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Vol. 38 No. 3 May / Jun 2009
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Highlights of This Issue

Special Bulletin:
  • United States Supreme Court Rules on Use of Informants to Obtain Jailhouse Confessions

United States Supreme Court Action

  • Rules on Automobile Searches Drastically Changed; Policy and Training Must Be Revised
  • Prompt Arraignment Rule in Federal Court Affirmed for Confession Admissibility
  • Public Employee Payroll Deductions for Political Activities Is Not Permissible for Non-Union Members

Federal and State Decisions

  • Arrest, Search and Seizure Issues: search warrants; probable cause; particularity; drugs and weapons; description of home owner; negligent mistake; independent source rule; warrantless search; automobile exception; warrantless arrest; armed standoff; traffic stops; “frisk” of car; stop and frisk; reasonable suspicion; evasive action; common knowledge doctrine; police negligence; anonymous 911 tip; right to privacy; prison escapee; parolee searches; strip search
  • Interrogation Issues: custody; physical restraint; workplace questioning; five key factors for determining interrogation; “do the right thing”; “get with the program”
  • Evidence; Trial Issues: admissibility of Miranda rights card; blood samples; doctor-patient privilege; police witnesses; uncharged crimes; translating defendant’s confession; police liability for false testimony
  • Civil Liability/Personnel Law Issues: liability for false arrest; attorneys’ fees; liability for faulty search warrant; qualified immunity; liability for excessive force; fleeing suspect; lack of malice; liability for selective investigation; photographing arrestee’s tattoo; discipline; gender discrimination and intimidation; municipal liability; grooming standards: headscarf and facial hair—religious issues; FLSA-compensatory time; labor law; collective bargaining; layoffs


United States Supreme Court
Arrest, Search and Seizure
Evidence; Trial Issues
Civil Liability / Personnel Law
Renewal Form; Internet Services
Special Bulletin
    Special Bulletin: United States Supreme Court Rules on Use of Police Informants to Obtain Jailhouse Confessions.
    Kansas v. Ventris, No. 07-1356 (2009).

    Defendant and his codefendant were charged with murder and other crimes. Prior to trial, an informant planted by the police in defendant’s cell heard him admit to shooting and robbing the victim, but defendant testified at trial that his codefendant committed the crimes. When the state sought to call the informant to testify to his contradictory statement, defendant objected. The state argued that even if defendant’s Sixth Amendment rights were violated by use of the informant, the statement was admissible for impeachment purposes. The trial court allowed the testimony. The jury convicted defendant of burglary and robbery. Reversing, the Kansas Supreme Court held that the informant’s statements were not admissible for any purpose, including impeachment. 176 P.2d 920.

    In a 7-2 decision and an opinion written by Justice Scalia the United States Supreme Court reversed, ruling defendant’s statement to the informant, concededly obtained in violation of the Sixth Amendment right to counsel, was admissible to impeach his inconsistent testimony at trial. Justices Stevens and Ginsburg dissented.

    The Court said the interests safeguarded by excluding tainted evidence for impeachment purposes are “outweighed by the need to prevent perjury and to assure the integrity of the trial process.” Once the defendant testifies inconsistently, denying the prosecution “the traditional truth-testing devices of the adversary process,” is too high a price to pay for vindicating the right to counsel at the prior stage. Additionally, preventing impeachment use of statements taken in violation of the Sixth Amendment would add little appreciable deterrence for the police, who already have an incentive to comply with the Constitution, since statements lawfully obtained can be used for all purposes, not simply impeachment. In every other context, the Court noted, it had held that tainted evidence is admissible for impeachment purposes.


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