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Jamison v. McLendon

United States District Court, S.D. Mississippi, Northern Division

September 26, 2018




         Before the Court is the Motion for Summary Judgment filed by the remaining defendant in this action, Officer Nick McLendon. Plaintiff Clarence Jamison, Jr. filed suit against McLendon and the Town of Pelahatchie alleging that McLendon conducted an unlawful traffic stop, unreasonably extended the stop, and unlawfully searched his vehicle, all in violation of the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments. Having reviewed the briefs, evidence, and applicable law, McLendon's motion shall be granted in part and deferred in part.

         I. Factual Background

         The facts are drawn from the parties' depositions.

         On July 29, 2013, Jamison, an African-American male, was traveling home to Neeses, South Carolina. Jamison traveled on Interstate 20 East from a vacation in Phoenix, Arizona, driving a 2001 Mercedes-Benz CLK-Class Convertible he had recently purchased from a car dealer in Pennsylvania. While driving through the Town of Pelahatchie, Mississippi, Jamison passed the patrol car of McLendon, a white male, who was parked on the right shoulder of the Interstate. Shortly thereafter, McLendon stopped Jamison's vehicle.

         McLendon asked to see Jamison's license and registration. Jamison complied and presented each document along with the vehicle's bill of sale. After receiving the documents, McLendon ran a background check on Jamison through the El Paso Intelligence Center (“EPIC”). The background check returned clear. McLendon then contacted the National Criminal Information Center (“NCIC”) and asked the dispatcher to run a criminal history on Jamison as well as the VIN number on his vehicle.

         When Jamison asked why he had been pulled over, McLendon responded that he could not read Jamison's license plate information on his automated License Plate Recognition (“LPR”) system because Jamison's tag was folded over. Jamison later testified that his tag was fully readable because there were bolts attached to each of the four corners of the temporary license plate. When deposed for this case, McLendon examined the tag and admitted that there was no crease in it consistent with being folded. He claimed “it could have been ironed out.”[1]

         As McLendon waited on the results from NCIC, McLendon asked Jamison a series of questions, including questions about Jamison's occupation as a welder and the course of his travels. McLendon says he grew suspicious of Jamison's activity because Jamison was traveling from Phoenix, Arizona (and later stopped in Las Vegas, Nevada), a place McLendon considered “a known source area for narcotics.”

         During this exchange, McLendon told Jamison he had received an anonymous tip that Jamison had 10 kilograms of cocaine in his trunk. McLendon denied ever making that statement, but did admit in his deposition that when he had a hunch about the presence of drugs, he was right about 90 percent of the time.

         Jamison testified that McLendon asked to search the car four or five times. McLendon was so determined to obtain consent, Jamison says, that McLendon promised Jamison, if there was a “roach” of marijuana in the car, he would throw it on the side of the road, “pull the case[, ] . . . and destroy it.” Jamison did not believe he was free to leave because McLendon placed his arm in the window as he conducted the stop.

         McLendon, in fact, admitted in his deposition that the goal of the stop was to obtain consent to search Jamison's car.

Q: Your purpose when you left his vehicle was to try to get him to consent to let you search the vehicle?
A: Depending on what he told me and any other indicators I might have received from him.
Q: That was your goal?
A: Goal? What?
Q: To get a search of his vehicle.
A: Yes, sir.
Q: When you got out of your vehicle to engage him, your goal was I want to search his vehicle?
A: Yes, sir.

         After repeated requests, Jamison eventually consented to the search. Concerned that McLendon might plant drugs in his vehicle, however, Jamison stated that he would only consent if he could see McLendon in “plain sight.” Jamison stood in front of McLendon's patrol car as McLendon conducted the search. Jamison testified that there were two other officers at the scene of the stop, but the other two officers did not participate in the search. McLendon allowed Jamison to “use the bathroom” on the side of the road three times.

         McLendon did not find any drugs in Jamison's vehicle. Unsatisfied, though, McLendon then brought out his K-9-which had been waiting in McLendon's vehicle for over an hour at this point-to sniff around the car. The K-9 did not alert to the presence of drugs.[2]

         After McLendon completed the search, he provided a flashlight to Jamison and asked him to inspect the car for damage. McLendon offered to pay for any property damage that may have resulted from the search. Jamison testified that he was tired from being stopped for so long, so he did not immediately notice the property damage he now claims resulted from the search. McLendon did not issue an official citation; instead he issued Jamison a “Courtesy Warning.”

         The clock on McLendon's dashboard camera indicated that the stop lasted one hour and 50 minutes. Jamison felt like it had been several hours.

         On July 27, 2016, Jamison filed the instant lawsuit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. Jamison sued McLendon in his individual capacity and the Town of Pelahatchie. The Town of Pelahatchie was dismissed from this suit on December 20, 2017. Jamison seeks actual ...

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