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Supreme Court To Review 'Exclusionary Rule' On Evidence

Publication Date: 
February 20, 2008
Los Angeles Times
David G. Savage

David Savage reports in the LA Times that the Supreme Court agreed to hear "Herring v. United States," an appeal that the Stanford Law School’s Supreme Court Litigation Clinic worked on:

The Supreme Court agreed Tuesday to reconsider the reach of the "exclusionary rule," a doctrine that has been controversial since the 1960s because it requires judges to throw out evidence if it was obtained improperly by the police.


The high court said it would hear next fall a drug case from Alabama, Herring vs. United States, to decide the question.

In July 2004, Bennie D. Herring went to a police station to retrieve several items from an impounded car. Investigator Mark Anderson saw him and began calling around to see if there were any outstanding warrants against Herring.

A police employee from a neighboring county said there was such a warrant, and then Anderson and another officer set off in pursuit of Herring. They pulled him over, arrested him and found methamphetamine in his pocket and a gun in his car. Minutes later, the police employee called back to say there was a mistake. The warrant against Herring had been revoked, but the entry in the computer file had not been updated.

When Herring went to trial on federal drug charges, a judge refused to suppress the evidence against him. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta agreed, saying it made no sense "to scuttle a case" when the arresting officer was "entirely innocent of any wrongdoing or carelessness."

Two Stanford law professors appealed on Herring's behalf. They argued the that court should not allow arrests and prosecutions that were triggered by computer errors and faulty record-keeping by the police.