The defendant's mother, Henrietta Williams
(Henrietta),(3) owned a multifamily residential rental property in Medford but did not live there.
At one point after the murder, the police learned that the defendant was staying in the basement of that building.
After obtaining Henrietta's consent to search the basement area, the police did so and seized papers belonging to the defendant.
Prior to trial, defense counsel filed a motion to suppress all physical evidence seized from the basement area of the Medford property.(4) The hearing on the motion focused on whether the search was valid because consent to the search of the basement had been given by Henrietta
The motion to suppress was denied.(5) However, the precise question which the defendant now raises, whether consent to the search of the basement extended to a search of the defendant's personal papers, was not separately argued.
The defendant contends, both in her
motion for a new trial and in this appeal, that the lack of an argument at the hearing on the motion to suppress addressed specifically to the seizure of her
personal papers constituted ineffective assistance of counsel.
Without determining whether the absence of such an argument was meaningful otherwise, we conclude that the claim of ineffective assistance has no merit because, on this record, the defendant lacked a reasonable expectation of privacy in the basement and consequently had no right to suppression of the seized evidence in any event.
The facts concerning the search of the basement appear in the decision of the trial judge on the motion for a new trial and these facts are essentially undisputed.(6) After the murder of the victim on January 22, 2002, the police informed Henrietta
that they had obtained warrants for the arrest of the defendant and Haith.
Approximately one month later, on February 20, 2002, Henrietta
notified the police that "someone might be staying in the basement" of a building she
owned at 80 Morton Avenue in Medford.
When asked if the person staying there was the defendant, Henrietta
stated that she
"never saw [the defendant] at the building.
gave the police permission, both orally and in writing, to enter and search the basement.
The signed form authorized the police "to conduct a complete search of the premises and property, including all buildings and vehicles, both inside and outside of the property located at 80 Morton Ave., Medford," and to "take from my premises and property any letters, papers, materials or any other property or things which they desire as evidence for criminal prosecution in the case or cases under investigation."
After obtaining this consent form, the police went to 80 Morton Street in Medford the same day.
Pursuant to instructions from Henrietta
, they entered the basement through an unlocked rear door.
However, as the judge concluded, the record did not demonstrate that Henrietta, the owner of the property, knew that the defendant was staying in the basement or delayed contacting police.
At most, the evidence indicates that the defendant's sisters inferred the defendant's presence from their view of her
clothing and a makeshift bed in the basement, and that, within the next twenty-four hours, they conveyed that information to Henrietta
who in turn notified the police (also within that twenty-four hour time span).
Even if Henrietta
was aware of the defendant's presence in the basement for one full day before notifying the police, that knowledge does not constitute consent to the defendant's presence that would create a reasonable expectation of privacy.
(3) We refer to the defendant's mother as Henrietta
to distinguish her
from the defendant.