Newark, NJ - A state appeals court yesterday threw out a Camden County man's drug convition because police did not wait long enough after knocking before forcing their way into his apartment for a search.
The court ruled that when the warrant was given, it was a knock-and-announce warrent when the police went to the apartment of James Holgado. But by waiting only 20 to 30 seconds, the court ruled, police turned it into a no-knock warrant, which is issued only when officers certify that a suspect may be dangerous.
The officers found Cocaine and Hogado was sentenced to a 15 year prison term, but the ruling excluded the evidence because of the wrong kind of warrant was executed.
Because of the lack of evidence the suspect had to be set free, forcing the police to go through another training session which included the new types of warrants that were recently set into place after the ACLU won a huge victory in protecting the rights of suspects.
One of the new warrants states that the police have to call one day in advance to tell the suspect they are coming over the next day. This, was a compromise made by the ACLU which was pushing the two-day warrant which says the police have to call the suspect two days in advance, tell the suspect what day they are coming over and what time they would show up. At least the police also got the one day in advance notice pushed through.
Another case, where the suspect was caught in the apartment of a girl who was covered with knife wounds which the coronor said was the cause of death. The man the police arrested, was Jamal Khasheem, a black man who lived two doors down from the dead woman. He was holding the knife when police broke through the back door and put Mr. Khasheem under arrest with a charge of murder of the young woman. The murder weapon, the knife that Mr. Khasheem was holding when apprehended, was excluded as evidence because the police went through the back door when the warrant they had said specifically it was a front door warrant and by using the back door, the police negated the warrant and therefore the knife had to be evidence that was never presented to the jury.
The final part of the training, was to let the police know that now, the city would require proof that any man shot by a city police officer, was actually holding a gun. In the past, this has been verified by either finding the gun on the person of the suspect or gun powder residue on the suspects hands or other parts of his body. Now, the police will need visual proof that the suspect in the shooting was actually carrying a weapon. This would be proven by having the policeman in pursuit of the suspect, take an actual picture of the suspect with the weapon clearly showing in his hand. When the City Police department and the Chief of Police protested quite vocally that this would almost be an impossible burden of proof, it was pointed out that with today's technology, even a common cell phone can take a picture while in pursuit of a suspect, specially if the suspect was standing still in a standing position or even attempting to conceal himself behind a barrier of some type.
Both the elected heads of the PBA and FOP raised a scene of a policeman running down the street wiith a gun in one hand and a cell phone/camera in the other to obtain the proof that would now be needed to justify the shoot.
The ACLU and other family members of people who were shot and killed by police under questionable curcomstances, cheered as the new request was passed into law by the City Council and the Mayor's committee of justice for suspects as well as the victims.
The law will be under appeal, but it is expected to hold up which will give another victory to the upcoming suspect protection laws that are soon to be announced in the coming months.