FedSoc Blog

Mistrial Declared in Drug Case After Landmark GPS-Tracking High Court Decision


by Publius
Posted March 05, 2013, 8:53 AM

BLT: The Blog of Legal Times reports:

For the U.S. Justice Department, the third time wasn't the charm in the high-profile drug prosecution of Washington nightclub owner Antoine Jones. A federal judge today declared a mistrial, the latest setback for the government after a loss in the U.S. Supreme Court last year.

The trial was the third for Jones, who represented himself, and the government after an earlier mistrial in 2007 and then last year's historic Supreme Court ruling that voided Jones's life sentence. The high court concluded the warrantless use of a tracking device violated Jones' rights under the Fourth Amendment, a ruling whose scope is being assessed in courts across the country.

In the third trial, the government was prohibited from using the GPS tracking device data to try to connect Jones to a house in Maryland where the authorities, in 2005, found hundreds of thousands of dollars in cocaine and cash. Jones in recent weeks filed numerous handwritten motions that questioned court orders and government evidence.

Jurors last week told U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle in Washington several times that the panel was deadlocked. (The panel, in the end, was split 6-6.)

"Judge Huvelle, after exhausting deliberations we the jury cannot come to a unanimous decision," the foreperson wrote in a note filed February 28. "As jurors we have listened repeatedly to wiretaps, reviewed every transcript and in addition we have examined pictures numerous times, and weighed the credibility of witnesses."

A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office said it expects to retry Jones. The government declined to comment about the mistrial. Jones has remained in custody since his arrest in late 2005.

Following a mistrial in 2007, prosecutors secured a conviction on a conspiracy charge in 2008. Huvelle sentenced Jones to life in prison. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit struck the conviction and prison sentence, however, after the court concluded the government's warrantless use of a Global Positioning System tracking device violated Jones' rights. (The Supreme Court ruling is here.)

Prosecutors had relied on GPS data to connect Jones to the Maryland drug house. The authorities never caught Jones with any drugs, a point he stressed in his opening remarks to jurors on January 28. . . .

In February, the Federalist Society produced a podcast in which experts discussed the possible ramifications of the Supreme Court's GPS decision.  You can listen to it here.


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