Drug Policy

Atlanta's Judges: "Not Our Problem"

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Following up on yesterday's post…

You'd think that everyone in the chain of command in Atlanta would be looking for ways to prevent more botched raids and more unnecessary violence. Nope. It's all ass-covering and buck-passing .

Fulton magistrates don't plan on making any policy changes, said Stefani Searcy, court administrator for Fulton County State and Magistrate courts.

"I'm sure the judges, not just here but across the state, are concerned about whether officers are telling the truth," Searcy said. "It's a problem that has to be handled internally by the police department."

Oh, and they're going to make themselves even less accountable, by no longer talking to the press.

And speaking of people who just don't get it:

David Fowler, deputy executive director of the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia, said [no-knock] warrants are sometimes needed to give police the element of surprise.

"Let's not say the system is broke just because we had some rogue cops breaking the rules," he said. "This doesn't fall at the feet of the magistrate or the chief of police. It's the officers who took the shortcuts."

No question these cops were particularly dirty. But this is a systemic problem driven by bad policy. And if it isn't fixed, not just in Atlanta, count on more dead innocents, more dead nonviolent offenders, and more dead cops.

Meanwhile—and I really can't believe this—the officers who killed Kathryn Johnston are worried about losing their pensions. I'd think that ought to pretty much be a given, no? Kill an old lady, lose your pension?

NEXT: Atlanta Police Nearly Killed 80-Year Old Woman—Two Months Before Kathryn Johnston

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  1. The link to the magistrate’s statement requires registration, which I’m not going to bother with.

    But it appears that doctors giving out pain medication are liable to life in prison, if their patients aren’t telling them the truth; but judges who issue search warrants that lead to innocent people getting killed have no responsibility because they were lied to?

  2. the analogy with Dr hurwitz s internaly consistent from their point of view…it isnt that doctors are accountable and judges aren’t…it is that our society prefers to err on the side of punishment for drug users/dealers.

    dr hurwitz had it coming cause he dared to have drug users as patients and ms johnston had it coming because she dared to live in a neghborhood with drug users. it is an inevitable consequence of allowing our fellow citizens to place a moral value on drug use. personally when i encounter someone with this viewpoint i goad them into attempting to justify any reason for judging drug use as bad or immoral per se. until we can unchain drug use from morality people and politicians can continue this war against unsavory types with impunity.

    mike

  3. it isnt that doctors are accountable and judges aren’t…it is that our society prefers to err on the side of punishment for drug users/dealers.

    I hate to take a page from the Marxists, but I think it has more to do with power relationships. Judges, prosecutors, and cops have the power to cover up/rationalize their breaches of the law, and “civilians” like Dr. Hurwitz don’t. The cat (a vigilant and suspicious-of-authority citizenry) has been away for a long, long time, and the mice are having a ball.

  4. To be fair, he should get to keep the money he put into his pension fund…better to have that moeny go to pay for a civil suit then to reward the city by letting them keep it.

  5. “This doesn’t fall at the feet of the magistrate or the chief of police. It’s the officers who took the shortcuts.”

    Then why have judges? Why not just fire them all and let the cops write up their own warrents. The judges job is to make sure the cops are not lying. But the judges have to care about something besides a paycheck to do that.

  6. The problem is probably more within the rules and guidlines that judges follow in approving warrants. If a higher standard was required, you would probably see less of this on the judges’ end. But I have to say, when a cop lies to a judge, it’s a problem with cops, not judges. I believe judges assume good faith from the cops, that may be written in the guidlines.

    If we made it a crime for an officer of the law to lie to a judge, punishable by death, I think we would see less of this.

  7. If we made it a crime for an officer of the law to lie to a judge, punishable by death, I think we would see less of this.

    I know we’re all mad about this, but the death penalty for lying to the judge on a warrant is a bit extreme (not to mention unrealistic). A mandatory 5 years in maximum security prison would likely have sufficient deterrent effect.

    Also, this seems like an ample opportunity to run some libertarian judges in Atlanta. If the current judges have a problem with accountability, they can be replaced by someone willing to take responsibility for the warrants they approve.

  8. i think the first time a cop lies while on duty he should be stripped of his pension and fired immediately… simple as that… you cannot trust liars.

  9. What’s this * thing? Is Prince posting at Reason now?

    Yes I was extreme on purpose, I’m not a fan of the death penalty. My point being we should up the ente for cops who lie to a judge if we are serious. Lando’s got the right idea and I would add, barred from taking ANY security job.

  10. Who are they to judge whether a policeman is telling the truth? Oh, wait, they’re *judges,* meaning that it *is* theirs to judge. But if they did, the cops would be mad at them. Well, then, in that case never mind.

  11. “””If the current judges have a problem with accountability, they can be replaced by someone willing to take responsibility for the warrants they approve.”””

    Replacing the judge doesn’t solve the problem. The judge was not in the wrong, he approved a warrant in good faith. The fact that the police took advantage of good faith means the accountability goes the the “lying” part. A judge really has no way of knowing of the cops are lying about a warrant. I don’t think it’s practical to make the cops “prove” a warrant. So good faith should apply. I think the cop should be sweating the possible penality when lying to a judge. The penality must be severe.

    Maybe force a more seinor cop to sign of on the cops application? Then hold that one accountable too. I’m not sure if we need another layer for accountability. What better focus than the cops applying for the warrant.

  12. TrickyVic,

    Two possible approaches come to mind:

    The judge can demand more details about purported confidential informants. If the copes say “we can’t show you the informant; he’s confidential;” the judge could ask the police chief to personally vouch for the warrant, under penalty of perjury. If the chief of police gets tricked into signing a perjurious warrant application, he’ll have an incentive to punish the cops who are responsible for getting him into potential criminal liability.

  13. What’s this * thing? Is Prince posting at Reason now?

    I was just too lazy to come up with a good handle, and I didn’t want to use my real name. I never intended to post comments as frequently as I have recently.

  14. That sounds pretty good. I’m not sure if the police chief is a practical person. Warrants don’t happen on a schedule, so you need access to that perons 24/7/365. But a high ranking officer indeed. They have a lot more to lose if caught.

  15. “”I was just too lazy to come up with a good handle””

    Fair enough.

    If one uses a symbol in lieu of their name, you’re fair game for Prince jokes.

    Come around frequently and enjoy the talk.

  16. The proportion of higher isotopes of the element of surprise can be used to date humor.

  17. Judges really aren’t supposed to look into if the cops are lying unless it’s something that is obvious.

    They are there to determine whether, on the basis of the evidence presented to them, there is probable cause to suspect wrongdoing.

    No more. No less. It’s presumed the cops are clean. While I’m all for checks and balances, it would be totally impractical to require judges to clean up the police. They’d stop being judges at that point and become investigators. The police are supposed to maintain ethical standards. Obviously not working perfectly.

  18. Sounds to me like judicial oversight is non existant. If a cop can make up any story he wants and get a warrant without ever even speaking to a judge or presenting evidence then what are these judges for?

    If the cop just files the request electronically and a judge electronically signs the warrant based soley on the cops word what’s the point of the judge at all?

  19. The police are supposed to maintain ethical standards.

    So are the judges; but just as is true with the cops, there is no guarantee of that. Why in hell do any of you assume judges to be any more honest than the cops?

  20. Doesn’t Georgia have criminal and/or civil penalties for perpetrating fraud upon its courts? Why wouldn’t constables and/or prosecutors be liable under those statutes?

    This is bizarre.

    Kevin

  21. re: judges / cops / warrants

    Absent the War on Drugs, how big of a problem would this be?

  22. You might be able to get them on perjury. I assume they are under oath and all that.

  23. The problem with penalties for cops who seek warrants under bad information, or even malicious lies, is that they’ll never be applicable.

    Any time something like this happens, said cop will be able to swear up and down that he was acting on the best information available to him at the time.

    And I just bet he’ll have a whole department full of cops willing to corroborate.

  24. Absent the War on Drugs, how big of a problem would this be?

    Almost none, ~zero, miniscule, etc. etc. etc.

  25. If the copes say “we can’t show you the informant; he’s confidential;”
    …then the judge should reply “do you plan on using him as evidence at trial? Then you can produce him now.” If the answer is “no,” then we invoke the Sixth Amendment–specifically the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him–“and say that if he can’t be produced at trial, he’s not evidence, and everybody involved should bugger off.

  26. I find it gratifying and extremely disturbing that subsequent to Ms. Kathryn Johnston’s murder by the Atlanta police, Hit & Run posters predicted all of the lies, obfuscations etc. that followed. Amazingly enough most media outlets were inclined to give the APD the benifit of the doubt.

    Hey, it isn’t paranoia if it’s true, is it now?

  27. I know we’re all mad about this, but the death penalty for lying to the judge on a warrant is a bit extreme (not to mention unrealistic). A mandatory 5 years in maximum security prison would likely have sufficient deterrent effect.

    For a cop, it would have to be five years in solitary. He would be unlikely to survive five years in a max security population.

    If the cops say “we can’t show you the informant; he’s confidential;”
    …then the judge should reply “do you plan on using him as evidence at trial? Then you can produce him now.” If the answer is “no,” then we invoke the Sixth Amendment–specifically the right “to be confronted with the witnesses against him–“and say that if he can’t be produced at trial, he’s not evidence, and everybody involved should bugger off.

    CIs aren’t called as witnesses. That would end their usefulness (and probably their life). The CI provides probable cause for the warrant, therefore if the cops find a drug stash it’s admissable, and the stash provides the evidence for conviction.

    In the long term the problem here is that “dynamic entry” warrants are used for anything not involving an innocent hostage that needs rescuing.

  28. But anytime there are drugs in a house there are hostages. Every drug user is a hostage to their addiction.

  29. I’m sorry, this just so pisses me off that I’m likely to say something irrational, so rather than do that, I will toddle off to bed after giving the chillen’ each a big hug and a little kiss.

    No es mi trebajo……….

    gallo mamons’

  30. Or maybe I should say….

    pinche cabrones

  31. The judge was not in the wrong, he approved a warrant in good faith.

    Have you been keeping up with the story? It was a rubber-stamp job.

  32. Of course I have. Do you understand a Judges role in approving warrants? Almost all warrants could be considered a rubber-stamp job. I’ve already addressed why in this this thread.

  33. “””For a cop, it would have to be five years in solitary. He would be unlikely to survive five years in a max security population.””””

    Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do time.

    That should be food for thought when they start to consider breaking the law and/or being dishonest.

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