Monday, April 27, 2015

US Supreme Court Grady v. North Carolina 14-593

Decided 3-30-15.

   As a recidivist sex offender, Grady was court ordered to be subjected to satellite based monitoring for the rest of his life.  Basically, he would have to wear a monitor at all times, which would give the state continuous time-stamped information about his location, and alerts if he either wasn't somewhere he needed to be, or was somewhere he wasn't supposed to be.

   Grady appealed the decision requiring his monitoring all the way to the Supreme Court.  His argument was that if GPS monitoring of someone's car (as in US v. Jones) is a search, then GPS monitoring of their body is also a search.  North Carolina's arguments were pretty convoluted... first they held that because the program is civil in nature, this is not a search.  Then they argued that because Grady didn't present any evidence that the program obtains information, the courts have no way of knowing whether or not it's a search (both arguments seem almost inconceivably stupid to me).

   The Supreme Court held that GPS monitoring of a person is a search, using similar reasoning to what they did in Jones (the GPS monitoring device Grady would be required to wear is essentially a physical intrusion on his property).  It doesn't matter if it's a civil process or a criminal investigation... even home inspectors doing inspections are conducting a search which must comply with the Fourth Amendment.  It also doesn't matter that Grady didn't do enough to explain the program to the Supreme Court... it's goal of obtaining information is evident both from the name of the program (Satellite Based Monitoring) and from the statute authorizing it.

   On the other hand, just because it's a search doesn't mean it's an unreasonable search.  Since the state courts never addressed the reasonableness of it, the Supreme Court remanded the case back to the State to consider whether or not the search is reasonable.  Kinda like telling them to stop skirting the issue, and make a proper decision.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Theus-Roberts 12CA0013

Decided 3-26-15

   Theus-Roberts took a cab to a bunch of different places, racking up a $90 fare.  At the end of his big night out, he could only pay $80.  He told the driver that his friend would be along shortly to give him the rest of his money.

   A few minutes later, Theus-Roberts came back, shot the driver in the chest, and took the $80 back.  He fled, the driver called the police, gave them his description, and Theus-Roberts was found hiding in a nearby garage.  An eyewitness identified him in a show-up (the driver survived, and identified Theus-Roberts at trial as the shooter).

   Theus-Roberts was convicted of exactly what you'd expect, but he appealed his conviction.  His argument is that the court should have suppressed the eyewitness identification because the show-up was unduly suggestive.

   The Court of Appeals explains that "A one-onone showup identification may be permissible and reasonable in situations where immediate identification would facilitate an ongoing criminal investigation.  The reasonableness of the showup procedure, however, must also be measured against the potential for irreparable misidentification."  The important question is whether any given show up was unreliable because of being unnecessarily and irreparably suggestive.  Relevant factors include the opportunity of the witness to view the suspect at the time of the 4 crime, the witness's degree of attention, the accuracy of any prior description of the suspect, the level of certainty demonstrated at the confrontation, and the time between the crime and the confrontation.

   In this case, the witness lived across the street from the shooting, looked out her window after hearing the shooting, and described Theus-Roberts by race and by a bag he was carrying (and later found with).  An hour after the shooting, an officer told her that they may or may not have a suspect in custody, and that he wanted her to tell him whether or not someone was the same person she had seen near the cab.  A couple of officers removed Theus-Roberts from the ambulance, and the eyewitness immediately identified him with certainty.

   The trial court had correctly denied Theus-Roberts' motion to suppress the show up.  He had a few other arguments on appeal, but they're more relevant to prosecutors than to cops (and none of them had any merit).  His conviction is upheld.

Colorado Court of Appeals People v. Griego 10CA2609

Decided 3-26-15.

   The facts of this case would've been sufficient to convict Griego of his 7th and 8th DUI, which is what the police charged him with.  But the prosecution randomly decided to change the charges to attempted second degree assault and attempted manslaughter, arguing that by driving while he was drunk he was attempting to kill everyone in the area.

   ...sigh... I like the enthusiasm, but that's crazy.

   Somehow, they got a conviction on that theory.  Griego appealed, and the Court of Appeals held that the prosecution's theory was nonsense and remanded for acquittal on all counts.