Questioning the affidavit
Detective Dusty Hon was hurriedly writing the affidavit for a search warrant to collect evidence from Singleton’s home at the same time the three other troopers were securing the house. He used information from the men’s observations to establish probable cause that a crime had been committed and the home needed to be searched.
Baechtold questioned Hon about the the document’s wording, in particular a paragraph that stated the knife could be seen “from the open garage.” The attorney said the wording did not make clear that the troopers had made the observation from inside the garage, not outside it.
The affidavit also stated Short had seen the carpet ripped up and a hole in floor in the upstairs portion of the house.
Baechtold also asked Hon why he did not clearly state in the affidavit that law enforcement officers had already been inside the home. Hon responded he had used the phrase “secure the scene.”
“I don’t see how we can secure a house without going in,” Hon said.
“Could I have worded that more clearly? Probably,” Hon also said, but he denied the allegation that he had lied or intentionally misled District Judge Brandy O. Brown when he presented the affidavit to her and obtained the search warrant.
Prior to a lunch break, Clouse accompanied a bank representative to Singleton’s foreclosed home on Forest Hill Drive in the Deacon Hills subdivision at the request of the defense so he could see the layout of the house.
After lunch, Clouse gave his rulings on the two issues raised about the searches.
Law enforcement officers are allowed to enter a building without a search warrant if they believe there’s a strong likelihood someone is in danger or that evidence is being destroyed.
Clouse said it was clear in this case that these exigent circumstances existed on Jan. 20, 2011.
“... They acted to protect life, protect evidence and protect property,” Clouse said.
There also was a “reasonable likelihood” of an emergency based on Botkin’s observations of the open garage door, interior door and the smell of smoke.
“The defendant’s Fourth Amendment rights were not violated in this case,” Clouse ruled.
The second issue, whether Sgt. Hon misled or lied to Judge Brown in the search warrant affidavit about whether officers had already been in the home, was also addressed.
“The court could strike that entire paragraph (about seeing the knife from the open garage), and still find more than enough probable cause for Judge Brown to sign that search warrant,” Clouse said.
Although there was some room for “dual meaning” in the wording of that paragraph, Clouse noted law enforcement officers are under pressure to quickly prepare affidavits for search warrants in fast-moving cases, such as this one. He added that he believed the troopers had testified truthfully.
“The court finds there was no intentional misleading or effort to lie to Judge Brown,” Clouse said.
Sarah Hogsed can be reached at email@example.com or 624-6694.