California State Court System: Illegal Search & Amendment Rights


18-year old Adam Jones has been arrested for shooting an undercover policeman in San Diego, California. Officer Lewis was part of a team investigating street gang criminal conduct and was out of uniform in an unmarked car when he was killed. Jones, who believed Lewis was a rival gang member, shot him from a moving vehicle with an assault rifle.

Lewis’ undercover partner arrested Jones at the scene. Jones fired the weapon from his car, so it was impounded and searched incident to arrest. Within hours of his arrest, the house he shares with his parents was searched. The warrant to search turned up photos of other gang members posing with an arsenal of ammunition and weapons. To their surprise, the officers also found counterfeit plates for US currency and piles of failed attempts to reproduce $20 dollar bills in a locked garage at his parents’ home.

Jones’ blood level at arrest tested positive for heroin and marijuana. He was also in possession of both drugs. On the way to jail, Jones bragged to the officer that he had shot a policeman and that he would be a hero in prison and with his gang.

The newly elected City Attorney responsible for prosecuting Mr. Jones is Jane Harrison. She announced before Officer Lewis’ funeral that she did not intend to seek the death penalty. Under California law, using an assault weapon or killing a law enforcement officer is a “special circumstance” allowing the prosecutor to ask for the death penalty.

During her election campaign, Harrison disclosed that she was personally opposed to the death penalty, and even though California allows it, she was not willing to ask for it even under “special circumstances” that would allow for it. Separate and apart from Harrison’s personal philosophy, her opinion reflects the majority opinion of the populous of San Diego, where juries have only returned two death penalty decisions in over 50 years. She won the election handily.

Outraged by the Chief Prosecutor’s decision not to seek the death penalty, law enforcement agencies statewide have asked Harrison to recuse (excuse) herself and allow the State Attorney General to prosecute. One U.S. Senator has asked for Federalprosecution and the death penalty. This case has national attention because of the tension between the agency cry for the death penalty and the prosecutor’s unusual position of defending against it.

You work as an intern at a premium criminal defense firm in the city. On Saturday, senior partner Steve McBride received a call from a friend to say that his young son Adam had been arrested for killing a policeman and needed help. McBride agreed to help, and he will lead the defense team. He has put together a team of interns to assist him at every step. You are a key player on the intern team. Over the next weeks, you will provide briefings and research on legal and procedural matters for McBride in order to help provide the best defense for Jones.

Details: If we prevail on the motion to suppress evidence from the illegal search (4th Amendment violation), it is unlikely that there will be a federal prosecution. Therefore, we need to look ahead to set strategy in state court.

Begin by charting out the various courts and hearings that will typically occur and how the case is affected by each event. Assume the case remains in state court.

Outline the various courts in the California state system where Jones will appear and why he is appearing there, from arraignment to trial and the stages of appeal. Note which constitutional amendment is in action at each stage.

Discuss all the potential hearings that Jones may face in this criminal proceeding from the beginning to end of the process. Also include any motion hearings that you feel Jones could benefit from. Think in terms of your defense strategy. Also remember to discuss the relevant constitutional amendments brought into play in the discussion of each court hearing described.

Identify and differentiate civil liberties protected in the 4th, 5th, 6th, 8th, and 14th amendments.

Examine the history of the Bill of Rights with focus on the Constitutional Amendments pertaining to criminal procedure and due process.

Identify the basic elements of the court system.


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