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United States v. Muro-Jimenez

United States District Court, D. New Mexico

September 25, 2018

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, Plaintiff,
v.
CRYSTAL MURO-JIMENEZ, Defendant.

          Brian A. Pori Assistant Federal Public Defender Attorney for Ms. Muro-Jimenez.

          Letitia Carroll Simms Assistant United States Attorney Attorney for the United States.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          MARTHA VÁZQUEZ UNITED STATES DISTRICT JUDGE.

         THIS MATTER is before the Court on Defendant Crystal Muro-Jimenez's Motion to Suppress Evidence, filed March 7, 2018 [Doc. 22]. The Court held an evidentiary hearing on July 25, 2018. Having reviewed the briefs, testimony, exhibits, and relevant law, for the reasons below, the Court denies the Motion.

         BACKGROUND

         This case concerns the interdiction of drugs at the Greyhound bus station in Albuquerque, New Mexico. The following represents the Court's findings of fact, based on the audio recordings and photographic evidence submitted, as well as witness testimony.[1]

         On October 20, 2016, Crystal Muro-Jimenez had traveled from Glendale, Arizona, to Albuquerque by Greyhound bus. The bus began its journey in California and made numerous stops, including in Glendale. The bus was scheduled to arrive in Albuquerque at 9:35 p.m. and, presumably, arrived on time. When the bus arrived at the terminal, Ms. Muro-Jimenez exited the bus along with the rest of the passengers in order for the bus to be cleaned. Shortly before 10:45 p.m., Ms. Muro-Jimenez and other passengers re-boarded the bus to continue their journeys. When they re-boarded the bus, Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) Special Agent (SA) Jerrell Perry was standing in the back of the bus.

         SA Perry has been employed with the DEA for nearly twenty years. He specializes in intercepting the movement of drugs and proceeds from illegal narcotics on means of public transportation, such as buses and trains. SA Perry is particularly familiar with the travel routes of the Greyhound buses that pass through Albuquerque. On October 20, 2016, SA Perry was at the bus station waiting for the eastbound bus to arrive at 9:35 p.m.

         The Court had the benefit of listening to the audio recordings made by the recording device worn by SA Perry [Exs. 1, 4]. The recording in Exhibit 1 and SA Perry's testimony indicate that he stood at the back of the bus and began questioning passengers, starting at the back of the bus and working his way forward. He informed the passengers that he was a police officer there for security purposes, and would ask a few questions regarding their travel and what luggage they had. He asked some passengers for their ticket and identification. He commented to one passenger that the bus was “pretty full, ” suggesting that there were at least a couple dozen people on the bus. [Unoff. Tr.[2] at 57:20-59:24]. The first man he spoke with started to get up when SA Perry introduced himself, and SA Perry told him he did not have to leave his seat. The second passenger SA Perry spoke with said he had met SA Perry before, on a previous bus trip. The third passenger SA Perry spoke with did not seem to understand English, so SA Perry switched to rudimentary Spanish. In total, SA Perry spoke with four other passengers or parties of passengers before getting to Ms. Muro-Jimenez. His conversations with these four parties were brief, lasting a total of almost five minutes, and he only searched the bag of the first passenger.

         When SA Perry approached Ms. Muro-Jimenez, he told her that he was a police officer and asked for permission to speak with her. In response, Ms. Muro-Jimenez stood up and started to move away from her seat. Similar to his interaction with the first passenger, SA Perry told her she did not have to stand up and could sit down if she liked. She sat back down. He then began to ask her for her bus ticket. Her ticket bore the name Vanessa Hernandez, to which Ms. Muro-Jimenez said “No, it's Jimenez, ” quickly offering to show him her identification. She provided him with her identification and said she did not know why her ticket had the wrong last name. At the evidentiary hearing, SA Perry testified that her traveling under a false name was one reason he suspected that she could be carrying contraband. [Unoff. Tr. at 21:11-12]. SA Perry asked where her trip began (Glendale, Arizona), her final destination (Kansas City), and the purpose of her trip (to visit her sister).

         When SA Perry tried to ask her about luggage, Ms. Muro-Jimenez did not respond. She looked down at the floor. SA Perry asked a second time, and again she did not respond. He then asked if she understood English and switched to Spanish. Ms. Muro-Jimenez turned over the blanket and pink backpack that she had with her at her seat to be searched. She denied having any other luggage. When SA Perry searched the pink backpack, he noted that although there was no contraband in the backpack, he did not think the backpack was the only luggage she had because there were no toiletries and hardly any clothes in the backpack. [Unoff. Tr. At 21:21-25]. He asked her how long she planned to be in Kansas and how many times she had been there before.

         Immediately after speaking with Ms. Muro-Jimenez, SA Perry saw the green and black duffle bag in the overhead bin. He noted that the bag looked new and did not have a name tag, so he asked a party of men, in English, if the bag belonged to them. [Unoff. Tr. At 16:8-15]. They denied ownership of the bag. SA Perry then continued to ask to speak with two more passengers or parties of passengers. He spoke to two women, each of whom spoke Spanish. Then, SA Perry returned to the green and black duffle bag. He had been talking to passengers for a total of around 11 and a half minutes thus far, and had consensual encounters with only 7 passengers or parties of passengers. However, he removed the bag from the overhead bin and showed it to 29 passengers, asking whose bag it was. The recording suggests that he asked each person once “is this your bag?” He asked some people in English and others in Spanish. However, when he came to Ms. Muro-Jimenez, who was the ninth person he asked about the bag, he asked her several questions about the bag, to which she either faintly said no or shook her head:

SA Perry: Ma'am is this your bag? Do you know who it belongs to? Do you have anything inside of it that does belong to you? Do you care what happens to it? Do you have any interest in it?

         Having asked 29 passengers whether the duffle bag belonged to them[3], Perry took the duffle bag off the bus, stepped in front of the bus where he would not been seen by passengers, unzipped the bag, and immediately began examining the contents. He found two clear plastic bundles that he suspected contained illegal narcotics. He then re-boarded the bus and asked Ms. ...


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