Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Supreme Court Victory Doesn't Stop Re-Trial

In January, the U.S. Supreme Court decide United States v. Jones.  The court ruled that law enforcement's warrantless installation and use of a GPS device to track a suspect's vehicle violated privacy rights protected by the Fourth Amendment. Although, Antoine Jones won before the high court is case is not over.

"It is important to be clear about what occurred in this case: The government physically occupied private property for the purpose of obtaining information," wrote Justice Antonin Scalia, reported Law.com. "We have no doubt that such a physical intrusion would have been considered a 'search' within the meaning of the Fourth Amendment when it was adopted."

The landmark decision was a significant defeat for the government in the divided 5-4 decision.
The Jones case began in 2004. At that time, a federal and local law enforcement task force began investigating the defendant, a nightclub owner and operator, for alleged cocaine trafficking.

According to Law.Com, the task force also covertly installed a GPS tracking device on Mr. Jones' Jeep Grand Cherokee. Originally, the task force obtained a warrant to install the device, but installed the device one day after the expiration of the warrant. Using information obtained from the device, the task force was able to locate the defendant and obtain surveillance photos and videos at a suspected stash house in Maryland.

Just when Jones thought he won, the DOJ said not so fast. An assistant U.S. attorney, John Geise, told a federal judge that the government is preparing to retry Jones for his alleged role in a cocaine trafficking conspiracy. An appeals court in 2010 erased Jones’ conviction and tossed his life sentence, reported the Legal Times.

The government, Geise said, is trying to track down witnesses for the trial, which he expected to be scheduled sometime later this year, perhaps as early as this summer. Geise said prosecutors could decide to rely on earlier testimony from those witnesses.

Geise said prosecutors are examining evidence not related to the GPS data investigators obtained from the illegal device.

A new trial for Jones will be his third. The first jury acquitted him on most charges. Prosecutors later retried him only on the conspiracy count. A jury in 2008 convicted him on that charge, which carried a mandatory life sentence, reported the Legal Times.

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