Houston drug case to go before Georgia Supreme Court

bpurser@macon.comApril 7, 2014 

WARNER ROBINS -- The Georgia Supreme Court is expected to hear arguments Monday in a Houston County drug case, with a ruling to be issued at a later time.

Earnest Lee Walker Sr. was convicted by a Houston County jury in August 2012 of possession of crack cocaine with intent to distribute and obstruction of a Warner Robins police officer.

The state Court of Appeals subsequently reversed the decision on the grounds that the jury should not have been allowed to hear evidence about the crack cocaine Walker discarded as he ran from the officer, according to a case summary provided by the state Supreme Court’s public information office.

Officer David Adriance stopped Walker shortly after midnight Feb. 23, 2011, as he was walking on the grounds of Pearl Stephens Elementary School, the summary stated. The officer asked him to take his hands out of his sweatshirt pocket. Walker shouted that he was on his way home and then took off running.

The officer caught up with him in the backyard of a residence and again demanded he remove his hands from his pocket. The officer stunned Walker with a Taser after he refused and arrested him. Other officers who responded to help Adriance found a pill bottle with Walker’s name and address on it that contained five pieces of crack cocaine wrapped with a crack pipe inside a paper towel, according to the summary.

The defense successfully argued on appeal that the Houston County Superior Court was wrong to deny Walker’s motion to suppress evidence of the crack and crack pipe because the officer did not have reasonable suspicion that Walker was involved in criminal activity in order to detain him, the summary stated.

In seeking the hearing before the state Supreme Court, Houston County prosecutors argued Walker was on school grounds after midnight with that in itself against state law and, thus, constituted reasonable grounds to detain and question Walker, the summary stated.

“It is not necessary that an officer have all the information regarding a suspect’s activity before he can detain that person for investigatory purposes,” prosecutors contended. “An arrest, however, must be based on probable cause and not mere suspicion.”

In “requiring the officer to obtain information as to why (Walker) was on school property after midnight before he could detain him, the Court of Appeals effectively said that he was required to have evidence amounting to probable cause before he could question (Walker).”

However, Chief Assistant Public Defender Angie Coggins argued in part that the appellate court was correct in suppressing the evidence “because it was tainted by Officer Adriance’s police misconduct of subjecting Mr. Walker to a second-tier Fourth Amendment seizure without having objective facts supporting an articulable suspicion of criminal activity.”

To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.

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