Friday, March 22, 2013

Your girlfriend is a reliable informant

The Sixth Circuit's recent ruling in United States v. Kinison, 12-5997 (found here), is not earth-shattering, but does contain some interesting bits.

Kinison became interested in a group in Georgia that supposedly adopted children so they could molest them. He texted back and forth with his girlfriend about it, and described to her child pornography he had seen online. The girlfriend eventually went to the police, who downloaded 1,646 pages of text messages from her phone. She spoke with police on three separate occasions. The police asked her where Kinison was viewing child pornography and she told them he was doing it in his home. There is nothing in the record to suggest if she knew that or was just guessing.

On the strength of the girlfriend's information and the text messages, police got a warrant to search Laughton's home. When they went to serve the warrant, Kinison arrived in his car, with a cell phone clearly visible in the center console. Police obtained a search warrant for the car. They ultimately seized a computer and a phone from Kinison's house, and the cell phone from his car. Child pornography was found on the computer.

The Sixth ruled the girlfriend could be relied upon because she was not anonymous, the text messages clearly reflected an intimate relationship between her and Kinison, and in coming forward she put herself at risk of criminal prosecution because she had discussed with Kinison a plan to kidnap and molest a small child. This seems to have rendered her credible about who sent the texts and where he lived because law enforcement did not try to verify the information.

It was OK to think Kinison was looking at child porn at his home because, basically, "everybody knows people look at that stuff in the privacy of their own home." Sadly, there is established case law in support of that view.

And, even if the girlfriend was guessing about where the porn was viewed, the police were acting in good faith on the approval of their warrant and their actions do not warrant the application of the exclusionary rule.

No comments: