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Court Sides with Defendant in Arizona Criminal Case Involving Illegally Obtained Confession

In a recent case before an Arizona court of appeals, the defendant argued that his confession should have been suppressed at the trial court level. Originally, the defendant was convicted of second-degree murder, and after he was found guilty, he asked the higher court to reconsider the unfavorable verdict. After reviewing the case and ultimately agreeing with the defendant’s argument, the court vacated the verdict and the associated sentences.

Facts of the Case

According to the opinion, the victim in this case drove up to a gas station one evening, got into an altercation with another individual, and was eventually shot in the leg. Because of blood loss associated with the shooting, the victim later died. Local police officers immediately began an investigation, which led them to the defendant in this case.

The officers obtained a search warrant and used that search warrant to collect DNA from the defendant. They connected the defendant’s DNA with DNA from the crime scene, which they told the defendant during his interrogation. After hearing this information, the defendant confessed to the crime.

It was later discovered that one of the officers had exaggerated the application for a search warrant, in that he had lied about how many references to the defendant other suspects had made in their own interviews. The trial court ruled that the warrant should not have been issued in the first place, and it excluded the DNA evidence from coming into the trial record. The defendant’s confession, however, remained admissible, and after a trial, the defendant was found guilty of the murder.

The Decision

On appeal, the defendant argued that because the DNA evidence was suppressed, the confession he made to the officer should have also been suppressed. The officer only got a confession out of him, said the defendant, because he used evidence obtained from a warrant that should never have been allowed in the first place. Because the confession was the direct result of this illegal search warrant, the confession should have been suppressed as well.

Looking at the trial court’s record, the higher court agreed with the defendant. The officer clearly exaggerated his warrant application, and the warrant he unrightfully obtained led directly to the confession of the defendant. Therefore, said the higher court, the confession should have been excluded from the prosecution’s admissible evidence. Siding with the defendant, the court vacated the conviction and sent the case back to the trial court for further proceedings.

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