Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals - Published Opinions

Monday, August 09, 2010

Epps: Pillowcase not protected by Fourth Amendment

In U.S. v. Epps, No. 09-12285 (Aug. 6, 2010), the Court rejected a Fourth Amendment challenge to the police’s seizure of the contents of a pillow case.

The defendant was running away after a bank robbery, pointing a gun toward the police. A police officer in a police car stopped him by hitting him with the front of his patrol car. The defendant rolled off the car’s hood and the gun and pillow case he was holding “went flying.” The pillow case had some pink stains – suggestive of the dye pack that had stained cash stolen during a bank robbery. The police searched the pillow case and found, inter alia, currency marked with a red dye.

The Court found no Fourth Amendment violation in the search of the pillow case. The Court noted that the pink stains were indicative of an exploding dye pack. The Court found that the contents of the pillow case could be inferred from its outward appearance, and therefore fell outside the ambit of Fourth Amendment protection.

The Court found no improper vouching in the prosecutor’s statement during closing argument that “somebody else” – a witness who had not testified -- was present with the testifying police officer when Epps confessed to police.