A mestranda de Direito da Puc-rio Monica Re envia essa notícia publicada pelo New York Times de 14 de janeiro de 2009 sobre decisão da Corte Suprema americana e provas criminais ilegais.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that evidence obtained from an unlawful arrest based on careless record keeping by the police may be used against a criminal defendant.
Justices Weigh Value of a Rule That Limits Evidence (October 8, 2008)
Times Topics: Supreme Court, U.S.
Text of the Opinion: Herring v. United States (pdf)
The 5-to-4 decision revealed competing conceptions of the exclusionary rule, which requires the suppression of some evidence obtained through police misconduct, and suggested that the court’s commitment to the rule was fragile.
Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., writing for the majority, said that the exclusion of evidence should be a last resort and that judges should use a sliding scale in deciding whether particular misconduct by the police warranted suppressing the evidence they had found.
“To trigger the exclusionary rule,” Chief Justice Roberts wrote, “police conduct must be sufficiently deliberate that exclusion can meaningfully deter it, and sufficiently culpable that such deterrence is worth the price paid by the justice system.”
That price, the chief justice wrote, “is, of course, letting guilty and possibly dangerous defendants go free.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the dissenters, argued for “a more majestic conception” of the exclusionary rule, and a more categorical one.
The rule requires more than a cost-benefit calculus to deter police misconduct, Justice Ginsburg wrote. It also protects defendants’ rights, she said, and prevents judicial complicity in “official lawlessness.”
The case began when methamphetamines and a gun were found after Bennie D. Herring, an Alabama man, was arrested based on police officers’ mistaken belief that he was subject to an outstanding arrest warrant.
That belief was based on incorrect information in the computer files of a neighboring county’s police department. The warrant had been withdrawn, but the database had not been updated.
Calling the error “isolated negligence attenuated from the arrest,” Chief Justice Roberts said the lower courts had been correct in allowing the jury in Mr. Herring’s case to consider the evidence. He was convicted and sentenced to 27 months in prison.
The ruling itself is relatively narrow and is arguably merely a logical extension of a 1995 decision, Arizona v. Evans, which recognized an exception to the exclusionary rule for arrests resulting from erroneous computer records kept by court employees (as opposed to the police).
The decision in the case, Herring v. United States, No. 07-513, may have broad consequences, said Craig M. Bradley, a law professor at Indiana University.
“It may well be,” Professor Bradley said, “that courts will take this as a green light to ignore police negligence all over the place.”
Chief Justice Roberts, who was joined by Justices Antonin Scalia, Anthony M. Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said the exclusionary rule was unlikely to deter isolated careless record keeping and should be reserved for “deliberate, reckless or grossly negligent conduct, or in some circumstances recurring systemic negligence.”
“The deterrent effect of suppression must be substantial and outweigh any harm to the justice system,” the chief justice wrote. “Marginal deterrence does not ‘pay its way.’ ”
Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices John Paul Stevens, David H. Souter and Stephen G. Breyer, wrote that the majority “underestimates the need for a forceful exclusionary rule and the gravity of record keeping violations,” particularly given the heavy reliance by law enforcement on the electronic databases that “form the nervous system of contemporary criminal justice operations.”
In a separate dissent, Justice Breyer, joined by Justice Souter, called for a “clear line” to be drawn between “police record keeping errors and judicial ones.”
That, Justice Breyer said, “is far easier for the courts to administer that the chief justice’s case-by-case, multifactored inquiry into the degree of police culpability.”
The decision in the Herring case divided along familiar lines. A second case, about the role of the jury in sentencing decisions, was also decided Wednesday by a 5-to-4 vote, but it had a less predictable lineup.
That decision marked either a pause or a stopping point in a judicial march that began with the court’s 2000 decision in Apprendi v. New Jersey that the Constitution bars judges from making factual findings leading to increased sentences.
The question in the new case, Oregon v. Ice, No. 07-901, was whether the requirement established in Apprendi applied to the decision whether a defendant convicted of multiple crimes must serve consecutive or concurrent sentences if the harsher punishment required a judge to find facts not determined by the jury.
Justice Ginsburg, joined by Justices Stevens, Kennedy, Breyer and Alito, wrote that the Apprendi rule did not apply to that situation “in light of historical practice and the authority of the states over the administration of their criminal justice systems.”
It was undisputed in the case that some state systems that give judges discretion on this point are constitutional, including those in which judges have complete freedom and those in which they are allowed to opt for more lenient concurrent sentences.
The system used in Oregon, however, introduced an additional element in allowing judges to impose harsher sentences. The Oregon law required judges wishing to impose consecutive sentences in some cases to make factual findings about, for instance, the defendant’s “willingness to commit more than one criminal offense,” before imposing the longer prison terms