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No-Knock Warrants under review by GA Legislature
Posted by: McQ on Saturday, March 03, 2007

In a word: good. You remember the death of 89 year old Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta who, thinking her home was being broken into, attempted to defend herself and was shot dead by police during a no-knock storming of the house.

A subsequent investigation found that narcotics officers had lied about the situation to obtain the warrant. Finally, a group of lawmakers are attempting to tighten up significantly on the use of no-knock warrants (and yes, standard disclaimer, I'm against the War on Drugs, but that doesn't stop what's going on or will go on. This is to address the reality of a portion of that war and to argue for the rights of citizens to be secure in their homes in the face of it):
A group of lawmakers wants to make it harder for police to use "no-knock" warrants in the wake of a shootout that left an elderly woman dead after plainclothes officers stormed her home unannounced in a search for drugs.

The measure would allow judges to grant the warrants only if officers can prove a "significant and imminent danger to human life."

The measure was prompted by the Nov. 21 shootout between Kathryn Johnston and three police officers during a no-knock search of her Atlanta home. When the officers entered without warning, police say that Johnston, 92, fired a handgun at them and that the officers returned fire, killing her. An autopsy concluded she was shot five or six times.

Narcotics officers said an informant had claimed there was cocaine in the home, but none was found.

Democratic Sen. Vincent Fort, a sponsor of the bill, said the case was a warning that it has become too easy to obtain "no-knock" warrants.

"Every citizen ought to be safe and secure in their homes," Fort said. "A no-knock warrant should be a special warrant, not a standard. And that's what it's evolved into."

An Associated Press review of all no-knock warrants filed in Atlanta's Fulton County last year found that the authorities involved often give scant detail when applying for the warrants.

No-knock warrants are intended to prevent suspects from getting rid of evidence and to protect officers from violent suspects. They typically are used to search for drugs and weapons.
Obviously there are times when a no-knock warrant may be applicable. But not until good police work has made an undeniable probable cause case. As was evident in the Johnson case, that was never done. There should be evidence presented to the judge granting the warrant that makes a case of clear probable cause that such a warrant is necessary in the situation. Additionally any judge should require that the address be physically verified (covertly of course) and that the officer who does the physical verification lead the raid, or at least ensure those who are doing the raid go to the proper house. That means that officer would be required to be on site prior to the raid being committed.

That would go a long way toward eliminating mistakes and raids which see innocent civilians and/or police officers killed or wounded because that verification wasn't done.

But I agree wholeheartedly that such a warrant should be an exception, and the evidence for such a warrant should be exceptional as well.
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Previous Comments to this Post 

This woman’s death can be attributed to the insane “War on Drugs”. No Knock warrants are just one of a plethora of tactics used to support a corrupt system that provides employment for Drug Smuggler, Police, and Prison guards. “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Haven’t any remembered the disaster that was “Prohibition?” This country is spending Billions trying to stop the unstoppable. The law of supply and demands indicate were there is a demand there will be a supply. If we can’t keep drugs out of prisons, how can we expect to keep them out of the supposedly “free” parts of the country?
Written By: James E. Fish
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