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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Ind. Decisions - One today, so far, from Supreme Court

Referring back to this June 24th ILB entry headed "Many more Indiana Supreme Court opinions expected before July 1," one more of the 2008 argued criminal cases still pending has been decided today.

In George Jackson v. State of Indiana, a 7-page, 5-0 opinion, Justice Rucker writes:

George Jackson appeals his conviction for unlawful possession of a firearm by a serious violent felon. Finding the search warrant for Jackson's home valid under the good faith exception to the warrant requirement, we affirm the conviction. * * *

Jackson appealed contending the trial court erred in denying his pretrial motion to suppress. Noting that because he is appealing following a conviction, and thus the issue is more appropriately framed as whether the trial court properly admitted the evidence at trial, a divided panel of the Court of Appeals reversed Jackson's conviction. According to the majority the search warrant was invalid under Indiana Code § 35-33-5-2, and the evidence seized during the search was not otherwise admissible under the good faith exception to the warrant requirement. Jackson v. State, 889 N.E.2d 830 (Ind. Ct. App. 2008). Having previously granted transfer we now affirm the trial court. * * *

The Court of Appeals' majority examined the evidence before the issuing judge and concluded it fell short of the probable cause required under Indiana's warrant statute. More particularly, the court noted that Detective Blackwell‟s sworn oral testimony was based on hearsay statements of the confidential informant and determined there was no testimony establishing the informant‟s credibility as required by I.C. § 35-33-5-2(b). Chief Judge Baker dissented emphasizing that the confidential informant had a relationship with police, formed by making several controlled buys in the past for the Drug Task Force. Jackson, 889 N.E.2d at 835-36. * * *

We acknowledge that Detective Blackwell's testimony is abbreviated, and public complaints have their limitations. See, e.g., Pawloski v. State, 269 Ind. 350, 354-55, 380 N.E.2d 1230, 1232-33 (1978) (test for determining reliability of information varies based on whether the source is an anonymous tipster, a professional informant, or a cooperative citizen). But the heart of the matter is not whether a court of review agrees or disagrees about the existence of probable cause sufficient to support the issuance of a search warrant; rather the issue is whether when viewed from a totality of the circumstances there was enough evidence before the issuing court that would allow the court to make that call. We are of the view the evidence in this case meets that standard.

Conclusion. We therefore affirm the judgment of the trial court.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on June 30, 2009 10:20 AM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions