In 1958, a landmark decision was made by the United States of America’s Supreme Court. Bought before the court was Miller v. the United States. William Miller was a 17-year-old adolescent who was a middle man for the dealing of heroin. After a small sting operation, which I will not go into detail on, the police arrive at William Miller’s apartment. They knocked on the door to which Miller asked who is it. Once notified that they were the police he opened the door with a chain attached. Miller inquired what they wanted to which he was given no reply. Upon attempting to close the door the police forced themselves in and arrested Miller without stating their purpose and searched the house. In a Supreme Court Decision, 7-2, the Court found the arrest was unlawful. Miller’s reaction to closing the door was not provocation for an arrest or a search. The police had no right to assume that by closing the door he was admitting guilt. Thus, the search was illegal and all evidence found was dismissed. So how did we get to no-knock warrants?
Well over the course of time, the war on drugs and fear of retaliation from violent criminals, two court cases led to the ruling of Miller v The United States getting diluted. Wilson v. Arkansas was the first case to do so. However, Arkansas Supreme Court failed to address the 4th Amendment and other factors properly. The U.S Supreme Court ruled against Arkansas for that reason but held that:
Countervailing law enforcement interests-including, e. g., the threat of physical harm to police, the fact that an officer is pursuing a recently escaped arrestee, and the existence of reason to believe that evidence would likely be destroyed if advance notice were given-may establish the reasonableness of an unannounced entry. For now, this Court leaves to the lower courts the task of determining such relevant countervailing factors.CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ARKANSAS No. 94-5707. Argued March 28, 1995-Decided May 22,1995
This led to the 2006 United States Supreme Court ruling, 5-4, that evidence found when police failed to announce themselves can not be suppressed by the judge and can be used against the defendant. Led by Justice Scalia, the fear was that defendants would flood court cases with claims of there being no announcement of police presence and intend at the time the search. Fast forward to today and we have the case of Breonna Taylor.
I have been struggling to write this post because I am unsure where to exactly start. Do I start at the number of black women killed by police that do not gain the same national attention as their male counterparts? Do I start at my own ignorance of the issue where I believed the outrage was minimized by the lack of video recording? Do I start at what it’s like to be a black woman in America to which the only clear answer I got was from my best friend who said “I worry about the men in my life”? Answer causes me shame and once she has time hopefully we can discuss that and I gain more insight for another blog. To get back on topic, where do I start in the conversation of Breonna Taylor’s murder. I couldn’t’ think of a start so I started with facts about the no-knock warrant. Yet that doesn’t suffice.
Breonna Taylor’s no-knock-warrant was justified on a hill of lies and assumptions with no one verifying any information. A no-knock warrant based on the Miller v. United States requires reasonableness. What exactly does that mean? What reason did the officers give? Were they fearful of their lives? Or were they concerned that evidence would be destroyed? Most likely neither of these were factors. The basis for adding Taylor’s apartment to the affidavit is flimsy. They believed that the drug dealer they were investigating was receiving case related packages at Taylor’s address. However, they did not go through the proper process to determine this. The Louisville Postal Inspector himself said that the police didn’t come to his office or probably any office to inquire about packages to that address. Yet they wrote on their warrant request that they did. Perjury. So the request for a no-knock warrant was not reasonable and perjury was committed. 2 strikes against the LMPD officers. The third and fourth strike would be the empty police report and the lack of body cameras. The police report was found to be almost empty with no information explaining what happened or the injuries Taylor suffered. Also, it appears that on that night these officers didn’t have their cameras one. So why is it taking so long to bring these officers to justice? Simply put it’s because a judge is complicit in this case.
Judge Mary M. Shaw signed the five affidavits written by Detective Joshua Jaynes requesting the search warrant. However, the question is how quickly she signed all five and if they were properly reviewed. I do not know the average time it takes to read an affidavit and get all the necessary information but signing five in under 12 minutes doesn’t seem right to me. This isn’t the first time that the public questioned how thoroughly judges are reading these affidavits. The Salt Lake Tribune did an article about this very same topic in 2018 in regards to Salt Lake City’s e-warrants. Their findings showed that more than half were approved in 10 minutes or less. One was signed in 48 seconds. Trying to look for more information on the subject is difficult. The time of approval for search warrants is rarely recorded or seem as important. Thus the Salt Lake City data and Breonna Taylor’s case are the only examples to go off of.
While Floyd’s case points at police brutality and Arbery’s case points out racism, Taylor’s case has more grounds for questioning the current status quo of how our legal procedures are handled. If we were to come together in solidarity and point this out it would bring trouble for those in the judicial system. The amount of power police and the juridical system have would come under fire. There are plenty of examples to discuss. From the family who lost their home when the police destroyed it to apprehend a suspect to a Maryland father defending his home when police were given the wrong address from an informant. There was even a case in California where the wrong address was given in a warrant and the warrant was upheld. The officer did go to the right address but this is not always the case. Change comes when we start acquiring change pass the police departments.
This killing of Breonna Taylor does not stop at the police level but rather goes beyond that. It goes to the judges, the state Supreme Court and the Federal Supreme Courts. It goes back to the decisions that overturned Miller v. the United States. The judicial systems’ failure to be checked and held accountable. The over-reliance on informants by police departments. Our Fourth Amendment and Second Amendment rights. Breonna Taylor’s rights.
Breonna Taylor deserves justice. Sadly though since she is a black woman America may just turn a deaf ear. With the way it currently works, they gave us our token hero in Floyd. This presidential election will be tied to his death, these protest, the riots, and police brutality. We will get a token victory but nothing will change. Biden already stated he is against defunding the police and NYC’s defunding a questionable. The real change and progressive movement lie in Breonna Taylor’s case in my opinion. Then again it’s just my opinion what are your thoughts?