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SCOTUS urged to not take Indiana case

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The Indiana Attorney General's Office wants the nation's top jurists to reject a Hoosier case posing Fourth Amendment questions about police searches, valid search warrants, and probable cause.

In a 33-page brief filed late Monday, the AG's office contends the Indiana Supreme Court was correct in deciding last summer that police can seize evidence not identified in an initial search warrant when those items of criminality are found on the scene of a valid search dictated by the first warrant.

The brief comes in response to a January petition for certiorari in Willie Eaton v. State of Indiana, No. 08-8153, which stems from a state decision issued June 30, 2008. That ruling in Eaton v. State, 889 N.E.2d 297 (Ind. 2008), affirmed a judgment from Wayne Circuit Judge David Kolger and held Eaton's convictions for cocaine dealing and marijuana possession should stand because an initial search warrant had sufficient probable cause.

Dating to May 2005, the case involves an Indiana State Police move to stop an interstate drug-trafficking conspiracy. Eaton went to a Richmond muffler store to meet with Edgar Gonzalez, who earlier in the day police stopped for speeding and caught with cocaine. A trooper rode with Gonzalez to the destination and planted a recording device in the vehicle, and then waited to enter the muffler store until after Eaton arrived. Police obtained a warrant to search Eaton's home based on a statement from the officer who said drug traffickers commonly kept money and records regarding drug trades on cell phones, computers, and other items at home.

During the search for records, police saw several items in the home - including cocaine - that caused them to get another warrant allowing for police to seize those additional items and eventually leading to the convictions.

On direct appeal, four justices concluded that a police officer may seize evidence not identified in a search warrant "when he inadvertently discovers items of readily apparent criminality while rightfully occupying a particular location." But Justice Robert D. Rucker dissented, fearing that the majority's logic in approving that search warrant would invite more government searches and that could violate both the U.S. and Indiana constitutions.

Hoping to overturn that decision, Eaton's pro bono counsel F. Thomas Schornhorst, a professor emeritus at Indiana University Maurer School of Law - Bloomington, filed a petition Jan. 12 asking the high court to accept jurisdiction in a case posing important and recurring Fourth Amendment questions on broadly worded search warrants.

In its response brief, the attorney general's office poses the question: "When police arrest a suspected drug trafficker at the scene of a four-kilo transaction, is it reasonable for them to infer, for purposes of obtaining a search warrant, that the suspect likely conceals documentary and other evidence of his drug trade at home?"

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  1. A sad end to a prolific gadfly. Indiana has suffered a great loss in the journalistic realm.

  2. Good riddance to this dangerous activist judge

  3. What is the one thing the Hoosier legal status quo hates more than a whistleblower? A lawyer whistleblower taking on the system man to man. That must never be rewarded, must always, always, always be punished, lest the whole rotten tree be felled.

  4. I want to post this to keep this tread alive and hope more of David's former clients might come forward. In my case, this coward of a man represented me from June 2014 for a couple of months before I fired him. I knew something was wrong when he blatantly lied about what he had advised me in my contentious and unfortunate divorce trial. His impact on the proceedings cast a very long shadow and continues to impact me after a lengthy 19 month divorce. I would join a class action suit.

  5. The dispute in LB Indiana regarding lake front property rights is typical of most beach communities along our Great Lakes. Simply put, communication to non owners when visiting the lakefront would be beneficial. The Great Lakes are designated navigational waters (including shorelines). The high-water mark signifies the area one is able to navigate. This means you can walk, run, skip, etc. along the shores. You can't however loiter, camp, sunbath in front of someones property. Informational signs may be helpful to owners and visitors. Our Great Lakes are a treasure that should be enjoyed by all. PS We should all be concerned that the Long Beach, Indiana community is on septic systems.

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