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Position Paper - Exclusionary Rule


Exclusionary Rule

This session I introduced HB564 to revise the Exclusionary Rule. Why?

The Exclusionary Rule requires that some relevant and material evidence against murderers, drug dealers and other criminals be hidden from the jury. While the Constitution forbids the illegal acquisition of certain kinds of evidence it does not actually say that this evidence is to be hidden from the jury. Back in 1914 the Federal Courts started hiding important evidence from juries. In the 1960s they completed the shell game. In 1984 in a momentary lapse into good sense the U.S. Supreme Court decided that if the police in good faith obtained evidence that for some technical reason was acquired illegally the jury should still hear and see it.

In 1988 our North Carolina State Supreme Court maintained the rigorous exclusion of the Rule but rejected the good sense exception for evidence obtained in good faith.

In a dissent by (now Chief) Justice Burley Mitchell the issue was framed as follows:
"By refusing to permit the introduction of evidence seized by officers acting in the honest belief that a court order authorizing its seizure was lawful, this Court gives much greater protection to criminal defendants than they have been given by the Supreme Court of the United States."

The people of North Carolina could fix this. The General Assembly could submit to the people a Constitutional amendment that relevant material evidence not be excluded in a criminal trial unless its exclusion is required by the Constitution of the United States.

What does the Exclusionary Rule mean to you? As in the 1988 North Carolina case, if your 78 year old grandmother was raped and kidnapped but, due to a technicality, the criminal's blood to identify him was drawn with the wrong piece of paper in hand, your grandmother might have to endure two trials instead of one in order to convict the vicious criminal.

It might mean that your friendly neighborhood drug dealer gets to stay out on the streets another two or three years infecting more children in the neighborhood.

This is not an esoteric, theoretical issue. It impacts your life.

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