The Supreme Judicial Court ruled today Suffolk County prosecutors cannot use a gun that fell down a man's pant leg after he was stopped by police as evidence against him because officers didn't have enough evidence to warrant "seizing" him in the first place.
The ruling upholds now retired Boston Municipal Court Judge Raymond Dougan's decision to ban the gun as evidence and overturns a Massachusetts Appeals Court decision that prosecutors could use the gun as evidence.
The state's highest court first had to determine when, exactly, Jones-Pannell was being detained by police. It concluded that an officer getting out of his car and yelling "wait a minute" at an already jogging Jones-Pannel was the start of his detention, but the problem for prosecutors is that he had done nothing up until that point to warrant being stopped or frisked.
Prosecutors, however, argued that Jones-Pannell was not "seized" until after the cops caught up to him, so the fact he started to jog even faster at that point was suspicious enough - especially given that Norfolk Street was a high-crime area.
Except that while it may be, the court also ruled prosecutors failed to prove that - and the cop who testified on the matter could give only vague statements about crimes that might have happened there, rather than specific proof that the area was, in fact, known for its crime - which thus eliminates another reason for a pat frisk.
The defendant was free to reject the police officer's multiple requests to speak with him, just as he was free to respond to the requests by increasing his pace.... [T]he judge's findings in this case, which are supported by the evidence, support the conclusion that the defendant's eventual running was prompted by the officers' actions. The officer's loud command to "[w]ait," and his pursuit, had compulsory aspects that his prior requests did not.
The court also ruled that prosecutors were asking it to rule on assumptions and statements that Dougan had not listed in his statement of facts in the case, to find that the gun could be used as evidence. The justices said it would take extraordinary circumstances for them to consider evidence not listed by the judge, rather than reviewing his ruling for errors of law, and this case did not include those circumstances.