Monday, November 10, 2014

Exclusionary rule does not apply when agents executing an otherwise valid search warrant fail to provide to the homeowner a list of items sought

U.S. v. Franz, No. 13-2406, 2014 WL 5565457 (3dCir. Nov. 4, 2014)

A police officer executing an otherwise valid search warrant failed to provide the list of items sought to the homeowner.  Although it acknowledged that the warrant, as presented to the homeowner, was constitutionally deficient, the Court examined the totality of the circumstances. It considered the officer's conduct in obtaining and executing the warrant, and what the officer knew or should have known.  The rookie officer consulted with federal prosecutors and explained to the homeowner what items the warrant sought, but mistakenly believed that an order sealing the warrant prohibited him from providing the list of items sought to the homeowner.  Under these circumstances, application of the exclusionary rule would have little deterrent effect since the officer’s conduct was not deliberate, reckless, or grossly negligent.  

During trial, the court allowed the prosecutor to show graphic images of children being sexually assaulted to the jury using a projector that enlarged the images on a screen.  The trial court later ruled that the images were inadmissible, told the jury to disregard them, and gave a curative instruction.  On appeal, the Third Circuit agreed with the government that the display of the graphic images to the jury was harmless beyond a reasonable doubt. 

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