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State v. Adams

Court of Appeals of Alaska

August 3, 2018

STATE OF ALASKA, Appellant,
v.
TERRA L. ADAMS, Appellee.

          Appeal from the Superior Court, First Judicial District, Ketchikan, Trevor N. Stephens, Judge. Trial Court No. IKE-14-802 CR

          Elizabeth T. Burke, Assistant Attorney General, Office of Criminal Appeals, Anchorage, and Craig W. Richards and Jahna Lindemuth, Attorneys General, Juneau, for the Appellant.

          Galen Paine, Law Office of Julie Willoughby, Juneau, under contract with the Office of Public Advocacy, for the Appellee.

          Before: Mannheimer, Chief Judge, Allard, Judge, and Suddock, Superior Court Judge. [*]

          OPINION

          MANNHEIMER, JUDGE

         The State appeals the superior court's suppression of evidence in the prosecution of Terra L. Adams for the unlawful distribution of oxycodone.

         According to the Alaska State Troopers' investigation, Adams would use other people - "runners" or "mules" - to transport oxycodone tablets from other states to Alaska. The State Troopers identified Pamela Helgesen as one of these "runners".

         In December 2014, investigators received information that Adams had used airline miles to purchase a round-trip ticket for Helgesen from Ketchikan to Seattle and back. The officers obtained a warrant to search Helgesen's person and property for drugs, and they waited for her return to Ketchikan.

         Upon Helgesen's arrival at the Ketchikan airport, two officers intercepted her and informed her of the search warrant. During their conversation with Helgesen, the officers asked a number of questions about Helgesen's involvement in transporting oxycodone for Adams.

         Helgesen initially denied any involvement in Adams's drug activities, but Helgesen eventually made statements that implicated both herself and Adams in the illicit distribution of oxycodone. After making these statements, Helgesen told the officers that she did not wish to talk further. However, Helgesen agreed to assist the officers by sending a text message to Adams - a text message stating that she (Helgesen) had made it back to Ketchikan, and that she would meet Adams "on the other side at the ticket booth" and give her the oxycodone tablets.

         Adams responded to Helgesen's text, saying that she was on her way. The officers waited for Adams at the rendezvous location, and they arrested her shortly after she arrived. Adams was subsequently indicted for second-degree controlled substance misconduct, and for conspiracy to commit this crime.

         Following Adams's indictment, her attorney asked the superior court to suppress all evidence stemming from Helgesen's text message to Adams. In particular, the defense attorney sought suppression of Adams's reply that she was "on her way", as well as the fact that Adams subsequently arrived at the airport and proceeded to the rendezvous location, and the statements that Adams made when she was contacted by the officers.

         Adams's attorney argued that Adams was entitled to the suppression of this evidence because the officers violated Helgesen 's rights under Miranda v. Arizona[1]when they questioned her at the airport - and that Helgesen's text message to Adams was the tainted fruit of this Miranda violation. Thus, according to Adams's attorney, all the evidence flowing from that text message should be suppressed.

         Under federal law, a criminal defendant lacks standing to seek suppression of evidence obtained through a police violation of someone else's constitutional rights.[2] But Alaska law recognizes a limited exception to this lack-of-standing rule. In Waring v. State,670 P.2d 357, 363 (Alaska 1983), our supreme court held that even though criminal defendants normally lack standing to complain if the police violate someone else's constitutional rights, a defendant in Alaska can assert a violation of another person's constitutional rights if the police engage in a "gross or shocking" ...


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