May 2, 2017
FROM THE DISTRICT COURT OF THE VIRGIN ISLANDS (D.C. Nos.
1-13-cr-00003-001 & 1-13-cr-00003-002) Hon. Wilma A.
Lewis District Judge.
Omodare B. Jupiter, Esq. [ARGUED] Federal Public Defender
Counsel for Appellant Elvin Wrensford
Martial A. Webster, Sr., Esq. [ARGUED] Law Office of Martial
A. Webster, Sr. Counsel for Appellant Craig Muller
Alphonso G. Andrews, Jr., Esq. Rhonda Williams-Henry, Esq.
[ARGUED] Office of United States Attorney David W. White
[ARGUED] Office of United States Attorney Counsel for
Appellee United States of America
Before: GREENAWAY, JR., SHWARTZ, and FUENTES, Circuit Judges.
SHWARTZ, Circuit Judge.
Wrensford and Craig Muller ("Defendants") were
convicted of federal and territorial crimes arising from a
May 10, 2012 shooting in Christiansted, St. Croix. Defendants
appeal the District Court's orders denying their motions
to suppress evidence, the admission at trial of out-of-court
identifications, orders denying their motions for mistrials
based on the jury poll, and the refusal to give a voluntary
manslaughter jury instruction. Muller also challenges the
sufficiency of the evidence against him.
Wrensford was de facto arrested when, without probable cause,
he was transported from the location where police found him
to a police station and placed in a cell, we will vacate and
remand to the District Court to determine whether (1) an
exception to the Fourth Amendment applies and renders the
evidence admissible, or (2) a new trial is warranted. As to
Muller, we will affirm the District Court's judgment
because (1) he waived his challenge to the suppression
rulings, (2) the District Court did not abuse its discretion
by admitting the eyewitness identification, polling the jury
and instructing it to redeliberate, or refusing to give a
voluntary manslaughter jury instruction, and (3) the District
Court correctly concluded that the evidence was sufficient to
support the jury's verdict against him.
and Muller were involved in an altercation with a man at
Ben's Car Wash on the afternoon of May 10, 2012. A few
hours later, the man returned to the car wash with Gilbert
Hendricks, apparently looking for someone. Hendricks and the
man left, but Hendricks returned to the car wash at around
8:00 p.m. Shortly after he arrived, a red truck passed in
front of the car wash and, moments later, the truck turned
around and chased Hendricks down the road toward Food Town, a
local supermarket. The passenger, who was later identified as
Wrensford, fired several shots at Hendricks. Hendricks died
two days later from gunshot wounds to his head.
officers responded to the scene at around 8:06 p.m. Witnesses
told Officer Julio Mendez that a red truck left the area at a
high speed. Mendez drove in the direction the truck was
observed going, and 45 minutes later, he encountered two men
walking on the road. Mendez stopped in front of them and
noticed that both were sweating profusely; one said they were
coming from a basketball court in the area. Mendez called for
backup, and before he could approach them, both men ran. One
ran into the bushes and the other ran toward a gas station.
Mendez radioed a general description of the men to other
Leon Cruz was patrolling after the shooting when, at 8:46
p.m., he heard the transmission from Mendez stating that two
"black, rasta males" were on the run. App. 358-59.
(Cruz testified that "rasta" means a person who has
dreadlocks. App. 428-29.) Cruz thereafter observed a man
wearing a white shirt running across the street toward a
ballpark. Cruz turned toward the ballpark and saw a
"rasta guy" standing near the bush area. App.
362-63. He also saw a white shirt hanging in the bushes. At
approximately 8:58 p.m., Cruz drew his gun, ordered the
individual- Wrensford-to show his hands and get on the
ground, and once another officer arrived, Cruz placed
Wrensford in handcuffs. Cruz patted Wrensford down and
removed a knife, keys to a GMC truck, a wallet, and an
insurance card from Wrensford's pockets. Wrensford was
then transported to the "C Command" police station
in a police vehicle at around 9:06 p.m. and placed in a cell.
Officers later returned to the area where Wrensford was
stopped and recovered a Smith & Wesson 9 mm pistol close
to where he had been standing. Shortly after Wrensford was
detained, Mendez notified the other officers that a red GMC
truck had been found, partially hidden in bushes, next to an
scene of the shooting, Detective Kirk Fieulleteau spoke to
two witnesses: Tynicia Teague and her father, Trevor Teague,
who were in the Food Town parking lot during the shooting and
said they were able to identify the shooter. Fieulleteau
decided to speak with the witnesses at C Command, so he asked
a fellow officer, Lydia Figueroa, to take Wrensford from C
Command to the Rainbow Building police station in
Frederiksted. Fieulleteau went to the station and found
Wrensford in a cell. Fieulleteau took Wrensford's
driver's license and then he, Figueroa, and another
officer escorted Wrensford outside while handcuffed and
placed him in a police car in front of the station.
Fieulleteau testified that he did not want the witnesses
"to have any sort of inadvertent interaction with
him." App. 659.
and Trevor Teague arrived at C Command at around 9:55 p.m. As
Wrensford was being taken out of the station and into the
car, which was a few steps from the station's front door,
Tynicia Teague was waiting at a traffic light outside the
station. She looked toward C Command and observed Wrensford
being put into the police car. The Teagues thereafter entered
the police station and met with the police. Before
Fieulleteau had formally commenced the interview with Tynicia
Teague, she "blurted out" that she saw the shooter,
referring to Wrensford, being taken out of the station. App.
600. Trevor Teague told Officer Richard Matthews "the
same thing." App. 661. Tynicia Teague then provided a
statement concerning the shooting, and when shown
Wrensford's driver's license, she confirmed that he
was the shooter and the person she saw outside the station.
met with Wrensford later that night at Rainbow Building. At
12:23 a.m., Matthews read Wrensford his Miranda
rights, and Wrensford acknowledged his rights but did not
sign the Miranda waiver form. Wrensford told
Matthews that he was playing basketball that evening in the
Princess area with "a partner of his, " but he
declined to give his partner's name. App. 509. While
being booked at approximately 1:30 a.m. on May 11, Wrensford
agreed to provide a DNA sample.
Teague also said she saw the truck's driver. Three days
after the shooting, she was shown a photo array that included
Muller's photo and she identified him as the driver. She
said that prior to the shooting, she had seen Muller with
trial, Muller's grandfather testified concerning
Muller's actions and whereabouts after the shooting.
Muller began staying with his grandfather on the fourth day
after the shooting. Muller told his grandfather that he was
ill, considered not going to work, and planned to travel to
New York to see his mother and a doctor. Notably, two of his
co-workers testified that Muller never mentioned that he was
feeling ill or planning to leave St. Croix. Rather, one of
Muller's co-workers testified that he overheard
co-workers asking Muller whether he was involved in the
shooting (they heard that he was). Muller's supervisor
testified that, after the shooting, Muller asked to be
reassigned to work in a different area of the island, because
"he had a situation." App. 1920-21.
four days after he began living with his grandfather, Muller
left St. Croix and traveled to the San Juan, Puerto Rico
airport, where he was met by Tomas Garcia, a Customs and
Border Protection officer. Garcia testified that he
approached Muller from behind and told him he was "there
to pick him up." App. 1544. Muller "lowered his
head and shoulders" and "said that's okay. I
figured somebody was going to pick [me] up." App. 1544.
Garcia handcuffed him and advised him that he would be
detained "on some business that he had in St. Croix . .
. ." App. 1544. Garcia escorted Muller to an inspection
area and asked whether Muller knew of any issues or problems
in St. Croix. Muller then "broke down crying, "
App. 1545, and returned to St. Croix.
and Muller were charged with: (1) possession of a firearm in
a school zone, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §§
922(q)(2)(A) and 924(a)(1)(B) (Count I); (2) using a firearm
during a violent crime, in violation of 18 U.S.C. §
924(c)(1)(A)(iii) (Count II); (3) first degree murder, in
violation of 14 V.I. Code §§ 922(a)(1) and 923(a)
(Count IV); and (4) unauthorized possession of a firearm, in
violation of 14 V.I. Code § 2253(a) (Count V). In
addition, Wrensford was charged with possession of a firearm
with an obliterated serial number, in violation of 18 U.S.C.
§ 922(k) (Count III).
moved to suppress items found in his possession, the
statements he made to law enforcement, identifications made
by Tynicia and Trevor Teague, and his DNA sample. Muller
moved to suppress any identification evidence. The District
Court granted Wrensford's motion to suppress the truck
keys, wallet, and insurance card, but denied his motion to
suppress the knife, his statements to the police, the DNA
evidence, and the eyewitness identifications. The District
Court found the DNA sample was admissible because it was
taken after he was arrested and pursuant to probable cause.
As to the identifications of both Wrensford and Muller, the
Court concluded that the identifications were not the product
of unduly suggestive procedures and denied the motions to
addition to the events described above concerning the
apprehension of Wrensford and Muller, the jury heard
testimony from Henry Mason, who knew Wrensford, Muller, and
Hendricks. Mason testified that he was at Ben's Car Wash
on the afternoon of the shooting and observed Muller and
Wrensford having an altercation with an associate of
Teague testified that she was in the Food Town parking lot on
the night of the shooting and went to the police station
afterward, but claimed she did not remember any details about
the shooting or her identification of Wrensford. Portions of
her statements to the police, which included her
identifications of Wrensford and Muller, and the photo array
were admitted into evidence.
Government presented evidence that 9 mm, .38 class (9 mm),
and .40 caliber bullet casings were found at the scene of the
shooting or in the truck. The jury also heard evidence that a
9 mm Smith & Wesson was found where Wrensford was
stopped, his DNA was found on ...