Manuel Valle’s Criminal Defense Attorney Successful in Staying Execution Over Drug Concerns

On Monday July 25, 2011 the Florida Supreme court determined that Manuel Valle, convicted of killing a police officer, had valid concerns regarding the new death penalty drug. As a result, Valle’s death sentence has been postponed until September 1.  In general, an inmate’s concerns elsewhere have not put a stop to executions.

According to an article published by Reuters, the Supreme Court determined that “[Valle] has raised a factual dispute, not conclusively refuted as to whether the use of pentobarbital in Florida’s lethal injection protocol will subject him to a ‘substantial risk of serious harm.’”

What is the difference between pentobarbital and sodium thiopental(the drug previously used)?

Not much except that Pentobarbital is often used to euthanize animals. The reason many correctional facilities are using the drug is because there is a shortage of sodium thiopental and it will not be made by U.S. manufacturers any more.

Valle’s lawyer’s argued that pentobarbital will subject him to substantial harm. It isn’t uncommon in recent days that a criminal defense attorney will argue the risk of harm to postpone a sentence.

Can Police Now Enter Homes Without a Warrant?

We’ve all seen it in the movies; “cop” bangs on door, people inside scatter and hide weapons/drugs, someone answers the door and “cops” search the home. Pretty standard right? This is not what happened in a recent case in Kentucky…

According to an article from the Orlando Sentinel, Kentucky police were following a man who they believed to be a drug dealer. The man went into an apartment building but the law enforcement officials lost track of which unit he entered. The police smelled marijuana coming from one door and knocked on it. They heard rummaging and announced they were coming in. They did not find the drug dealer but instead found Hollis King with marijuana and cocaine. King convicted of drug trafficking but later his conviction was overturned by the Kentucky Supreme Court accusing the officers of violating his 4th Amendment (unreasonable search and seizure). The U.S Supreme Court then heard an appeal from prosecutors and reversed the ruling. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr said

“…the police conduct in this case ‘was entirely lawful,’ and they were justified in breaking down the door to prevent the destruction of the evidence.”

 

The Supreme Court passed a ruling allowing law enforcement to enter homes without a search warrant. If law officers knock loudly on the door and hear suspicious noises coming from inside, they can enter the home without a warrant or consent. Before this ruling, the law stood that officials could only enter the home without a search warrant if they had consent from the owner or if there was an emergency situation.

In the article, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg argues

“the court’s approach arms the police with a way routinely to dishonor the 4th Amendment’s warrant requirement in drug cases. She said the police did not face a ‘genuine emergency’ and should not have been allowed to enter the apartment without a warrant.”

 

This new law could potentially complicate the job of criminal defense lawyers because in the past, there was a logical defense when police didn’t have the explicit right to enter the home of the suspect. Now, we may come across the gray area of what was thought to have been heard and what the accused says happened. The line of violating the 4th Amendment could become blurred.

The Supreme Court arrived at an 8-1 decision allowing law enforcement officials to enter without a warrant if they are in pursuit of someone with drugs, knock loudly and can hear the destruction of evidence.

How Reliable are Drug-sniffing Canines?

Drug-sniffing dogs have always been used and trusted in the court of law, but last Thursday the Florida Supreme Court tossed out evidence that a canine detected. After this 5-1 Supreme Court decision, it is going to be a lot harder to get approval to use dog-sniffing evidence in cases.

In the past, dogs were judged by their experience and training but now, they are going to have to display a reliable track record.

According to an article from the St. Petersburg Times,

“The Oregon Supreme Court also set reliability criteria in a pair of rulings earlier this month, and a Chicago Tribune analysis of Illinois data in January showed the dogs are wrong more often than they are right.”

 

This relates back to a 2006 case where a man was stopped for a routine traffic violation. The canine ran to the driver’s side door after the man had refused to let the officer search his truck. The officer found many tools and pills used to make methamphetamine. Two months later, the same man was pulled over by the same officer. The canine again went to the same side of the door, but this time nothing was found in the truck.

The question arises can we always trust canines? There is an obvious language barrier and we will never be able to know what the dog is sensing.

Last week, a Florida Supreme Court judge ruled in a separate case that officials must have a warrant before using drug-sniffing canines at residences. It will be interesting to see the result of this publicity and what will happen to drug-sniffing canines reputation.

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