Friday, November 2, 2007

October 30, 2007

Show Your Work, Please

Appellate Courts occasionally leave critical logical steps unexplained.

When you get beyond the titillating facts, this case presents an interesting question of logic. Officer X did not have an adequate basis for conducting a search of the Suspect. Officer Y may or may not have had such a basis, but did not communicate that basis to Officer X. The trial court suppressed evidence recovered from a search based on Officer X’s inadequate basis, but did not consider Officer Y’s basis. The First Circuit vacates the trial court’s decision, saying that the trial court should have considered Officer Y’s basis for conducting the search, Officer Y hadn’t provided sufficient testimony about the facts supporting his basis, but – and this is the key – leaves it to the trial court to determine whether such additional evidence is necessary.

Forget about Officer X. Officer Y has not provided enough testimony to support the search. But the First Circuit leaves it to the trial court to determine whether even to take evidence regarding Officer Y’s basis for wanting to conduct the search in question. That doesn’t make sense. The First Circuit should have either affirmed the trial court or vacated its decision and ordered the trial court to take more evidence from Officer Y. That is, unless the First Circuit is implicitly telling the trial court that it can disregard Officer Y’s testimony based on his lack of credibility. But if that’s what it’s staying, why doesn’t it say that?

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