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4th Cir.: Guilty plea is reversible when based on material police lies

Apr 02, 2013 4th Cir.: Guilty plea is reversible when based on material police lies

I have repeatedly underlined why police lying is all too common. Lying is bad enough among humans in any time or place. When a police officer lies to the detriment of a criminal defendant’s liberty, that is particularly reprehensible.

For every police officer caught lying, infinitely more of them likely go undetected.

Former DEA agent Mark Lunsford admitted to having lied in an application to search the home and car of Cortez Fisher, based solely on agent Lunsford’s stated reliance on a confidential informant — with whom agent Lunsford would split reward money — whom agent Lunsford later admitted had no knowledge about Mr. Fisher’s allegedly criminal activity. Mr. Fisher subsequently pleaded guilty in relation to the items found pursuant to agent Lunsford’s fraudulently-obtained search warrant. U.S. v. Fisher, ___ F.3d ___ (th Cir., April 2, 2013).

The Fourth Circuit, 2-1, determined that Mr. Fisher’s guilty plea therefore was reversible as not having been entered knowingly and voluntarily, due to agent Lunsford’s material fraud.

I have still to read the entire opinion, but my first skimming of the opinion seems to show that Fisher breaks new or relatively new ground, perhaps because it is so uncommon for police lies to be uncovered after one enters a guilty plea. Dissenting Judge Agee refuses to be breaking such new ground — despite his agreement that agent Lunsfords lying was reprehensible — and we are left to see whether the prosecution seeks en banc review by the Fourth Circuit or certiorari review by the Superme Court.

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