Saturday, July 19, 2008

Interesting Article Regarding the Exclusionary Rule - We're All Alone

An interesting article in the New York Times today explores the fact that the United States is the only country to take the position that some police misconduct must automatically result in the suppression of physical evidence. The article includes great discussion of the history of the rule, the possibility that the U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to reconsider the rule, the exclusions that have been created to the rule over the years, and the approach to suppression of evidence where police misconduct is present in other countries.
The Supreme Court started requiring the exclusion of improperly obtained evidence in 1914 — but only in federal cases.

For many decades afterward, the Supreme Court refused to apply the principle to states, saying they could choose the appropriate remedy for police misconduct — including civil suits and criminal prosecutions — and were not required to suppress evidence. In a 1949 decision, the court justified that position in part with a rationale now disfavored in some circles: a survey
of foreign law.

“Of 10 jurisdictions within the United Kingdom and the British commonwealth of nations,” Justice Felix Frankfurter wrote for the majority, “none has held evidence obtained by illegal search and seizure inadmissible.” The right to be free of arbitrary police intrusion is fundamental, Justice Frankfurter wrote, but the legal remedy for the violation of that right can vary.

It was not until 1961 that the Warren Court, in one of its signature decisions, concluded in Mapp v. Ohio that only the mandatory suppression of evidence could adequately address wrongdoing by the police in all cases, state and federal.

Seven Cleveland police officers had broken into and searched Dollree Mapp’s home without producing a warrant, manhandling her and rummaging through her personal papers. Though the Ohio Supreme Court concluded that the search had been unlawful, it affirmed Ms. Mapp’s conviction on obscenity charges based on materials the police found in her home.
That was too much for a majority of the Supreme Court to stomach. “The state, by admitting evidence unlawfully seized, serves to encourage disobedience to the federal Constitution which it is bound to uphold,” Justice Tom C. Clark wrote for the court. Only the exclusion of evidence could do the job, he said; other remedies had proved “worthless and futile.”
Read the NYT Article here.

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