Cassell Files on Behalf of Crime Victims in Utah Supreme Court

On June 12, Professor Paul Cassell of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah filed a “friend of the court” brief on behalf of the Utah Council on Victims of Crime in the Utah Supreme Court urging the abolition of the state exclusionary rule.

The case, State v. Ruth, involves a defendant (Devin Michael Ruth) who has challenged the entry into his home by police officers who were responding to an “active” domestic violence call. After the defendant denied the police access into the home, police heard a lot of screaming and saw a woman inside the home who appeared to be crying and confused.  The police then saw the defendant inside the home with a large knife and heard additional screaming from the woman.  The police then entered the house to render aid to the woman, and saw cocaine in the home.  The defendant plead guilty to charges of attempted possession of cocaine and possession of a dangerous weapon  by a restricted person.  He appealed to the Supreme Court, arguing that the police illegally searched his home in violation of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the parallel provision in the Utah Constitution, article I, section 14.  He argued that the evidence the police discovered should therefore be excluded.

The brief Cassell filed for the Utah Council on Victims of Crime contends that the evidence should not be excluded under the Utah Constitution.  Cassell argues that the drafters of the Utah Constitution never intended for defendants to be able to suppress reliable evidence in a criminal case.  Instead, the remedy for an illegal search under the Utah Constitution was a civil action for damages.  As a result, the brief concludes, a defendant in a Utah case should only be able to obtain the suppression of evidence when the police violate the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution – not when there has merely been a violation of the Utah Constitution.