Nevada County judge revises ruling about Deputy Mackey
We are satisfied with the judge’s ruling. The Court long ago suppressed the evidence in these cases, so that issue regarding Deputy Mackey’s credibility was a matter for the Court and the prosecution. Since we already won the case, it wasn’t an issue for the defense to worry about.
We are hopeful the District Attorney’s Office will dismiss this and Deputy Mackey’s other remaining cases because it is fairly clear his warrants were insufficient at that time. In any event and in light of the County’s recent changes to the commercial cultivation ordinances, these issues are quickly becoming a thing of the past. We look forward to putting this sad era behind us.
The United States was founded on the principle that we resolve disputes by finding out the facts, and then applying the law. It is the established law, not the personal feelings of the judge, the wealth or power of the litigants, or public opinion which is supposed to determine the outcome.
In our courts we seek to reach a fair result by requiring the opposing sides to present their opposing facts and legal interpretations to a neutral judge or jury, which can determine the credibility of the evidence and decide the issues under the law. This is the “adversarial system” referred to in the court’s ruling. Of course no judge or juror is completely without bias or personal interests, but we are committed to this system as a way to minimize the bias in the results.
Here the court lays out its analysis of the evidence and legal rules in great detail. If we seek transparency in the operation of government, then this ruling sets a high standard by disclosing the court’s thought process in detail. It is likely that neither side agrees with every single point – but the decision will be accepted because this is how we decide.
I would hope this long process and the decision will have positive effects in the future. Officers should be trained to do a much better job in preparing a request for a warrant in similar situations. Judges should be more careful to require that facts be stated in the request for a warrant, not just the officer’s opinion or conclusions. Just because there is a hoop house with plants in it does not mean the plants are marijuana. More facts should be provided before search warrants are issued.
The bottom line is that Deputy Mackey should not have obtained a warrant for the search in this case, and the evidence has been thrown out. We never would have had to deal with the “extraordinary issues” the court describes here if Assistant District Attorney Walsh had done a competent job in presenting his side of the case. Maybe he has learned something in the process, too.
We appreciate the careful and thorough reconsideration that Judge Tice-Raskin gave to this case. The importance of this case was not about marijuana. It was about basic fairness. There were mistakes made and lessons learned. There is a distinction between a police officer who made a negligent mistake and one who lied. Deputy Mackey was never intentionally dishonest. This ruling is a win for justice and fairness under the law.
A Nevada County judge has ruled that Deputy Jason Mackey made no false or misleading statements in a search warrant, a decision that seemingly closes a contentious chapter for the officer.
Mackey, under fire from defense attorneys who attacked his search warrants in criminal cases, made “inexact, inaccurate and/or conclusory representations,” Superior Court Judge Robert Tice-Raskin states in a Wednesday ruling.
That’s a change from the judge’s May ruling that determined Mackey made false and inaccurate statements in a search warrant that led to the arrests of two men on marijuana charges. Tice-Raskin in May suppressed evidence against them because of Mackey’s actions. Prosecutors have said they’ll dismiss the charges.
The change from Tice-Raskin came after Assistant District Attorney Chris Walsh asked the judge to reconsider. The prosecutor said in August that a designation of “false and misleading” would follow the deputy throughout his career.
“The importance of this case was not about marijuana,” Walsh said in an email. “It was about basic fairness. There were mistakes made and lessons learned. There is a distinction between a police officer who made a negligent mistake and one who lied.”
Defense attorney Heather Burke, who represents one of the men in the criminal case, said she hopes Walsh will dismiss all of Mackey’s remaining cases.
“In any event and in light of the county’s recent changes to the commercial cultivation ordinances, these issues are quickly becoming a thing of the past,” Burke said in an email.
Defense attorney Stephen Munkelt, who represents the other defendant, said he hopes officers will receive training that leads to better search warrants.
“The bottom line is that Deputy Mackey should not have obtained a warrant for the search in this case, and the evidence has been thrown out,” Munkelt said in an email. “We never would have had to deal with the ‘extraordinary issues’ the court describes here if Assistant District Attorney Walsh had done a competent job in presenting his side of the case.”
Walsh said hindsight is 20/20.
“If I thought that was going to be the critical issue, I would have placed more time on that,” Walsh said. “I’m just glad the judge took the time to correct the record and ensure a fair and just result.”
A series of hearings earlier this year about the marijuana case stemmed from defense attorneys’ trying to prove outrageous governmental conduct and stop the prosecution against their clients. The judge ruled against the conduct arguments, but said evidence against the men couldn’t reach a jury — effectively halting the case.
Tice-Raskin suppressed the evidence because Mackey in his warrant said he saw marijuana and photographed it during a 2015 fly-over. However, Mackey in an April hearing said photos attached to the warrant showed no cannabis.
The judge made his “false and misleading” ruling in May. In August Mackey testified that he saw marijuana during the fly-over. He said that in 2015 he was inexperienced writing search warrants and would have reworded it.
The photos were intended to show the grow’s location only. Language in the search warrant indicates the photos show cannabis.
Tice-Raskin in his Wednesday ruling said prosecutors through “inadvertence and neglect” failed to offer evidence during the April hearing.
“If, in fact, Deputy Mackey did not make false statements with a reckless disregard for the truth, then the public record should accurately reflect that truth,” the judge states, adding later: “Justice and fairness require that the court establish what actually happened.”
To contact Staff Writer Alan Riquelmy, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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