Search warrants have to be approved by a judge, but police know which judges to ask.
Relaxed oversight of the overzealous leads to nightmares.
In 2006, Atlanta police officers lied in a search warrant application. They said cocaine was purchased at a home they had never been to and they were awarded a no-knock warrant.
Police then kicked down the door of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston’s Neal Street home and shot her to death.
Before leaving, the officers planted marijuana in the home so their victim would look like a drug dealer and not a frightened old lady.
A story I read today out of Kansas didn’t end as badly, but it made me think about Kathryn Johnson and bad cops.
In the Kansas case, a highway patrol officer saw a man enter a Kansas City hydroponics store. The highway patrol forwarded the info to Johnson County police seven months later, in March 2012.
Johnson County investigators searched the man’s garbage on three separate occasions in April 2012. Twice, they found wet plant material and mistook it for marijuana.
They got a search warrant and performed a “SWAT-style” raid on the home of Bob and Addie Harte.
Bob asked police for a search warrant and was told police, in Kansas, only have to show a search warrant after a search is complete, not before. In Georgia, police generally are not allowed to enter a home without a search warrant unless the homeowner gives them permission.
The family of four was made to sit on a sofa while armed officers scoured the home.
The search revealed nothing.
The Hartes say the wet plant material was loose tea, and the visit to the hydroponic store was for a basement tomato plant.
The Hartes asked why their home was searched, but under Kansas law police don’t have to tell property owners anything.
Only after the family hired a lawyer did police send the plant material to a lab to see what it really was. The results came back negative for marijuana.
Apparently there’s no crime lab test for Earl Grey.
The Hartes have filed a federal lawsuit and spent $25,000 on lawyers to learn why their home was searched.
Most people don’t have that kind of money.
And most people aren’t retired CIA employees like the Hartes, who have a newfound respect for the rights of suspected criminals.
“This not what justice in the United States is supposed to be. You shouldn’t have to have $25,000, even $5,000. You shouldn’t have to have that kind of money to find out why people came raiding your house like some sort of police state,” Addie Harte said.
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