Drug Policy

Johnston Update: Were the Judge's Warrant Signatures Forged?


Over at Volokh, Orin Kerr says the judge's signatures on the warrants and affidavits look surprisingly similar, suggesting that they may have been photocopied.  I agree.  So does reader Fernando Colina.  Colina put the four signatures that appear on the warrants into an animation.  He writes:

The only adjustment I have made is to scale the first signature, which appears to have been scanned at a different resolution.

You will note that the signatures look awfully similar.  The first one is at an slightly different angle, but this can be explained by the fact that the scanned page was also slightly crooked. There is a slight compression between pictures 2 or 3.  The last signature seems a bit faded, possibly because the document may have been copied more than once.  The question is if this is due to the copying and scanning mechanism  [that would have been used to create forgeries] or to the fact that they may be different signatures.

They are remarkably similar.  Have a look:


Someone in the comments of Kerr's post suggest that perhaps the judge has an electronic PDF of his signatures pasted into warrant applications, or that he uses a stamp signature.  That would mean that my criticism in Overkill of judicial review of these warrants as little more than a "rubber stamp exercise" is dead-on -- both figuratively and literally.

I'd now like to see some other warrants this judge has signed, both from this particular narcotics officer, and from others.  Of course, it would also be nice to hear from the judge himself.  Does he remember signing this warrant?  He ought to answer some questions, too.  

If he did sign the warrant, someone should ask him how much scrutiny he gave it.  Did he ask the officer any questions?  Did he ask for specifics on how reliable the informant has been in the past?  Why did he sign a no-knock warrant based only on a single buy from an informant?  Why didn't he send the police back out to do more investigation first?

I know that prosecutors and judges are going to say that I'm crazy.  Judges hardly ever exercise that kind of scrutiny for search warrant requests, even for no-knocks.  

But you know what?  Maybe they should.

UPDATE to this post here.