Criminal Law Blog

Inevitable Discovery Based on Ongoing Investigation

Allen J. Logan, Jr. v. United States (decided October 6, 2016).

Players: Chief Judge Washington, Associate Judge Glickman, and Senior Judge Belson.  Opinion by Senior Judge Belson. Richard S. Stolker for Mr. Logan. Trial Judge Rufus G. King, III. Motions Judge Neal E. Kravitz. 

Facts: Mr. Logan was tried and convicted for the murders of Mika Washington and Simona Druyard and the assault of Mika’s father/Simona’s tenant, Mr. Amin Washington, in Mr. Washington’s home in Northeast Washington, D.C.  Evidence showed that on June 14, 2002, after Mr. Washington told Mr. Logan via cell phone that he would not be able to invest long-promised millions into Mr. Logan’s restaurant/nightclub, a friend drove Mr. Logan to Mr. Washington’s house, where Mr. Logan slit the throats of Mr. Washington, his son, and his landlady.

Police arrested Mr. Logan the same day and seized his phone.  The following day, police executed a search warrant on Mr. Logan’s home and seized a bill containing his cell phone number.  Detective Garvey spoke to Mr. Logan’s upstairs neighbors, who reported that he had become irate on the 14th after receiving a 3 p.m. phone call.  Detective Garvey then looked through the contacts and call history on Mr. Logan’s phone without a warrant.  In this way, Detective Garvey identified the friend who drove Mr. Logan to Mr. Washington’s house.  He also identified Mr. Logan’s girlfriend, who attested to Mr. Logan’s rage upon receiving Mr. Washington’s call.  Police did not obtain a subpoena for Mr. Logan’s detailed phone records until June 20, 2002.

Issue: Whether the trial court erred in failing to suppress the testimony of witnesses discovered by means of the illegal, warrantless search of Mr. Logan’s cell phone.

Holding: No. The inevitable discovery doctrine applies.  Police were already investigating Mr. Logan for the murders of Mika Washington and Simona Druyard when Detective Garvey illegally searched Mr. Logan’s phone.  Police had reason to investigate the 3 p.m. phone call that, according to the neighbors, enraged Mr. Logan.  Protocol dictated that police seek a subpoena for phone records in a case like this. 

Of Note: The DCCA has written that “the lawful process which would have ended in the inevitable discovery [must] have . . . commenced before the constitutionally invalid seizure.”  Hicks v. United States, 730 A.2d 657, 659 (D.C. 1999) (quoting Douglas-Bey v. United States, 490 A.2d 1137, 1139 n.6 (D.C. Cir. 1985)) (brackets in original).  Here, the Court holds that while this may be true, the “lawful process” that must have commenced need not be “formal,” Slip Op. 9, and that such a “lawful process” began in this case by virtue of the “substantial concerted investigation of appellant’s conduct,” id. at 13.  But advocates should remember that mere intent to lawfully obtain evidence will not sanitize an illegal search.  See United States v. Eng, 971 F.2d 854, 861 (2d Cir. 1992) (“If the inevitablediscovery exception can be applied only on the basis of the [government’s] mere intention to use legal means subsequently.” (quoting United States v. Cherry, 759 F.2d 1196, 1205 n. 10 (5th Cir.1985), cert. denied, 479 U.S. 1056, 107 S.Ct. 932, 93 L.Ed.2d 983 (1987)).  The decisive factor here is that police had not only means and intent, but also duty, to obtain Mr. Logan’s phone records.  Slip. Op. at 12.  WC

Read the full opinion here