Alleged marijuana grower Edward Johnson now has two strikes against him. A third could land him in prison.
Johnson was charged by the Cannon County Sheriff's Department in June 2008 with operating a laboratory in a garage on his property for the purpose of manufacture marijuana.
The laboratory was discovered by various members of law enforcement, including the sheriff's department, who were involved in a fugitive hunt for Jim Flesher, a known associate of Johnson and his ex-wife, Joanne Johnson.
Edward Johnson appealed the Cannon County Circuit Court’s denial of his motion to suppress.
Believing them to still be married, officers approached the Johnson’s ex-wife and sought consent to search the property during the manhunt. During the subsequent search, officers located a marijuana laboratory in a garage on the Johnson’s property.
Johnson was arrested and charged with manufacturing marijuana over 100 plants, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, possession of drug paraphernalia, and maintaining a building for the purpose of keeping or selling controlled substances. He was subsequently indicted by a Cannon County Grand Jury.
Johnson filed a motion to suppress, challenging the search. The trial court found that the search was valid because Johnson's ex-wife had common authority over the garage.
On appeal, Johnson challenged the denial, specifically questioning whether: (1) his ex-wife consented to a search and, if so, whether she had common authority over the property sufficient to allow her to give valid consent; and (2) officers violated his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures when they entered his property and surrounded the buildings without a warrant in the absence of exigent circumstances.
After review, the Court of Criminal Appeals of Tennessee at Nashville on July 22 disagreed with the trial court and concluded that Johnson’s ex-wife had no actual common authority over the garage.
Nonetheless, because the facts available to the officers would have warranted “a man of reasonable caution in the belief that the consenting party had authority over the premises,” the Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the denial of the motion to suppress.
Moreover, the court concluded that the officers did not violate the defendant’s rights by entering the property prior to consent. As such, the denial of the motion to suppress is affirmed, and the case was remanded to the trial court for trial.
According to the Cannon County Circuit Court Clerk's Office, a trial date for Johnson has not been scheduled as yet.
Click this link to download the full summary and ruling by the Court of Appeals.