Tuesday, June 05, 2012

Sixth Not Convinced by Cop’s Framing of the Facts


In United States v. Johnson, an unpublished case today, the Sixth Circuit, while admitting it was a close case, held by a 2-1 vote that the following facts did not add up to reasonable suspicion to extend a traffic stop once the citation was written:

1) nervousness
2) defendant looked back and forth between the two police officers
3) vehicle had a container of industrial-strength degreaser
4) defendant said he planned to go on a three-night vacation with a woman he had not met in person but vehicle had two plastic bags of clothing instead of luggage
5) rental contract indicated that the vehicle was not supposed to be driven in the state where defendant was stopped or his destination state
6) defendant had a criminal history

The police officer also said the defendant had a “bladed” stance indicating a fight or flight mode, but the majority reviewed the videotape and determined that this was not the case.  Finally, the majority pointed out that the officer interpreted the defendant’s behavior in a way that would make anyone seem suspicious:  “Had Johnson averted his eyes and slouched, he might have been considered evasive. Because he stood straight and maintained eye contact, Officer Duggan considered him aggressive. Johnson simply could not win.”  It turns out Johnson did manage to win, at the Sixth Circuit.

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