Man has third gun conviction overturned when court says cops shouldn't have searched his car

The Massachusetts Appeals Court yesterday threw out the gun conviction of a man who'd been stopped for failing to signal a left turn and running a red light on Quincy Street in Roxbury in 2009.

The court ruled that while Boston Police officers had the right to order Jeromie Johnson - who already had two convictions for illegal weapons possession - out of the car after the stop in the "high crime area," they didn't have enough reason to conduct a "protective sweep" of the car, during which they found a loaded gun wrapped in a sock that was covered with a towel in the back seat. Police are allowed to conduct searches without a warrant in situations where they fear the person they've stopped might have quick access to a weapon.

The justices acknowledged the fact that Johnson "had an outstanding arrest warrant, was slow to obey the officers' commands, argued with them, and repeatedly looked into the rear of the car," and that the stop was in an area known for its crime, makes their call a close one, but that:

[Johnson and his passenger] kept their hands in sight of the officers. ... They made no furtive gestures suggesting that they might be reaching for or hiding weapons. ... The defendant's glances into the back of the car were ambiguous and not the equivalent of movements suggesting an attempt to conceal a weapon. ... Furthermore, when the patfrisk of the automobile was performed, the defendant was outside the car, under the watchful eyes of another officer. Finally, the officers outnumbered the occupants of the car.

Also, Johnson's outstanding warrant was for speeding and unauthorized use of a motor vehicle, rather than anything related to guns or violence, the court noted.

Since the search was illegal and since without the search the police never would have found the hidden gun, the gun should not have been presented as evidence against Johnston, the court ruled.

A protective sweep of an automobile for weapons must be based on reasonable fears for the safety of officers or others. The officers here had no reasonable concern based on specific, articulable facts that there might be weapons in the vehicle. Therefore, the firearm and other evidence resulting from the search (including the defendant's statements) should have been suppressed. Without the firearm or the defendant's statements, there was insufficient evidence to convict the defendant. Judgment shall therefore enter in his favor.

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Comments

Only in MA

What a joke . We have had 4 shooting deaths in the city in the last week and countless more shots fired incidents that the papers do not mention. This guy had two prior CONVICTIONS for gun incidents ... Not just an arrest he was convicted . Police officers knowing that coupled with the fact that he wasn't compliant with officers and kept looking into the back seat where the gun was located... How is that not sufficient for a pat frisk of the car for weapons ? Ridiculous ..People are so quick to blame police for violence in rhe city But when they do good lolice work the court just strikes them down ...Thankfully one less illegal gun on the streets .

Who do we need to speak to

about changing the law?

There's "no reasonable fear" that a guy who already has prior convictions for illegal weapons wouldn't have an illegal weapon? Yeah, what fantasy world is that in?

And best yet, how has he had TWO convictions and is still on the streets? Mr. Mayor -- listen up. You want to reduce gang-related crime? How about life in prison for a second illegal gun conviction?

Another genius

Before commenting on these matters again, please familiarize yourself with probable cause related case law.

With every emotional response, you guys would set legal protections back 500 years if you could.

Probable cause ...

A pat frisk for weapons is not a search . The officers did not need probable cause to perform a search of the car because it wasn't a search ! They did not go into locked containers or the trunk ... They went in the backseat where the suspect was sitting and frisked an area where a firearm could fit.... The officers articulated well enough why they felt they needed to perform a frisk of the car for weapons for their SAFETY . The problem here is a judge not following the spirit of the law and doing what they felt like instead .... So your whole probable cause argument is bogus ... Anything else ?

The fact about legal protections

is that we need more of them in favor of law-abiding citizens and less of then in favor of criminals like this one.

And if prior history of gun-related crimes isn't probable cause, not to mention this guy was stopped on a public street for a violation of the law in the first place, then perhaps we also need to rewrite some of those laws while we're at it.

Constitutional protections were intended to protect people who obey the law, and not to allow people who break the law to get away with their deeds. Sadly, in this day and age, we seem to have forgotten that.

Civics 101

The law is blind to whether you are a "good law abiding citizen" or "not a law abiding citizen".

THAT is, in fact, a hallmark of our justice system. That "blindness" is EXACTLY how it is supposed to work. Otherwise, justice will only be reserved for "people who behave" and "good people" and "rich white good people", etc.

See also: long discussion about the massive-scale incarceration of black and hispanic males ...

Let's review the facts here

The perp called attention to themselves by breaking the law in the first place. Upon investigation, the police discovered he had a history of gun crimes. Once they learned that information, they followed up on said information and found evidence of another crime.

Hardly a shake down of a "law abiding citizen". And it's hardly what the original framers of our laws intended when they wrote them. Too bad a judge decided not to recognize these events for what they were - good police work.

But you just go right on defending criminals who have broken the law instead of applying some common sense to these situations.

One of the issues here is that he didn't own the car.

If he owned the car, or if no one was with him, the police could have just searched the car as a part of the inventory policy since the car could have been towed.

Since the owner of the car was there though, you have to consider her rights as well.

I think legally the judge may have made the right call, but they often times give cops leeway when they find items within reach of a pat frisk even after the suspect is in custody.

Here's a last question

Why wasn't this "validity of the search" brought up during the original trial? Answer: Because the guy was found guilty by a jury and is looking to weasel out of the conviction.

Which is one more thing we need to change about the system - that a person found guilty is still presumed to be innocent when they appeal the verdict.

After all, how often does the prosecution get to appeal a "not guilty" verdict on the basis of "loopholes" instead of actual evidence.

I'm not a lawyer but..

I think it comes down to each judge not making the proper call when they originally allow the evidence in the first place. I'm not sure if lawyers have to attempt to suppress the evidence in the first case, or if the judge has to rule the wrong way in the first case?