No Knock. No Justice. No Peace.

October 31, 2014

policeNo-Knock Raids

A no-knock search warrant authorizes members of law enforcement to enter premises without knocking and announcing their presence beforehand.  Notwithstanding the elimination of the requirement to knock and announce, no-knock warrants must still be executed reasonably, pursuant to the 4th Amendment.  However, what constitutes “reasonable” has been elastic, as illustrated by a series of high-profile cases involving no-knock raids.

Fourth Amendment

The Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution reads:

“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

A primary purpose of the text of the 4th Amendment is to protect citizens from unreasonable government entry into their homes.  Consequently, a “knock and announce” principle was established in the U.S. Supreme Court’s Wilson v. Arkansas decision (514 U.S. 927, 934).  Shortly thereafter, an exception to the rule was carved out for exigent circumstances in Richards v. Wisconsin (520 U.S. 385).  The “knock and announce” principle now basically exists as a legal relic.  No-knock warrants are commonly issued and raids based on such warrants regularly executed.

Kathryn Johnston

As 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston sat at home near downtown Atlanta (GA), three members of an Atlanta Police Department drug unit executed a no-knock search warrant.  Johnston fired a single shot through her door above the officers’ heads.  They responded by firing 39 shots, striking Johnston five times and killing her.  A subsequent investigation uncovered egregious police corruption.  Specifically, the warrant was based on falsified paperwork and bags of marijuana were planted.

The three officers involved in the cover up were sentenced to prison terms ranging from five to 10 years, and all three will serve three years of supervised release following the end of their prison terms.  They were also ordered to split Kathryn Johnston’s funeral expenses.

Marvin Louis Guy & Henry Goedrich Magee

The cases of Marvin Louis Guy and Henry Goedrich Magee parallel one another in many significant ways:  both men were in their homes with family during the early morning hours; they were both startled by what they believed to be intruders entering their homes; both fired shots killing a suspected intruder ultimately found to be an officer; and the police in both cases executed no-knock search warrants on suspected drug dealing locations.

The real story lies in how dramatically different the cases of Guy and Magee were handled.  A grand jury refused to indict Magee and, subsequently all charges against him were dropped.  Meanwhile, prosecutors are currently seeking the death penalty against Guy for capital murder and three counts of attempted capital murder.                           

Baby Bou

During the early morning hours of May 28th, 2014, 19-month-old Bou Phonesavanh lay asleep in a play pen in a shared room at the home of his mother’s friend.  His mother, Alecia Phonesavanh had lost her home to a fire.  At approximately 3:00am, members of the Habersham County Special Response Team burst into the home.  A concussion grenade was thrown by one of the members.  Unfortunately, the grenade landed in the play pen and exploded.

Bou Phonesavanh took the brunt of the blast to his chest and face, suffering severe burns and disfigurement.  Alecia claims officers threw the concussion grenade without looking first.  No guns or drugs were found in the house.  Habersham County Sheriff Joey Terrell stated the raid was “by the book.”  Furthermore, he declared, “Given the same scenario, we’ll do the same thing again. I stand behind what our team did. (warning: disturbing content)  No criminal charges will be filed against the officers involved in the botched raid.

For additional information on no-knock raids/warrants and self-defense, the following searches may be run on WestlawNext:

adv: (no-knock /5 raid warrant) (fail! no not +3 knock /3 announce) /p self-defense (20)

Search Type: Boolean T&C

Content: Secondary Sources

Jurisdiction: All State & Federal

adv: (no-knock /5 raid warrant) (fail! no not +3 knock /3 announce) /p self-defense (23)

Search Type: Boolean T&C

Content: Cases

Jurisdiction: All State & Federal