TN: No right to reconsideration of denial of motion to suppress on transfer to a different trial judge after denial

After the case was transferred to a different judge after denial of a motion to suppress, defendant sought reconsideration of denial of his suppression motion. He didn’t show that there was justification for reconsideration because of new evidence or other justification. State v. Reed, 2020 Tenn. Crim. App. LEXIS 620 (Sept. 18, 2020):

Here, Reed maintains that if the trial court had agreed to reconsider his motion to suppress, then it would have reached a different result regarding the suppression motion. The record shows that at the motion for new trial hearing following Reed’s second trial, the trial court allowed Reed to present proof about his claimed privacy interest in the room at his parent’s home and the right to exclude his parents and others from this room. However, the trial court ultimately held that no extraordinary circumstances existed that would cause it to reconsider the suppression ruling made by the prior judge assigned to Reed’s first trial.

The appellate record from Reed’s first appeal shows that the parties had a “pretrial suppression hearing” concerning Reed’s claim that he “paid rent and therefore his mother could not voluntarily consent” to a search of his room. Accordingly, this record clearly establishes that Reed raised these same suppression issues prior to his first trial but failed to include them in his first appeal. See Rouse v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 300 F.3d 711, 715 (6th Cir. 2002) (noting that the law of the case doctrine, which generally prevents reconsideration of claims that have been decided at a previous stage in the same litigation, “also bars challenges to a decision made at a previous stage of the litigation which could have been challenged in a prior appeal, but were not”). Although Reed was hopeful that the successor judge assigned to his second trial would be more inclined to suppress this evidence than the prior judge had been, the successor judge had no obligation to do so. See Christianson, 486 U.S. at 817 (“A court has the power to revisit prior decisions of its own or of a coordinate court in any circumstance, although as a rule courts should be loathe to do so in the absence of extraordinary circumstances such as where the initial decision was clearly erroneous and would work a manifest injustice.” (citation and internal quotation marks omitted)); Memphis Publ’g Co. v. Tenn. PetroleumUnderground Storage Tank Bd. , 975 S.W.2d 303, 306 (Tenn. 1998) (recognizing that the law of the case doctrine “is not a constitutional mandate nor a limitation on the power of a court” but “is a longstanding discretionary rule of judicial practice which is based on the common sense recognition that issues previously litigated and decided by a court of competent jurisdiction ordinarily need not be revisited”).

After considering the proof presented in conjunction with the Talley factors, we conclude that Reed has failed to establish that this proof would have caused the successor judge to reach a different result as to his suppression motion. The record indicates that Reed’s mother, who lived with her husband at the home on East Stump Street, had common authority over the premises and had the authority to consent to the search of Reed’s bedroom. “Common authority is defined as the ‘mutual use of the property by persons generally having joint access or control … so that it is reasonable to recognize that any of the co-habitants has the right to permit [an] inspection … and that the others have assumed the risk ….” Talley, 307 S.W.3d at 734 (quoting United States v. Matlock, 415 U.S. 164, 171 n.7 (1974)); see State v. Ellis, 89 S.W.3d 584, 593 (Tenn. 2000) (“The State may satisfy its burden of proof in this regard either by demonstrating that the third party in fact possessed common authority as defined above or, alternatively, by demonstrating that the facts available to the searching police officers would have warranted a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the consenting party had authority over the premises.” (citations and internal quotation marks omitted)). After considering this case law, it is evident that no injustice occurred in this case. Accordingly, we conclude that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to reconsider Reed’s suppression motion.

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