Judge Rejects U.S. Supreme Court Search Ruling

  Judge Rejects U.S. Supreme Court Search Ruling

Posted by CN Staff on July 11, 2006 at 06:04:27 PT
By The Associated Press  
Source: Associated Press 

Guildhall, Vt. -- A Vermont District Court judge has rejected a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the power of police to search a private home, concluding that the state offers greater protections in such cases. Judge Robert Bent said that under the state Constitution police must knock and announce themselves before conducting a search, even if they have a warrant, or face the prospect that any evidence they find could be thrown out.
The Supreme Court said June 15 that evidence obtained without first knocking could be used at trial, but Bent said that would not apply in Vermont."Evidence obtained in violation of the Vermont Constitution, or as the result of a violation, cannot be admitted at trial as a matter of state law," Bent wrote, citing an earlier state case as precedent. "Introduction of such evidence at trial eviscerates our most sacred rights, impinges on individual privacy, perverts our judicial process, distorts any notion of fairness and encourages official misconduct."A defense lawyer in the Vermont case said Bent's ruling was an important statement. "Sanity prevails in Vermont," said attorney David Williams.Bent agreed with the dissenting opinion in the federal case, which said allowing otherwise illegally obtained evidence to be used could lead law enforcement officers to ignore the law."The exclusionary remedy should remain in full force and effect," Bent wrote, "at least in our small corner of the nation."Unless the attorney general's office appeals Bent's ruling to the Vermont Supreme Court, it applies only to the drug case he was hearing and would not be binding on other judges, legal experts said. But other judges are likely to take it into consideration if they have similar issues, said Cheryl Hannah, a Vermont Law School professor.It was unclear whether the state would appeal to the high court. The prosecutor on the case was on vacation and unavailable for comment.Williams challenged evidence the Vermont State Police Drug Task Force obtained against Ellen Sheltra last fall during a raid on her Island Pond home. She was charged with marijuana possession.The officers were gathering in front of the home Oct. 12 when the door suddenly opened, an officer testified. The agents shouted "state police with a search warrant" and stormed inside, Bent wrote in his ruling.The judge concluded the officer's testimony wasn't credible, noting that the three adults and two children in the house said they did not open the door.Police seized 88 grams of marijuana and four guns.Complete Title: Vermont Judge Rejects U.S. Supreme Court Search RulingSource: Associated Press (Wire)Published: July 11, 2006 Copyright: 2006 Associated Press Related Article:High Court Backs Police No-Knock Searches Justice Archives 

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Comment #4 posted by FoM on July 11, 2006 at 17:09:28 PT
ACLU Press Release: Goose Creek Case
Landmark Settlement Reached in Notorious School Drug Raid Caught on Tape***July 11, 2006Victims of South Carolina Raid Become Only Students in America with Complete Freedom From Unconstitutional Search and Seizure GOOSE CREEK, SC -- The American Civil Liberties Union announced today that a federal court has approved a landmark settlement in its lawsuit challenging police tactics in the high-profile drug raid of Stratford High School in Goose Creek, South Carolina. The settlement includes a consent decree that sets a new standard for students’ rights to be free from unreasonable search and seizure.Absent a warrant, police will now need either to have probable cause and pressing circumstances or voluntary consent in order to conduct law enforcement activity on school grounds – effectively granting Goose Creek students the essential privacy rights enjoyed by all Americans.“Goose Creek students now have a unique place in our nation,” said Graham Boyd, Director of the ACLU’s Drug Law Reform Project. “They are the only students in the nation who have complete protection of their Fourth Amendment rights of search and seizure.”The November 5, 2003 police raid of Stratford High School was recorded by both the school’s surveillance cameras and a police camera. The tapes show students as young as 14 forced to the ground in handcuffs as officers in SWAT team uniforms and bulletproof vests aim guns at their heads and lead a drug dog to tear through their book bags. The ACLU represents 20 of the nearly 150 students caught up in the raid. The raid was initiated by the school’s principal at the time, George McCrackin, who resigned shortly after the tapes surfaced on national television. The raid was authorized based on the principal’s suspicion that a single student was dealing marijuana. The raid was carried out despite the suspected student being absent at the time. No drugs or weapons were found during the raid and no charges were filed.While African Americans represented less than a quarter of the high school’s students, more than two-thirds of those caught up in the sweep were African American. The raid took place in the early morning hours when the school’s hallways are predominantly populated with African American students whose buses -- which largely travel from different neighborhoods -- arrive before those of their white classmates. White students began to arrive during the raid and witnessed the hostile roundup and detention of their African American peers.As 16-year-old Joshua Ody, one of the students caught up in the raid, put it, “I felt like I had less rights than other people that day.”Following the raid, the ACLU brought a lawsuit on behalf of students’ families charging police and school officials with violating the students’ right to be free from unlawful search and seizure and use of excessive force. The lawsuit demanded a court order declaring the raid unconstitutional and blocking the future use of such tactics, as well as damages on behalf of the students.In addition to recognizing students’ rights to be free from unconstitutional search and seizure and restricting police tactics, the settlement establishes a $1.6 million dollar fund to compensate the students and help cover medical and counseling costs from the incident.The cost of the settlement will be paid by the city of Goose Creek, the Goose Creek Police Department, and the Berkeley County School District where the school is located, with assistance from their respective insurance companies. It is not yet known exactly how many of the nearly 150 students will accept the settlement. The offer came in response to a class-action lawsuit on behalf of 53 students, of which the ACLU’s lawsuit is a part. Both sides agreed to the terms of the settlement earlier this year. The agreement received judicial approval yesterday.The ACLU’s clients are: 15-year-old Carl Alexander, Jr.; 15-year-old Rodney Goodwin; 17-year-old Samuel Ody III; 17-year-old Micah Bryant; 15-year-old Marcus Blakeney; 14-year-old Danyielle Ashley Cills; 15-year-old Cedric Penn, Jr.; 14-year-old Elijah Le'Quan Simpson; 14-year-old Jeremy Bolger; 14-year-old Tristan Cills; 14-year-old Arielle Pena; 17-year-old Jalania McCullough; 17-year-old Cedric Simmons; 14-year-old Nathaniel Smalls; 15-year-old Timothy Rice; 15-year-old Shnikqua Simmons; 16-year-old Joshua Ody; 16-year-old De'Nea Dykes; 15-year-old Chernitua Bryant; and 18-year-old Rodricus Perry.A school surveillance video of the raid with narration by Principal McCrackin may be viewed at: essential terms of the settlement may be viewed at: 
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Comment #3 posted by Wayne on July 11, 2006 at 10:05:40 PT
Re: unkat
"How do I know its cops? How do I know it isn't just a bunch of thugs?"Here's my theory:
They all start out as cops. But once they enter without knocking, they become thugs. They start out on a pedestal, but once they make that surprise intrusion, they instantly sink to the level of the "criminals" they are trying to apprehend.
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Comment #2 posted by unkat27 on July 11, 2006 at 08:00:41 PT
The fight for State Rights
Yeah, this judge isn't a moron like so many others. He knows how stupid and dangerous the no-knock policy is. The feds that made this no-knock policy into law are some of the most careless and irresponsible feds this country has ever known. Probaly a bunch of guys who worship Joe McCarthey as their hero.Obviously they don't care how many people get shot and killed while simply acting defensively againt such a surprise intrusion. If some thugs started knocking my door down one day or night without announcing themselves, I'm quite sure I'd jump to the defense. How do i know its cops? How do I know it isn't just a bunch of thugs?This Judge Bent in Vermont, he has brains, something the feds obviously lack. Probly cares more about people too.
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Comment #1 posted by Wayne on July 11, 2006 at 07:18:11 PT
A judge that exercises some common sense and believes in the rights of the people. And I don't believe the Feds can really call him on this either, because their provision is MORE strict that the U.S. Constitution. And the last I checked, that was allowed.I can't wait to see how many commentators and pundits try to call this guy an 'activist' judge.
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