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Court rules on police investigation methods

January 1, 2007
Admission of a handgun and related evidence has been tossed by an Indiana Court of Appeals panel on grounds that police who stopped the defendant and retrieved the weapon didn't have sufficient cause to do so.

The appellate court ruled today in Sarail Jamerson v. State of Indiana, No. 49A02-0608-CR-779, arising out of Marion Superior Court 19 and an investigatory stop in June 2006.

Three Indianapolis Police Department officers learned a county detective wanted them to locate the appellant-defendant Jamerson in connection with a carjacking at Lafayette Square Mall. Residents reported seeing him inside a parked car on the east side of Indianapolis, and the officers went there to find him.

Police found Jamerson and told him about the investigation. They allowed him to get back inside his car. Within a minute, officers observed a handgun being pulled from under the car seat and arrested Jamerson.

Later at trial, Jamerson argued that the officers did not have the necessary reasonable suspicion to detain him in an investigatory stop. The trial court denied his motion to suppress the evidence.

But the appellate panel of Judges Patrick Sullivan, Margret Robb, and Nancy Vaidik disagreed, finding that there's no adequate showing of reasonable suspicion needed for the stop that led up to the discovery of the handgun and subsequent conviction for possessing one without a license.

In making its decision, the court relied mostly on the notion that information obtained by one investigating officer may be relied on by other officials called in to assist, as long as the information-obtaining officer had reasonable suspicion in the first place. A tilting point came in the citation of State v. Murray, 837 N.E.2d 223,226 (Ind. Ct. App. 2005), that held police must relay reasonable suspicion to the investigating officer before the stop is made.

"We conclude the State has failed to demonstrate that Jamerson's reported link to the alleged illegal activity was anything more than an unparticularized hunch on the part of the unnamed reporting officer (detective)," the court wrote, reversing the lower decision and remanding with instruction to vacate the conviction.
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