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Court Reviews Search and Seisure Proceedures in Possible Murder Case


The village police received a 911 call from a teenager asking for assistance because he thought his mother had died. A police officer was dispatched to the home of the teenager and he arrived at 9:30am. A New York Criminal Lawyer said the teen-aged boy let the police officer in and brought him to his mother’s bedroom where he found the mother lying in a pool of her own blood. After the police officer was sure that the mother had no pulse, the police officer called for the detectives of the police department. The police officer also called the dead woman’s husband at his dental clinic.

Other police officers arrived at 10am. The police detectives arrived at 10.40 am and the medical examiners came at 11:25am. The husband of the dead woman, the dentist came home at 12 noon.

When the dentist arrived the police detective asked him questions. He was asked if he had any guns in the house and the dentist said no. He said he had not fired a gun since 1954 when he was in the armed forces.

At 12:10 pm while the detective was interviewing the dentist, a crime scene investigator arrived and examined the bedroom, the waste basked near the bed and the corpse. He took blood samples from a smear on the bedroom door and from a spot on the rug. When he left at 3pm, he took with him a pillow, a pillow case and the bed sheet from the bed where the dead woman lay. A Queens Criminal Lawyer said the detectives posted a police patrolman on the dentist’s house to be sure that no one enters the bedroom.

When the detectives left, they asked the dentist to proceed to the police station. While there, the detectives asked the dentist if he would consent to undergo a paraffin test to determine if he had recently fired a gun. The teenage son of the dead woman also took the paraffin test. Both the dentist and the teenager tested positive.

The detectives asked the doctor if he was willing to take a lie detector test. The dentist refused. He was also asked if he was willing to undergo a neutron activation test to determine the presence of gunshot residue. The dentist acquiesced.

While the detectives were interviewing the dentist, the medical examiner reported that the bed sheet he took from the crime scene had two bullet holes in it. He also reported that a bullet was found inside the skull of the dead woman.

The detectives asked the dentist if they could test his shoes and clothes for gunshot residue and he gave them his clothes and shoes. While the dentist was changing into other clothes, the police detectives saw him throw something in the waste can. It turned out to be a piece of gauze and a button.

The detectives reduced to writing the statements made by the dentist when he was first interviewed at his house and again when he was interviewed by the detectives at the police headquarters. When the dentist’s lawyer arrived, the detectives read the entire statement to both the dentist and the lawyer. The lawyer confirmed with the dentist whether each question and each answer read to them by the detective was true and the dentist affirmed the truth of his statements.

The dentist was then asked by the detectives if he was willing to sign them. The lawyer advised his client to sign the statement of the first interview at the house but he also advised the dentist not to sign the statement of the second interview at the police headquarters. The dentist refused to answer any more questions and he left the police headquarters with his lawyer.

The Court determined that the dentist was never taken into custody by the police officers or the police detectives; he was not deprived of his freedom of action. It is the court’s finding that the dentist freely and willingly answered the questions and submitted to the tests requested by the police. Thus, the statements he made and the results of the tests conducted on him are all admissible into evidence.

The Court also determined that the arrival and entry of the police officer at the house was legal as it was upon invitation and call of the teenage son of the dead woman. The arrival and entry of the medical examiner and the crime scene investigators were also legal as it was to determine the cause of death of the dead woman. The taking of the pillow, pillow case and bed sheet was also legal as it was to determine the woman’s cause of death. The taking of pictures and blood samples from the smears on the door and floor were also done to aid the medical examiner to determine the cause of death. A Manhattan Criminal Lawyer said the initial entry of the police officer was in response to an emergency situation; the entry of the medical examiner and the crime scene investigator was also in response to an emergency situation which is an exception to the rule that a search and seizure of items must be made in accordance with a search warrant. These pieces of evidence are admissible.

The Court determined that what are inadmissible are all pieces of evidence obtained from the house after 3pm. After 3pm the detectives knew that the woman had died of a gunshot wound to the head. They searched the house no longer to determine the cause of death of the woman for that had already been established. They were there to search the house for the murder weapon. They retrieved and removed all kinds of things from the dentist’s house only because they felt that the things may have a connection with the woman’s death. They had no search warrant to search the house. The dentist did not give his consent for this search. The search was not made contemporaneously with a legal arrest. The items seized were not in plain view. These are inadmissible in evidence.

They returned a few days armed with a search warrant to search the house, the two dental offices and the car of the dentist. The search warrant authorized the search for a .22 pistol or rifle. To execute the search warrant, the police went to the house, the dental offices and the car of the dentist but they did not find any .22 caliber gun. They went back the next day and on the basis of the saw warrants, they searched the house, the dental offices and the car again and seized bloody floor mats but did not find any .22 caliber gun. The Court held that the second search was illegal as it was an exploratory search. When the police officers searched the vehicle for the second time, they also seized the vehicle itself. They also seized a brown leather bag that was in the car even if the search warrants did not specify that they can seize those things. The car was tested for gunshot residue after it was seized. Thus the items seized during the second search have to be suppressed as these were seized without any authority. All evidence obtained from the testing of the car will also be suppressed.

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