Despite a request by prosecutors, a Faulkner County judge is standing by his decision to throw out evidence collected in a local dog-fighting and drug case.
Deputy prosecuting attorney Megan Carter filed a motion for reconsideration regarding the discredited evidence on May 8, two weeks after Faulkner County Circuit Judge Charles "Ed" Clawson ruled in the defense's favor to suppress evidence collected against 37-year-old Carl Johnson.
Online records show Johnson is currently charged with simultaneous possession of drugs and firearms, possession of a controlled substance, maintaining a drug premises within 1,000 feet of a drug-free zone and unlawful dog fighting after authorities confiscated eight pit bulls while conducting a search warrant at a residence in the 1700 block of Donaghey Avenue.
According to court documents, Conway Police Department investigators and the SWAT team were executing a search warrant on Jan. 4, 2017, of the Donaghey Avenue residence when drugs and the dogs believed to be involved in dog fighting were found.
Carter argued in her May 8 motion that the evidence found during the execution of the aforementioned search warrant was valid and imperative to the case she was building against Johnson.
"Evidence obtained in violation of the Fourth Amendment need not be excluded, as a matter of law, when officers act in objectively reasonable reliance on a search warrant issued by a neutral and detached magistrate,” Carter’s motion for reconsideration reads in part. “The exclusionary rule is intended to deter police misconduct, not to punish law enforcement when they rely in good faith on a search warrant that is later found to have been issued in error. ... Law enforcement should not be punished by the errors of judges in the issuance of a search warrant when law enforcement relies upon that search warrant in good faith.”
Following Carter's plea, Jimmy Morris Jr., who represents Johnson, filed a response that argued in favor of the judge's recent ruling.
"The Court's ruling should stand as suppression is the remedy for the inadequacy of a search warrant when an officer cannot manifest objective good faith in relying on a warrant based on an affidavit so lacking in indicia of probable cause as to render official belief in its existence entirely unreasonable," his May 18 response to Carter's motion reads in part. "The officer's reliance on the magistrate's probable-cause determination and on the technical sufficiency of the warrant he issues must be objectively reasonable."
Because the search warrant was not reasonably obtained, it's findings were illegal, thus making them invalid, Morris argued.
"Here, the officers' reliance on the warrant was not objectively reasonable, in a set of circumstance for which, the officer's knowingly, and recklessly submitted an affidavit that was inadequate to a magistrate, who in effect, acted as a rubber stamp for the police by signing an affidavit for a warrant that was obviously unreasonable," he stated.
Judge Clawson ultimately stood by his April decision, despite Carter's request for reconsideration.
Johnson is currently scheduled to appear at 9 a.m. June 5 in Faulkner County Circuit Court for a pretrial hearing regarding the aforementioned case.