On the Docket Dec. 9: Pat-Downs and Hidden Evidence

Case: Arizona v. Johnson

Date: Tuesday Dec. 9, 2008

Issue: In the context of a vehicular stop for a minor traffic infraction, may an officer conduct a pat-down search of a passenger when the officer has an articulable basis to believe the passenger might be armed and presently dangerous, but has no reasonable grounds to believe that the passenger is committing, or has committed, a criminal offense?

Background: This is latest Fourth Amendment case to reach the Supreme Court. In April 2002, Tucson police officer Maria Trevizo had valid reason to pull over a car in which Lemon Johnson was a passenger. Based on his appearance, Officer Trevizo suspected Johnson was a gang member and patted him down even though she had no reason to suspect him of specific criminal activity. As it turned out, Johnson was hiding a gun and marijuana and was found guilty of possession. The Arizona Court of Appeals overturned the conviction ruling there was no probable cause for the pat down.

Case: Cone v. Bell

Date: Tuesday Dec. 9, 2008

Issue: Is a person entitled to federal review of his claim that a state suppressed material evidence in violation of recognized law? Furthermore, is that claim procedurally defaulted because it has been presented twice to state courts?

Background: Gary Cone is a Vietnam veteran and a convicted murderer who has already lost a case in the Supreme Court. In 1982 he killed an elderly couple but argued at trial he lacked the mental ability to be found guilty. The jury ruled otherwise but it later came to light that the prosecution withheld evidence that Cone could have used to support his defense. So far lower courts have determined that the withheld evidence wasn't significant enough to merit a new trial.