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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Ind. Decisions - Supreme Court decides one today

In Kevin M. Clark v. State of Indiana, a 29-page, 4-1 opinion, Justice David writes:

When two police officers encountered three men in a self-storage facility and ordered them to the ground, the men were protected by the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. When those protections were violated, the evidence obtained as a result was tainted and should have been suppressed at a subsequent trial of one of the men. Because that evidence was instead admitted after the violation of the man’s federal constitutional rights, we must now reverse his conviction and remand. * * *

Conclusion. The violation of Clark’s Fourth Amendment rights in this case was the direct jumping-off point to the discovery and seizure of all of the substantive evidence used to convict him. Because none of that evidence should have been admitted at a trial against him, the conviction cannot stand.

The State may of course retry Clark if it can introduce evidence of his guilt that was obtained in a manner not prohibited by the Fourth Amendment. We therefore reverse Clark’s conviction for attempted dealing in methamphetamine and remand for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

Dickson, C.J., Rucker and Rush, JJ., concur.
Massa, J., dissents with separate opinion.

The Court’s thoughtful and meticulous parsing of the facts and the law, in the end, leaves one overarching question unanswered: what should the police have done?

When called at midnight to a 24-hour storage facility in a high-crime area to help the owner evict a customer improperly living in a unit, should they have refused to come? I doubt it. Once there, should they have declined to investigate further and not accompanied the owner from the gate to the unit? Again, I think not. Most critically, once they entered the unit and saw Clark drop his bag, should they have looked the other way and departed?

The breadth of the Court’s opinion notwithstanding, the issue essentially boils down to whether the officers had a reasonable and articulable suspicion that justifies their decision to conduct a Terry stop. Once they saw Clark drop his bag, I would conclude they did have such a suspicion, whatever the tone of their ensuing instructions. It was Clark’s subsequent admission, as the majority notes, that led to his arrest and all that followed—most of which this Court would approve, had it not found all that fruit poisoned for want of Terry suspicion.

I would affirm the trial court as a unanimous panel of the Court of Appeals did below and thus respectfully dissent.

Posted by Marcia Oddi on September 17, 2013 12:46 PM
Posted to Ind. Sup.Ct. Decisions