The U.S. Supreme Court ruled recently that investigators improperly obtained data from a GPS device that tracked the comings and goings of a suspect. The prosecutors may not be able to use that data, but they are determined to mount a third trial against the defendant. He was arrested in 2005 on drug charges and remains in jail.
The case is not in North Carolina, but the state is bound by the Supreme Court’s decision. Federal, state and local law enforcement will be watching the upcoming trial to see how the prosecution’s case holds up without the GPS data.
It should be noted that the circumstances in this case were unusual, and that the court’s decision was narrowly tailored to the facts of this one investigation and prosecution. Critics complain that the Court did not address the “difficult questions” posed by the case. For more details, read our Jan. 27, 2012 post, here.
In the first trial, the jury acquitted the defendant on most of the charges. The second time around, prosecutors pursued a conviction for conspiracy. That jury convicted the defendant, and he was sentenced to life in prison.
In 2010, he won his appeal, and his conviction and life sentence were set aside. Prosecutors then appealed, and the matter went to the U.S. Supreme Court. The majority decided for the defendant.
Now, prosecutors are mounting a case with testimony from witnesses and without information gleaned from the GPS data. If the witnesses cannot appear in person, the prosecutors say they will use prior testimony. Defense counsel says he will challenge any evidence related to the GPS data.
The trial is not necessarily a bad thing for the defendant. He has been in jail since 2005, regardless of his successful appeals. Defense counsel says the third trial should be the last, and he expects that his client will prevail.
Source: The BLT, “DOJ Presses On With Third Trial In Landmark GPS Case,” Mike Scarcella, March 2, 2012