United States v. Shrum, No. 17-3059 (10th Cir. 2018)Annotate this Case
Following the unexpected death of Defendant Walt Shrum’s common law wife at the couple’s home, Kingman, Kansas police officers “secured” the home, prohibiting Defendant access. Approximately three hours later and without access to his home, Defendant signed a consent to search form permitting an investigator from the Kingman County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) to enter his home for the express purpose of retrieving his deceased wife’s medication in anticipation of an autopsy. While in the home, the investigator saw ammunition in plain view inside an open bedroom closet. After returning to headquarters, the investigator learned Defendant was a convicted felon and recalled seeing the ammunition in the closet. Several hours later, the investigator, based on what he had seen and learned, contacted a federal agent and asked him to obtain a search warrant for Defendant’s home. A federal magistrate judge issued the warrant at 10:00 p.m. A late night search of the home, which local authorities still would not permit Defendant to access, uncovered not only the ammunition but also two loaded firearms and suspected methamphetamine. A grand jury subsequently charged Defendant with two counts of being a felon in possession of a firearm, one count of being a felon in possession of ammunition, and one count of possessing methamphetamine. Following the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress the incriminating evidence used to charge him, Defendant entered a conditional guilty plea to one count of being a felon in possession of a firearm. After receiving a sentence of time served, Defendant appealed the district court’s denial of his motion to suppress. This appeal presented the Tenth Circuit with two questions: (1) did the initial securing of Defendant’s home constitute an unreasonable seizure in violation of the Fourth Amendment?; and if so, (2) did such seizure taint the incriminating evidence ultimately uncovered in the warrant search of his home? The Tenth Circuit answered both questions yes, and reversed.