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7th Circuit: Protective sweep by SWAT team reasonable

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The 7th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the denial of a defendant’s motion to suppress evidence found in his home during a protective sweep by the SWAT team after responding to a hostage situation. Marcus Henderson claimed the sweep – which led to the discovery of firearms – was unreasonable.

South Bend police and SWAT team officials surrounded Henderson’s home based on a possible hostage situation. Crystal Davis had sent her ex-boyfriend, Terrence Winfield, text messages that she was being held against her will by Henderson in his home and that he had weapons in the house. The standoff lasted about an hour, with Davis leaving first unarmed and Henderson stepping out of the house later, unarmed, and locking the door behind him.

Unable to unlock the front door using Henderson’s keys, the SWAT team forced entry through his back door to conduct a brief protective sweep of the house. No one else was inside, but they saw remnants of a marijuana growing operation and firearms in plain view. A search warrant was later obtained.

Henderson sought to suppress the seized firearms, arguing the protective sweep was unreasonable and violated his Fourth Amendment. The District Court denied the motion, and he was found guilty of being a drug user in possession of firearms.

On appeal in United States of America v. Marcus Henderson, 13-2483, Henderson also argued that the police should have confirmed with Davis how many people were in the home, which would support whether police would have to enter to conduct a protective sweep. But the judges pointed out that it’s not realistic for officers to always rely on the statements of people involved at a crime scene; sometimes they provide wrong information or lie. In the instant case, the District judge believed Henderson’s story that Davis was at his house on her accord but made up the hostage situation because she was unfaithful to Winfield.

“And, the duration and scope of the protective sweep in this case were reasonable. The SWAT team entered the house within ten minutes of detaining Henderson. Unable to operate the front door lock with the keys found on Henderson, the SWAT team forced their way into the house through the back door. Once inside, they secured the premises to ensure nobody remained in the house, victim or assailant. The sweep was cursory and lasted no longer than five minutes. … Other than the SWAT team, the South Bend Police Department remained outside until the court issued the search warrant and a full search was feasible. The district court did not err in denying Henderson’s motion to suppress,” Judge William Bauer wrote.
 

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  1. I just wanted to point out that Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, Senator Feinstein, former Senate majority leader Bill Frist, and former attorney general John Ashcroft are responsible for this rubbish. We need to keep a eye on these corrupt, arrogant, and incompetent fools.

  2. Well I guess our politicians have decided to give these idiot federal prosecutors unlimited power. Now if I guy bounces a fifty-dollar check, the U.S. attorney can intentionally wait for twenty-five years or so and have the check swabbed for DNA and file charges. These power hungry federal prosecutors now have unlimited power to mess with people. we can thank Wisconsin's Jim Sensenbrenner and Diane Feinstein, John Achcroft and Bill Frist for this one. Way to go, idiots.

  3. I wonder if the USSR had electronic voting machines that changed the ballot after it was cast? Oh well, at least we have a free media serving as vicious watchdog and exposing all of the rot in the system! (Insert rimshot)

  4. Jose, you are assuming those in power do not wish to be totalitarian. My experience has convinced me otherwise. Constitutionalists are nearly as rare as hens teeth among the powerbrokers "managing" us for The Glorious State. Oh, and your point is dead on, el correcta mundo. Keep the Founders’ (1791 & 1851) vision alive, my friend, even if most all others, and especially the ruling junta, chase only power and money (i.e. mammon)

  5. Hypocrisy in high places, absolute immunity handed out like Halloween treats (it is the stuff of which tyranny is made) and the belief that government agents are above the constitutions and cannot be held responsible for mere citizen is killing, perhaps has killed, The Republic. And yet those same power drunk statists just reel on down the hallway toward bureaucratic fascism.

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