United States v. Johnson

977 F.2d 1360 (10th Cir. 1992)


State Game Ranger Dekota Cagle heard automatic weapon fire and smelled the odor of 'amphetamine crank' near a cabin. Ranger Belcher had also heard gunshots on several occasions while he was in the area. Rangers Cagle and Belcher testified that they had seen all Ds in the vicinity of the cabin. Forest Service Law Enforcement Officer Eugene Norvell was hunting in the area of the cabin and saw a man outside the cabin wearing a long, white laboratory coat. Norvell returned to the area before daylight the next day and heard a generator running and smelled the chemical odor of phenylacetic acid, a precursor chemical to the manufacture of amphetamine. Federal Agents began surveillance. While these officers were in a wooded area north of the cabin, Spears (D) -- carrying an automatic Colt AR-15 rifle -- approached Agents who disarmed and detained him. Spears (D) indicated that three men were inside the house along with Spears' son. Spears (D) called for his son to come out of the house and Agent Bryant 'saw at least three men around the west end of the house taking up positions behind trees.' Shots were eventually exchanged and the agents conducted a detailed search of the house. They found numerous firearms, ammunition, explosives, amphetamine, precursor chemicals, laboratory equipment, marijuana plants, literature related to drug manufacturing, chemistry, and assault weapons, and a list of chemical suppliers. Eventually, Ds were apprehended and arrested. Ds were indicted. During trial, the court admitted into evidence two thermos bottles containing amphetamine and a prescription bottle filled with white powder. Ds asserted that P failed to establish an adequate chain of custody and failed to properly identify these items before they were admitted into evidence.