Lawsuit Involving An Improper Police Search Is Finally Headed To Trial After Seventeen Years

In 1994, New York City police officers, acting on an informant’s tip, obtained a “no-knock” search warrant and forcefully entered the apartment of a mother and her six children in the Bronx.  After seventeen years, a lawsuit filed by the family claiming the search was unlawful will finally be heard by a jury. In May of 1994, a man being arrested for possession of narcotics told police he purchased the drugs from a dealer named “green eyes”.  He told police the location of the apartment where the dealer resided and warned them that the dealer had two guns in the apartment.  According to the recent ruling by the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division, the police did not conduct any independent investigation or in any other way corroborate the information.  The court found that upon obtaining a “no knock” search warrant from Bronx Supreme Court Justice Joseph Cohen, a dozen officers from the New York Housing Authority Police Department “crashed through the door of plaintiff’s apartment in the middle of the night, terrified a mother and six children, held them for hours while they searched their apartment, destroying their property and threatening plaintiff mother that they would put her children in foster care if she did not tell the truth about the presence of guns in the apartment”.  New York courts apply a two-pronged test when evaluating the validity of a search warrant issued based on information received from a confidential informant.  The search warrant application must provide the reasons why the informant is reliable and credible, and must also explain some of the underlying circumstances relied on by the informant in providing the information; in other words, how the informant came to posses the information.  The court found that neither of the prongs had been satisfied and therefore the warrant was improperly issued. 

The plaintiff’s claims, which include false arrest and false imprisonment, were dismissed against all but two of the officers.  The court found that all but two of the officers were not involved in the issuance of the warrant and acted with the understanding that they were executing a valid search.  Although the plaintiffs had made a previous motion in 2008 to sanction the defendants for doing “everything possible to delay and otherwise prevent this case from ever reaching a jury”, the court at that time found that there was insufficient proof that the delay was willful.   

The full article may be found here.

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