There is, perhaps, no clearer example of the value of engaging in thorough litigation of motions issues and challenging the State’s evidence even when all appears hopeless than the case of United States v. Antoine Jones.
Antoine Jones is a very, very lucky man. He’s seen his sentence of life imprisonment reversed, and he was granted a re-trial. Now, it’s 1 thing to get a new trial (and it’s damn hard to do), but it’s a completely different thing to actually win the case at the new trial. For Antoine Jones, he’s at least partially there.
In United States v. Antoine Jones,
In 2004 respondent Antoine Jones, owner, and operator of a nightclub in the District of Columbia came under suspicion of trafficking in narcotics and was made the target of an investigation by a joint FBI and Metropolitan Police Department task force. Officers employed various investigative techniques, including visual surveillance of the nightclub, installation of a camera focused on the front door of the club, and a pen register and wiretap covering Jones’s cellular phone.
Based in part on information gathered from these sources, in 2005 the Government applied to the United States District Court for the District of Columbia for a warrant authorizing the use of an electronic tracking device on the Jeep Grand Cherokee registered to Jones’s wife. A warrant issued, authorizing the installation of the device in the District of Columbia and within 10 days.
On the 11th day, and not in the District of Columbia but in Maryland, agents installed a GPS tracking device on the undercarriage of the Jeep while it was parked in a public parking lot. Over the next 28 days, the Government used the device to track the vehicle’s movements, and once had to replace the device’s battery when the vehicle was parked in a different public lot in Maryland. By means of signals from multiple satellites, the device established the vehicle’s location within 50 to 100 feet, and communicated that location by cellular phone to a Government computer. It relayed more than 2,000 pages of data over the 4-week period.
The Government ultimately obtained a multiple-count indictment charging Jones and several alleged coﾭute and possess with intent to distribute five kilograms or more of cocaine and 50 grams or more of cocaine base, in violation of 21 U. S. C. §§841 and 846. Before trial, Jones filed a motion to suppress evidence obtained through the GPS device. The District Court granted the motion only in part, suppressing the data obtained while the vehicle was parked in the garage adjoining Jones’s residence. 451 F. Supp. 2d 71, 88 (2006). It held the remaining dataﾭbile on public thoroughfares has no reasonable expectation of privacy in his movements from one place to another.’ ” Ibid. (quoting United States v. Knotts, 460 U. S. 276, 281 (1983)). Jones’s trial in October 2006 produced a hung jury on the conspiracy counts.
In March 2007, a grand jury returned another indictment, charging Jones and others with the same conspiracy. The Government introduced at trial the same GPS-derived locational data admitted in the first trial, which connected Jones to the alleged conspirators’ stash house that contained $850,000 in cash, 97 kilograms of cocaine, and 1 kilogram of cocaine base. The jury returned a guilty verdict, and the District Court sentenced Jones to life imprisonment.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit reversed the conviction because of admission of the evidence obtained by warrantless use of the GPS device which, it said, violated the Fourth Amendment. United States v. Maynard, 615 F. 3d 544 (2010).
The United States Supreme Court agreed with Mr. Jones and set forth a bright-line rule that a warrant was required for the installment of a GPS tracking device on his vehicle.
At his re-trial, the jury sent this note to the Judge at the conclusion of their deliberations: