July 18, 2019

Tenth Circuit: Intrinsic Evidence Not Unfairly Prejudicial Where Necessary to Explain Circumstances of Arrest

The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its opinion in United States v. Hood on Wednesday, December 17, 2014.

Oklahoma City police were investigating a string of burglaries and knocked at the door of an apartment belonging to the owner of a phone left at a burglary site. Although no one answered, a few minutes later residents of the apartment complex alerted police that someone was running from that apartment. The police caught the runner, Michael Hood, who was wearing a bulky coat despite the warm day and was fumbling in his pockets for something. Concerned that he might have a weapon, the police handcuffed and frisked Hood. He was subsequently indicted on two counts of being a felon in possession, related to the incident at the apartment in March 2012 and a separate incident in June 2012. After a jury trial, he was sentenced to 262 months’ imprisonment.

Hood appealed, arguing first that the police seized the firearm in March 2012 in violation of his Fourth Amendment rights. Hood argued that the officers’ use of weapons and handcuffs was not justified, also asserting that the officers waived the opportunity to argue justification for using force. Hood next argued that, if the court should find excessive force from the March 2012 incident, the conviction from June 2012 should also be vacated since the prosecutor relied heavily on evidence from the March incident to convict on the June incident.

The Tenth Circuit was not persuaded by Hood’s waiver argument. The government responded to Hood’s motion to suppress that the officers’ seizure and detention of Hood was a reasonable Terry stop supported by suspicion of criminal activity, and did not waive their argument. As to whether the use of force was justified, the Tenth Circuit affirmed the district court’s conclusion that it was. Hood argues that it was not reasonable because the officers lacked prior belief that he was dangerous. Although the officers were investigating a different individual, Hood ran from the apartment of the person they were investigating and his behavior was suspicious. The Tenth Circuit found the officers were fully justified in drawing their weapons and ordering him to the ground under these circumstances. Because the Tenth Circuit found no error in the search and seizure, it declined to address the arguments relating to the June 2012 possession conviction.

Hood also argued that evidence concerning the burglaries was unduly prejudicial under FRE 404(b)(1) and should have been suppressed. However, this evidence was not admitted to show that Hood acted in accordance with his character; the evidence was admitted as intrinsic evidence. The evidence concerning the burglaries was necessary to explain why the police were at the apartments and why they had heightened suspicion as to Hood. The Tenth Circuit also evaluated for unfair prejudice under Rule 403 and found none. Hood was never named as a suspect in the burglaries, so there was no unfair prejudice in admitting evidence regarding the circumstances of Hood’s arrest.

Finally, Hood argued that a prior conviction for pointing a gun at another person should not count as a violent felony sentence enhancer under ACCA. The Tenth Circuit disagreed. Hood pleaded guilty to pointing a firearm at another person with the intent to injure the other person either physically or through emotional intimidation. The Tenth Circuit noted that using a firearm to threaten another is precisely the sort of violent force proscribed by ACCA.

The Tenth Circuit affirmed Hood’s convictions and sentence.

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