Drama Of Warrantless Search, Traumatic Fright

Jennifer Laurence describes chaos of Deputies’ home invasion

Osceola, Hill County, Tx – When the deputies came, Emma’s mother was visiting a neighbor just down the road.

The teenager  had problems, and the history of dealing with traumatic stress didn’t help her cope with what was to come next, at about 9 pm on August 18, 2017.

Her mother said  over the phone that she would be back within 15 minutes, and when she asked the cops to wait, they refused. They said she was harboring a fugitive, a black man named Jimmy Garrett.

“They all graduated together with my kids,” says Ms. Laurence.

In her panic, Emma thought they were saying “harming” a fugitive. Emma repeatedly asked to see the warrant, and the cops said they don’t need one.

She and a visitor, Amelia Camacho, 20, tried to cope with the statement, repeatedly voicing their objections. Ms. Camacho’s little boy, a pre-school toddler, couldn’t get back to sleep. The video contains strong language, the smirking superiority of the uniformed officers, and a depiction of the powerless rage of two young women.

Neither of the young ladies would budge in their resolve to keep the police out of the house.

But it didn’t do much good.

Within minutes, the deputies jerked the knob off the back door; two of them strolled into the kitchen area and across the living room to unlock the front door for the other two.

The ensuing drama, caught on the shaky image of a video phone, reveals the intractable attitude of the lead Deputy, Matthew Quinn, who refused to wait. He insisted on searching. He went so far as to break into Mrs. Laurence’s bedroom with a butter knife. While they broke through that door, they turned off the lights inside the home repeatedly.

At that point, Quinn and another deputy accused Emma of invading the bedroom, herself. It’s a thorny issue between mother and daughter. She s heard to say, in an angry tone, “I’m a thief.”

Within minutes, when Ms. Laurence arrived home, the situation heated up, arguments flared, and the cops refused to say anything other than they needed no warrant, and would only give their names as they stood at the open doors, allowing the heat of the August night and swarms of mosquitos to enter the home.

Indeed, all these folks do know each other. A chief growth industry, the War On Drugs has been described by legal scholars as “the national preoccupation with drug enforcement.”

Who gets to do the enforcement, and how, is a paramount concern in all kinds of communities, big and small, rural and urban, throughout the U.S.

As it turns out, the politics of the Sheriff’s Office and local law enforcement have a common thread in the confrontation at the trailer home just outside the Osceola Community in the 1100 block on FM 934.

Ms. Laurence’s brother, Wade, is the ex-Chief of Police of the Covington Police Department, a community located just a few miles distant.

He, former officer Rodney Watson, who is the present Sheriff of Hill County, Andy Montgomery, who presently serves as Precinct County Commissioner, and the rest of the department experienced a shake-up when state authorities deprived Chief Laurence of his certification as a peace officer over a murky legal infraction, little understood by his sister.

It was at that point that Watson joined the Sheriff’s Office, and later filed for election following a stormy term during which the incumbent Sheriff withstood accusations of sexual harassment by female staffers. He was no-billed by a Grand Jury for that offense.

Ironically, faced with this brouhaha, Sheriff Watson signed an introduction to a Citizen Complaint Form that says, “We hold ourselves to high standards of conduct and the expectation is for our employees to always perform their duties with integrity, respect and in a professional manner. I realize that sometimes we will make mistakes…”

Mistake or not, a check with the Justice Courts shows that no affidavit of probable cause is filed for the search and seizure of Jimmy Garrett, or for the search of the premises on FM 934 at Osceola on August 18, 2017.

It was a dramatic production in which entry to the driveway leading to the home was blocked by the Deputies’ cruisers, requiring anyone arriving to walk the nearly hundred yards to the front door of the home.

For all the sturm und drang resulting, the incident has produced no formal record; the staff at the Sheriff’s Office has repeatedly told Ms. Laurence there is no such available.

She renewed her request in writing in a Public Information Act Request on Wednesday afternoon, April 18. The Jail Clerk on duty assured her that the organization has 10 days to either respond, or request a review by the Open Records Division of the Attorney General’s Office.

Naturally, none of this happened in a vacuum. Ms. Laurence admitted she has served time in the penitentiary for a narcotics violation, and recalled truthfully when asked if she was not a key witness in a federal trial of a local drug dealer and one of his associates that resulted in a 25-year sentence for both offenders.

While Courts have held that warrantless search and seizure is sometimes necessary to prevent the destruction of evidence, or protect the life of a person whose condition is life-threatening, or to retrieve a possibly loaded firearm that could be discovered by a burglar, the Supreme Court has never issued any clear-cut, comprehensive instructions as to what circumstances should be sufficient for evidentiary purposes.

The requirements of documentation vary from circuit to circuit, but generally, the rule is that everyone should enjoy the same degree of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, no matter their location in the Republic, Montana to Mississippi, Miami to Waikiki.

In all cases, the Courts require a meticulous recital of the facts in support of the decision to make a warrantless entry to premises in order to defend against a motion to suppress the evidence thus obtained, or to hold that an arrest was illegal.

Curiously, for all their adamant refusal to allow the deputies the right to enter the premises without a warrant, once they were inside, the young women readily gave their permission to search – not just once, but at the threshold of each door the cops crossed to enter bedrooms, bathrooms, and a spare room.

There are no affidavits or statements available to document any of this, according to the meticulous records kept by Ms. Laurence. These include a time-line, statements, and records of messages left for the law enforcement officials, most of which have been ignored.

The one truly perceptive record on file is the quirky and chaotic video made by a pair of frightened young women.

At one point on the video, a deputy makes an obscene gesture with his hips and arms.

It was central to the dispute over the bedroom door being locked and their entry to search there.

In her statement, Emma wrote, “They were saying the mother’s bedroom door is locked and so I told them the reason why the door is locked is because I’m a thief. They stood there and I got mad and said it’s odd that I almost got sexually harassed again and one officer thrusted his hips several times toward me and I turned around asking Amelia if she recorded this…”

One is tempted to speculate if these are the circumstances the Congress of the United States of America sought to prevent in their crafting of the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

High-flown and lofty as the language may be, it is only worth the ink an parchment upon which it is inscribed if cops and judges are not held to the rule of law.

So mote it be.

  • Legendary Jim

 

 

 

 

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