Hicks

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Hicks - marrie^ ?.'... No, we're just considering...
marrie^ ?.'... No, we're just considering dating...' JAMES J. KILPATRICK Travesty At The High Court By JAMES J. KILPATRICK WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on March 3 maintained its spotless record for fouling up the law on evidence. It decided two cases involving the exclusionary rule and botched both of them. One of the opinions, in U.S. v. Ronald Dale Dunn, was merely regrettable. The other, in Arizona v. James Thomas Hicks, was flat-out cuckoo. What is even more distressing is that the majority opinion in the Hicks case was written by Justice Antonin Scalia. Some of us hopefully had regarded Scalia as an additional Rehnquist or O'Connor on the high court. It is too soon in his career to abandon the hope, but it will have to be watered down. In the 30 cases this term in which the court had divided, Scalia and Rehnquist have voted oppositely in 10. The Dunn case turned on an issue of importance to ranchers and farmers: Is a barn a part of one's "house?" If so, then it is protected by the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search. In this case, drug agents had good reason to believe that Dunn was manufacturing controlled substances. Without bothering to obtain a warrant, they sneaked on to his ranch at night, walked half a mile to his house, climbed over a series of fences and locked gates, peered into a barn and saw the evidence they would produce at trial. Justice Byron White, in a singularly unconvincing opinion, held that the barn was not a part of the "curtilage" of the house. Hence Dunn had no expectation of privacy in its contents. The search was thus legal, and the evidence was admissible. Pfui! A rancher's barn is his home office. The cops were dead wrong in this case. The evidence should have been excluded. White's opinion in Dunn was unsound. Scalia's opinion in Hicks was unbelievable. These were the facts: A bullet was fired through the floor of Hicks' apartment in Phoenix, striking a man in the apartment below. Police responded, went into Hicks' apartment, and there they found "three weapons, including a sawed-off rifle, and a stocking- cap mask." In the midst of this "squalid and ill-appointed apartment" they observed two sets of expensive stereo equipment. No dummies, the cops had every reason to believe the stereo sets had been stolen. One of the officers then did what every reasonable and experienced officer would have done: He lifted the turntable a few inches so that he could make note of the serial number on the bottom. A telephone call to headquarters confirmed his suspicion: The sets had indeed been stolen in the course of an armed robbery and kidnapping. The officer thus seized the sets as evidence to be offered at trial. The Arizona courts held that the police had every right to enter Hicks' apartment in the first place. No warrant was needed to check on a shooting. But the lower courts also ruled that the police had no authority to seize the stereo sets, for the stereo sets were unrelated to the gunfire. The Supreme Court voted 6-3 to affirm that bizarre decree. What patent nonsense! The stereo sets were in plain view. Considering the surroundings, the police officers were wholly justified in their actions. They entertained suspicions amounting to a lead-pipe certainty that they were looking at stolen property. If the serial numbers could have been read without lifting the turntable, the evidence would have been admissible. But the officers committed a heinous, unpardonable, inexcusable offense: They touched — they actually touched! — the equipment. This action, said Scalia, "unrelated to the objectives of the authorized intrusion, which exposed to view concealed portions of the apartment or its contents, did produce a new invasion of respondent's privacy unjustified by the exigent circumstance that validated the entry." You may search Scalia's opinion in vain for one word of sympathy for the police or for the owner of the stolen equipment. It would have been evident to a child of 10 that in entering Hicks' apartment, the police had come upon the lair of a dangerous criminal. Were the police to seize the weapons and close their eyes to everything else? Scalia's opinion made a travesty of justice and a mockery of common sense. Sensibly applied, the exclusionary rule is a sound rule. It dates to the 1914 case of Fremont Weeks, whose home in Kansas City was invaded by police in search of forbidden lottery tickets. They had no warrant, and they behaved inexcusably. From that case, wisely decided, a shower ofjudicial lunacy has descended. Scalia's opinion adds to the string of high-court opinions that breed not respect, but rather incredulity and scorn. Copyright 1HT Univcn*) Pnm Syndic** I.M. IOYO What Is Old Age? When does "old age" start? People in their 20s say age 63. Those in their 30s say 67. In their 40s, they say 70. From 60 to 64, they say 73. Over 65, they say 75. I'm satisifed with any of those figures. Things have changed a lot. To me, old age starts when self-sufficiency stops. An expectant mother doesn't always know what that infant in the womb is doing right this minute. Tell her. Manufacturing 250,000 nerve cells. That's this minute. That many again the next minute. POLITICAL ACTIVIST You're a political activist, if your vote is counted. Or so say some. Maybe so. Anyhow, it's true a humorist stipulated in his Will that he wished to remain active in politics after his death, so he wanted to be buried in Chicago. WILLIAM RUSHER

Clipped from
  1. The Kerrville Times,
  2. 24 Mar 1987, Tue,
  3. Page 4

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