United States vs. Jones

It appears the United States Supreme Court does in fact recognize the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. My faith is revived.

In United States v. Jones, 565 U.S. __ (2012), the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that law enforcement officers violated the Fourth Amendment when they attached a GPS device to Antoine Jones’ car and collected data on his whereabouts for 28 days. Jones was under suspicion for trafficking and conspiracy to traffic cocaine. Although law enforcement officers had a warrant to attach the GPS device, the warrant expired before the device was attached and the officers attached it to Jones’ vehicle in a jurisdiction not covered by the warrant. In effect, the officers attached the GPS device without a warrant.

The Supreme Court unanimously agreed that the law enforcement officers violated the Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Remember, the Fourth Amendment protects “persons, houses, papers, and effects,” from unreasonable searches and seizures. The majority – Justice Scalia (author), Chief Justice Roberts, Justice Kennedy, Justice Thomas, and Justice Sotomayor – decided that physically installing a GPS device on someone’s car and using it to monitor movements is a “search.” However, the majority left the door open for future issues relating to a person’s expectation of privacy in a highly digital world, including whether a warrant is always required in GPS cases.

To read the Court’s opinion, click here: United States v. Jones.

No Country for Innocent Men…

Timothy Brian Cole was 26 years old when he was wrongfully convicted of rape in a Lubbock, Texas, courtroom in 1986. At the time of the rape, he was a student at Texas Tech University – Texas Tech had an enrollment of approximately 22,000 students – About 500 were African-American. Timothy was one of the 500.

Timothy died in a Texas prison on December 2, 1999, while suffering an asthma attack. At the time of his death, he had served 13 years of a 25 year sentence for a crime he did not commit. He was 39. He was finally exonerated in February of 2009. DNA evidence showed him to be innocent. He was pardoned posthumously in March of 2010.

Beth Schwartzapfel wrote a wonderful article entitled “No Country for Innocent Men” about this tragic failure of the Texas Criminal Justice System. It appears in Mother Jones. This is a must read.

To read more about Timothy’s case see The Innocence Project.