Information, observations, and analysis from the James River valley on the Northern Plains-----
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The Supreme Court changed the rules yesterday. It has been a rule that when police charge into a place to conduct a search for criminal evidence, they must first knock and announce who they are. In the past, courts have barred any evidenced gathered if the rule was not follow from admission to criminal trials. It was called the "exclusionary rule." The Supreme Court yesterday decided that evidence gathered without knocking and announcing could be admitted into trial. New Justice Alito along with new Chief Justice Roberts were among those who gutted the exclusionary rule.
The argument made by Justice Scalia was, essentially, that criminals got off when the police did not precisely follow the rules and that the social costs are too high.
This is one rule that was never intended to give comfort to the criminals. They have little chance to hide evidence in the few seconds between a knock and announcement of who is about to enter and the actual entrance of the police. The rule was one in a phalanx of rules designed to prevent the violation of Constitutional rights of citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures. It made the police take a methodical approach to insure that any evidence gathered was done so in a manner that established the credibility of the evidence and gave the subjects of searches a chance at due process of law. It was a rule that grew out of police-state tactics in which Constitional rights and due process of law were flouted by police departments.
O. J. Simpson was acquitted on the basis of reasonable doubt raised by the possibility that the police had planted evidence. People in Honkeyland have never understood the case. Simpson's lawyers got the case moved from a suburban jurisdiction to an inner city one. They knew that people in that jurisdiction, whether black, white, or Latino, were well indoctrinated into police tactics of beatings, framings, and planted evidence. The legal team knew that if they could establish a credible possibility that the police planted evidenced, their client would most likely be acquitted. Bad police tactics were something people in that neighborhood witnessed all the time.
And so, now that police do not have to knock and announce who they are, we have taken another step into the police state that is the dear aspiration of so many who call themselves conservatives today.
However, Nathan Newman at TPM Cafe points out a possible conflict. The same conservatives who love the idea that police do not need to follow any rules for certain types of people are fond of the "Castle Doctrine." That doctrine is one in which if you believe someone has intruded in your home to do you harm, you have the right to blast the person away. Nathan Newman raises the issue of whether the Castle Doctrine can be invoked if some police who fail to knock and announce get blown away.
We have a strong hunch that the Castle Doctrine will apply only to people of certain ethnic strains and creeds.