Firm Secures Win before Third Circuit

The firm had a recent success before the Third Circuit Court of Appeals in United States v. Lacey Graves (No. 13-3142) in which the Court reversed the district court’s denial of Graves’s Motion to Vacate, Set Aside, or Correct Sentence filed under 28 U.S.C. § 2255.  The issue presented concerned Graves’s entitlement to a new trial in a bank robbery case due to his trial counsel’s error in failing to properly pursue a motion to suppress.  The district court ruled that while trial counsel erred by not seeking suppression of the evidence in question, the error did not prejudice Graves because its omission would not have altered the outcome of Graves’ trial.

The evidence in question was seized under a facially defective search warrant.  Because of trial counsel’s oversight, the government was able to introduce into evidence a pair of illegally obtained sneakers which bore some resemblance to a footprint at the crime scene.  As required under Strickland v. Washington, 466 U.S. 668 (1984),  Mark E. Cedrone successfully convinced the Court of Appeals that had the evidence been suppressed, the outcome would have been different.  The Court of Appeals remanded the case for further proceedings to address whether the error in question was sufficiently egregious to warrant suppression in light of the so-called “good faith” exception to the exclusionary rule, first articulated by the Supreme Court in 1984.

On remand, the District Court must now analyze Graves’ case in light of recent opinions which sadly expand application of the good-faith exception to searches executed pursuant to otherwise-invalid warrants.  The good faith exception directs district courts to not suppress evidence seized during the execution of otherwise-invalid search warrants when the law enforcement officers executing the warrant did so in good faith; meaning they had no reason to know the warrant was flawed and/or did not themselves engage in any misconduct in relation to the issuance and execution of the warrant.

Because of findings previously made by the district court, Mr. Cedrone is confident the district court will not apply the good faith exception to the exclusionary rule but, instead, order a new trial.