they could see what appeared to be a plastic bag partially protruding from Fowlkes's rectum.

Officers continued to " brac[e] [Fowlkes] up against the wall" to prevent him from resisting. At this point, Fowlkes was handcuffed and incapacitated by five male officers, making escape or resistance impossible. Fowlkes had no ability to destroy or further secrete what was in the plastic bag. Neither Sergeant Gibbs nor the other officers could tell what, if anything, the plastic bag contained while it remained in Fowlkes's rectum. Nor could they determine how large it was or how far it extended into Fowlkes's body. Despite this, and despite the fact that none of the officers had any relevant medical training, the officers did not attempt to obtain a warrant, summon medical personnel, move Fowlkes to a sanitary location, or allow Fowlkes to pass the suspected contraband naturally. Instead, Sergeant Gibbs forcibly " retrieved" the bag. He put on the protective gloves he had brought along to the " search" and pulled the object from Fowlkes's rectum without the assistance of anesthesia, lubricant, or medical dilation. Although Sergeant Gibbs testified that he was able to remove the object using his

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thumb and index finger without penetrating Fowlkes's anal cavity, Officer Harris testified that the removal itself was a difficult, abrasive procedure:

I watched the entire process of him removing it in his fingers. [The object] went from a dime size to a penny size to a nickel size to a quarter size to somewhat near a golf ball size as it was taken out.

Officer Harris further testified that he could " see blood and what looked to be feces" on the plastic bag after it had been removed. Photographs of the object that are included in the appellate record confirm that the object was covered in blood.


On June 6, 2008, the government filed an indictment charging Fowlkes with three counts of drug possession and distribution and two related firearm counts. Before trial, Fowlkes moved to suppress all of the evidence obtained in the case pursuant to the wiretap, the evidence seized from the searches of his apartment and car, and the drugs found within his person during the body cavity search at the jail. The district court denied each of these motions.

On July 8, 2008, a jury trial commenced, but it ended two days later when Fowlkes requested a mistrial after Federal Marshals arrested a key defense witness outside of the courtroom doors, but within earshot and possible view of the jury. Fowlkes subsequently filed a motion to dismiss the indictments on double jeopardy or due process grounds because the government's misconduct had goaded him into requesting the mistrial. On September 17, 2008, the district court denied the motion.

On November 4, 2008, Fowlkes's retrial began, and on November 20, the jury found Fowlkes guilty of the three drug related counts. The court sentenced Fowlkes to time served (forty-six months) and supervised release for eight years.

Fowlkes claims the district court erred by denying his motions to: (1) suppress the evidence obtained through the wiretaps because the application for the warrant was technically deficient, and, at the least, the district court should have held a Franks hearing; (2) suppress evidence seized from his apartment because the officers' warrantless entry was unlawful and the warrant authorizing the search was unsupported by probable cause; (3) suppress the cocaine base and marijuana seized from his car because the initial stop and subsequent search of his car was unlawful; (4) suppress the evidence obtained from the body cavity search performed at the jail because the warrantless search violated his Fourth Amendment rights; (5) dismiss the indictment on a claim of evidence tampering; [1] and (6) dismiss the indictment on double jeopardy grounds following a mistrial.

We affirm the district court's rulings except the denial of Fowlkes's motion to suppress the cocaine seized from within his body during the warrantless body cavity search at the Long Beach Jail. We therefore reverse the conviction on the count predicated on that evidence.


" Prison walls do not form a barrier separating prison inmates from the protections of the Constitution." Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78, 84, 107 S.Ct. 2254, 96 L.Ed.2d 64 (1987).

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We review de novo a district court's denial of a motion to suppress evidence, and we review the underlying factual issues for clear error. United States v. Fernandez, 388 F.3d 1199, 1234 (9th Cir. 2004). The district court concluded a warrant was not required for the drugs forcibly removed from Fowlkes's rectum, reasoning that the officers conducted a visual search rather than a physic ...

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