Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Police Theft While Executing Search Warrant Did Not Support Suppression Order

United States v. Webster, 2016 WL 53817 (1/5/2016)(published)(KS): The panel rules that the district court should not have suppressed guns and drugs seized from Webster’s house just because police officers stole Webster’s personal belongings while executing the state warrant. While the panel “sympathize[d] with the district court’s outrage over the criminal actions undertaken by police officers sworn to protect the public from crime” it was not “persuaded that the exclusionary rule was intended to govern in the circumstances of this case.” The panel tried to distinguish other cases where the circuit had affirmed a blanket suppression order for flagrant police misconduct. It explained that in Medlin II, 842 F.2d 1194, the police were working under the auspices of the ATF when they took items that were outside of the warrant, whereas here, there was no proof the officers who took the guns and drugs knew that the officers who got in the house first had stolen Webster’s belongings. In Foster, 100 F.3d 846, the police took countless articles not identified in the warrant, but here they only took four. And the four they purloined - iphone, play station, $100 cash and a camcorder - were not used as evidence against Webster. Still, the panel relied heavily on Herring, 555 U.S. 135, to conclude that there would be “little deterrent effect on future police conduct” if it affirmed the blanket suppression of all the evidence the police seized. After all, the “societal cost [of] letting guilty and dangerous defendants go free”, like Webster, outweigh the “marginal deterrence” of a blanket suppression order.