ILNews

District Court didn't err in Franks hearing

Jennifer Nelson
January 1, 2008
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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a defendant's drug conviction following a Franks hearing, affirming the U.S. District Court's decision to reconsider one of its findings and to not compel the government to identify the confidential informant in the case.

The case of United States of America v. Antone C. Harris, No. 07-1315, made its way back to the 7th Circuit after the federal appellate court originally remanded the case to the United States District Court, Southern District of Indiana, Indianapolis Division, to hold a Franks hearing because it found the court had improperly denied Antone Harris a hearing pursuant to Franks v. Delaware, 438 U.S. 154 (1978).

A magistrate judge had issued a warrant to search Harris' home for cocaine and drug contraband pursuant to an affidavit from Indianapolis Police Department Detective Michael Forrest.

Forrest's original affidavit contained some incorrect information. Despite three false and misleading statements, the District Court denied Harris' motion to suppress evidence. On appeal, the 7th Circuit remanded the case with instructions to hold a Franks hearing to determine whether the search warrant was unconstitutional.

In a Franks hearing, in order for a defendant to show a search warrant was unconstitutional, he must show by a preponderance of the evidence 1) the search warrant contained false material statements; 2) the affiant omitted the material fact, or made the false statement intentionally or with reckless disregard for the truth; and 3) the false statement is material for finding the probable cause.

Based on Forrest's testimony at the hearing, the District Court ruled Harris didn't meet his burden of demonstrating the evidence in the warrant affidavit was insufficient to show probable cause. The District Court also denied his request to compel disclosure of the confidential informant who was used in the affidavit.

Harris argued that the District Court should have been bound by its initial determination that the warrant affidavit contained misleading information as to the date of the confidential informant's conversations about purchasing cocaine with Harris in the Goodlet Avenue residence.

To constrain the District Court would have forced it to ignore evidence from the hearing, a result that "is neither necessary nor justified," wrote Judge Ann Claire Williams. As a result, the District Court didn't abuse its discretion when it determined it wasn't bound by the law of the case doctrine from reconsidering whether the statements in the warrant affidavit were materially false.

Harris moved the District Court to compel the government to disclose the identity of and produce the confidential informant, believing there was no informant and the detective made up the informant's existence. The U.S. Supreme Court had ruled that when confidential informants are just "tipsters," disclosure of their identity isn't required.

"Because the CI (confidential informant)'s only role was to provide information that served as the basis for obtaining the search warrant, there is no reason to believe that the CI would testify at trial in such a way that would refute or cast doubt on whether Harris was in possession of crack cocaine on April 20, 2004. The CI is therefore a 'tipster' whose identity need not be disclosed," the judge wrote.
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