(NaturalNews) In some cases, art imitates life and vice versa. In this case, that is chilling.
Think 2002's Minority Report, starring Tom Cruise as a futuristic cop who works for a unit that arrests people for merely thinking about committing a crime.
That appears to be the case in Parker County, Texas, where officers arrested some folks who had not yet committed a crime, as reported by The Dallas Observer:
Police in Parker County had been watching Michael Fred Wehrenberg's home for a month when, late in the summer of 2010, they received a tip from a confidential informant that Wehrenberg and several others were "fixing to" cook meth. Hours later, after midnight, officers walked through the front door, rounded up the people inside, and kept them in handcuffs in the front yard for an hour and a half.
The only potential problem, at least from a constitutional standpoint, was that the cops didn't have a search warrant. They got one later, before they seized the boxes of pseudoephedrine, stripped lithium batteries, and other meth-making materials, while the alleged meth cooks waited around in handcuffs, but by then they'd already waltzed through the home uninvited. They neglected to mention this on their warrant application, identifying a confidential informant as their only source of information.
'The actions of police in the case don't pass the smell test'
That should be an open-and-shut case of illegal search and seizure - right? Nope.
Indeed, Wehrenberg's lawyers argued that very concept, charging that any materials seized during the raid had been taken illegally and, as such, should not be included as evidence in court. But amazingly, that motion was denied by the trial court, which cited federal "independent source doctrine," a legally questionable concept that permits illegally seized evidence that was mentioned to police by a third party beforehand. Because of that ruling, Wehrenberg pleaded guilty to one count of possession and one count of intent to manufacture, landing him a five-year prison sentence.
End of story? Not initially:
The Second Court of Appeals in Fort Worth wasn't so eager to overlook what appeared to be a clear case of police misconduct and overturned the lower court's ruling.
[I]t's the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals that has the final say, and last week they agreed with the trial court. In a majority opinion, Judge Elsa Alcala wrote that, while Texas' "exclusionary rule" bans illegally seized evidence from trial, federal precedent dictates that it can be introduced if it was first confirmed by an independent source.
Scott Henson, who first reported the case, says he isn't certain how significant the decision will ultimately prove to be.
Nevertheless, "the actions of police in the case don't pass the smell test," he writes in his Grits For Breakfast blog. "If their informant was so credible, why not go to the judge for a search warrant in the 3-4 hours before their illegal entry? The judge was available in the middle of the night, so there's little basis to believe they couldn't have gotten it earlier. And why conceal the fact that they'd already swept the house and detained the suspects in the search warrant application if everything was on the up and up?"
Future abuses sure to come
CCA Judge Lawrence Meyers, the only justice to dissent, agrees. He wrote that "it is obvious to me that this search warrant was obtained based upon the officers' unlawful entry into [Wehrenberg]'s residence."
Based on what has been reported, there was ample time for officers to secure a search warrant before searching the premises, but it appears as though the cops deliberately chose not to obtain one in advance - as required by the Constitution's Fourth Amendment. It was only after they entered and found suspicious materials - the thought of criminal activity - that the cops finally obtained a warrant.
In addition, Meyers argues that the confidential informant's report that Wehrenberg was "fixing to" cook meth wasn't independent evidence but a prediction of a future crime.
The majority's decision, he adds, means that "search warrants may now be based on predictions of the commission of future crimes," which is, of course, dangerous and could lead to all sorts of constitutional abuses.