On October 1993, Dwayne J, also known as Tyrone Mc, was charged with first degree robbery, first degree criminal use of a firearm, and second degree criminal possession of a weapon. He was accused of robbing a Cumberland Farms store in the City of Kingston, Ulster County. He was found guilty on all counts by the County Court.
This was what happened. On August 23, 1993, the Broadway Grocery store in Kingston was robbed by two men. On August 25, 1993, a Cumberland Farms store was also robbed by two men. During both robberies, one man would point a gun at the clerk while the other man would take the money in the cash register.
The police interviewed Jamal C after the first robbery. He confessed to Kingston Police detective Jeffrey that he was the lookout for the first robbery but was allowed to go free by the police. After the second robbery, Police Officer Gary B was asked to look for Jamal as a possible suspect for that crime. B went to Jamal’s house and found Jamal’s twin, Jameel C. Jameel told him that he would find Jamal, together with J and Mario P, in 60 Van Deusen St. He also said that J and P were involved in the robbery and that the gun used would be found in the address.
So, the police went to 60 Van Deusen St. As B was talking to the women who opened the door, Whitaker saw a maroon gym bag three feet inside the room. He tapped it with his foot and heard a heavy metallic sound. He bent down, grabbed the bag and felt the shape of a pistol grip. The women then began to object to the police being in her house. W announced that he had found a gun and arrested P, who was just a few feet away. The other police officers went inside and arrested J. After getting a search warrant, and searching the house, evidence of the robbery was found.
J argued that the hearsay information from Jameel was not enough to establish probable cause and justify his arrest without a warrant. According to a New York Robbery Lawyer, hearsay information establishes probable cause and justifies a warrantless arrest if it passes the Aguilar-Spinelli test. This test requires that 1) the informant is reliable and 2) he had a basis of knowledge for his information.
Upon reviewing this case, the Court of Appeals finds that Jameel is a citizen informant and passes the first requirement. The second requirement however, was not satisfied. This is because Jameel’s statement did not come from personal observation. The prosecution argued that it was possible that Jamal told him what happened. The Court finds that it is the more unreliable as it is now double hearsay. The information from Jamal was not detailed enough to be considered as coming from personal observation.
The prosecution then argued that the police did find J and P at the address that Jameel gave and that the information therefore, should count as personal knowledge. The Court replies that if an informant does not provide his source and provide detailed enough information of a crime, then if the police actually verify the information he gave, it does not automatically mean that the informant spoke with personal knowledge. Also, police verification of an informant’s story should be done after an arrest is made and not during.
The Court said that since Jameel did not pass the second requirement, there is no probable cause to justify the warrantless search of the gym bag or the warrantless arrest of J. Therefore, the search is invalid and the evidence found during it cannot be used in court. The Court of Appeals ordered that the judgment of the County Court be reversed.
Justice Peters of the Court of Appeals however, objects. According to him, Jameel passes the second requirement of the Aguilar-Spinelli test. Jameel lived in the same house as Jamal and is his twin brother. Adding the fact that Jamal had already admitted to being involved in the the armed robbery of the Broadway Grocery, should be enough evidence to allow the police to believe that Jameel had gotten the information from his brother.
According to Detective W’s interview of Jamal, Jamal admitted that he met up with three men, two days before the Broadway Grocery robbery and that he agreed to act as their lookout.
On August 25, 1993, a few hours after the Cumberland Farms robbery, Police Detective B interviewed Dhasan McC. McC told him that the day before the robbery, his friend Tyrone, who he had met through Jamal, told him that Karl Wheeler planned to rob the store. The evening after the robbery, he saw that W had new clothes. Officer B was then asked to find Jamal and the events continued as discussed above.
According to the New York Robbery Lawyer, the second requirement of the Aguilar-Spinelli test can also be met if a police investigation finds information consistent to what the informer gave.
Justice Peters believes that given this information, plus the place where J and S could be found, the police had to act. They had knowledge of a violent crime, a weapon to prove that the suspect was armed, probable cause to believe that the suspects had committed the crime, strong reasons to believe that the suspect was inside, and that the suspect might escape if not immediately caught. Therefore, he agrees with and affirms the decision of the County Court.
Being involved in a lawsuit, no matter on which side you are, can be a very challenging experience. It is very tiring and can drain both your time and money. Stephen Bilkis & Associates, together with its excellent New York Robbery Lawyers, can give you the advice and guidance that you need. You can find them at their office in Corona, New York, or in their other conveniently located offices around the state.