Wednesday, May 30, 2007

An Anniversary Of Sorts

Our inspiration is, of course, Judge Isaac Parker, the Law West of Fort Smith for many years.

Here's what he said of himself in 1896.

"I have ever had the single aim of justice in view... 'Do equal and exact justice,' is my motto, and I have often said to the grand jury, 'Permit no innocent man to be punished, but let no guilty man escape.'"

Today marks the one year anniversary of the launching of this project.
It has been an interesting journey but the work seems to be piling up faster than we can dispose of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Plain Feel Doctrine Applies to Patdown

State v. Harriman, no. 06-1309 (Iowa Ct. App. May 23, 2007).

A Waterloo officer stopped a car with a bad muffler. The driver was found to be driving while barred and he was arrested and placed in the squad car. Harriman, who was sitting in the passenger seat with his hand in his pocket was asked to exit the vehicle. Harriman again put his hand in his right front pocket and was told to keep his hands out of his pockets.

A patdown revealed a bulge in the pocket that felt like sand in a plastic bag and when Harriman did not respond to the officer's inquiry the bulge was retrieved and proved to be two packages of drugs. Harriman was arrested and a search of the vehicle revealed a large amount of cash and a metal can with more narcotics. The total take exceeded nine grams of methamphetamine.

Harriman moved to suppress the evidence, the district court denied the motion, and Harriman was convicted of possession with intent to deliver and tax stamp violations.

Harriman alleges that the pat down went beyond the 'plain feel' exception of Minnesota v. Dickerson, 508 U.S. 366 (1993), in particular squeezing, sliding or otherwise attempting to discern the nature of the non weapon object. The court of appeals concluded that there was no evidence to support Harriman's claims of manipulation of the item of contraband, and the testimony of the officer was that he clearly recognized the objects to be bags of narcotics.

When the nature of the contraband is immediately apparent while discovered in the process of a patdown, there is no further search after the determination that the object was not a weapon.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

In Germany, Where Justice is Swift and Severe

The Associated Press reports today that William Coday was convicted in Florida and sentenced to death for the murder of his girlfriend.

Coday beat his girlfriend to death with a ball peen hammer and repeatedly stabbed her.

Coday had been previously convicted of the crime and sentenced to death but the sentence was overturned by the Florida Supremes because the trial judge didn't pay too much attention to the defense's expert witnesses. They said that Coday's homicidal rage was triggered by rejection.

Coday beat his girlfriend to death, fled the US and then returned for some odd reason.

Where's Germany figure in here? Read on.

In 1978, Coday was convicted in Germany of beating his girlfriend to death with a hammer, and was released after serving less than half of a three year sentence.

You can read about his exploits here.

Application of the Collective Knowledge Doctrine to an OWI Case

State v. Poling, no. 06-0684 (Iowa Ct. App. May 9, 2007)

Poling was stopped by a Dubuque police officer for going down a one way street the wrong way. He was allowed to proceed on his way, went down the one way street the wrong way again, and was stopped again by other officers at the request of the first officer.

Of course he was toasted, with a BAC of 0.242

Poling argued that the second stop of his vehicle was without reasonable suspicion and hence illegal. The court of appeals disagreed, finding that the shared or collective knowledge doctrine as applied means that what is known by one policeman is known by all, and thus what the second arresting officers saw or did not see was unimportant.

How Long Is A Vehicle Stop Supposed To Last?

State v. Faga, no. 06-0945 (Iowa Ct. App. May 9, 2007)

Faga's truck was stopped for a speeding violation and the configuration of the vehicle was thought to be suspicious. The officer issued the driver a speeding ticket and then released her after some time had elapsed. As she was walking back to her vehicle the officer asked her if he could search the truck, to which she assented.

That's when the 170 pounds of marijuana was discovered in a secret compartment, and thimgs went rapidly down hill from there.

The defendant argued that the excessive period of time that had elapsed constituted an illegal detention and that consent to search was tainted being the result of the unlawful detention.

The court of appeals found that the period of the stop, somewhere between 30 and 50 minutes, was not unreasonable under the circumstances given the trooper's experience, the configuration of the truck, the nervousness of the defendant and the implausibility of her story.

In addition the court found that the traffic stop had concluded, thus there could be no taint to the oral and written consent to search the truck that the defendant gave.

You Can Make All The Calls You Want

State v. Farlow, no. 06-1776 (Iowa Ct. App. May 9, 2007)

Farlow was arrested for DUI and asked the arresting officer whether he could make a phone call. He was informed he could call as many people as he liked on arrival at the police station. In possession of a working cell phone, Farlow made several calls and received calls. He was not, however, given the opportunity to use the telephone at the police station.

Defendant's motion to suppress evidence was overruled and he argued that there had been a violation of Iowa Code section 804.20because there was no specific opportunity to request a call.

The Court of appeals differed, finding that the defendant had all the opportunity he needed to make as many calls as he liked once he was so informed.

Fake Documents Equals Forgery

State of Iowa v. Medina-Hernandez, no. 06-0734 (Iowa Ct. App. May 9, 2007)

Medina-Hernandez attempted to obtain a driver's license with false documents that belonged to another person. The only thing that's unusual about this case is the application of the charge of forgery and tampering with records to one who presents a bogus Social Security card and signs another's name on the application for a driver's license.

Habitual Offender Status Challenged on Appeal

State v. Gordon, no. 04-1474 (Iowa May 18, 2007)

Gordon was convicted of a class D felony and received the habitual offender enhancements (generally known among criminal cognoscenti as 'the bitch'). He appealed his sentence because the two prior predicate felonies were contemporaneously acquired on the same day.

The core issue presented was whether Gordon could challenge his status as an habitual offender for the first time on appeal. The Supreme Court held that what Gordon did was plead guilty to criminal mischief and admitted his prior convictions. Because the predicate offenses were not enough to classify him as an habitual offender, the sentence was illegal.

The State sought leave to amend the trial information to include other felonies (of which Mr. Gordon had plenty) but the Court refused, holding that the State had its opportunity in a full and fair hearing to support its cause but muffed it.

The lesson for prosecutors is clear. Careful drafting and knowledge of the applicable decisions affecting the habitual offender is the sine qua non of a scucessful prosecution.

The Deadliest Import

There's a sobering story out of Toronto this morning.

Apparently what happened is that there was a schoolyard fight in a neighborhood inhabited by homemade Blood and Crip gang types, and the fight ended with one student pursuing Jordan Manners, a 9th grade student, into a classroom and shooting him in the chest. Police are hunting for the as yet unidentified shooter.

Mr. David Miller, mayor of that fair city, argues that the national government should stop up the loopholes that let guns into Canada from Down Below, and that Ottawa ought to get serious with the United States to block that flow of weapons.

With all due respect to Mr. Miller, the problem seems to be one of demand, and of culture.

He has nothing to fear from weapons in the hands of law abiding, responsible people, and he never has had reason to fear them.

But neither he, nor I, nor all the people on both sides of the border with the best intentions in the world can prevent thugs from obtaining weapons if they want them. Anyway, last I heard Canada polices all entrants to their territory-so why aren't they doing something constructive here?

It could just as easily been a shank, a motorcycle chain, a garrison belt, a fist, a ball bat, or a humble zip gun that delivered the fatal blow. The evil to be combatted is in the heart of the offender, but it's much easier to point the figure at a brute, inanimate object.

The deadliest import is the thug culture that exists in the neighborhood. Until those people decide they're going to kick the gangbangers out and live ordinary lives like the rest of us, this story is likely to be repeated in Toronto and other places.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Josh Hancock: Dead Drunk.

The Associated Press reports that St. Louis Cardinals ace relief pitcher Josh Hancock was determined to have been driving with a BAC of 0.157 when he ass ended a wrecker parked in the road assisting a driver involved in a previous accident. Hancock was also in the middle of an animated conversation on his cell phone with someone when the conversation stopped along with the brain waves and respiration.

All of which goes to show that people can't always get away with driving when smashed, even if they are rich and famous.

It is also said that 500 or so people attended the funeral where the departed was remembered as a "goodhearted prankster".

It's enough to make you almost forget that the merry prankster was a homicidal fool, and it was a good thing he didn't get the opportunity to take anyone else along with him.