The state Supreme Court overturned a homeless man's murder conviction after ruling that police had no right to search his duffel bag and cardboard box without a warrant.
"The interior of those two items represented, in effect, the defendant's last shred of privacy from the prying eyes of outsiders, including the police," Justice David M. Borden wrote for the majority in the 4-3 decision issued Monday.The court ordered a new trial for David Mooney, arrested and charged with murder in the summer of 1987 when he was homeless and living beneath a highway bridge abutment in New Haven.
A bloody pair of trousers and other evidence seized from the duffel bag and box officers found at his makeshift home was presented as evidence at Mooney's trial. He was sentenced to 50 years in prison.
Emanuel Margolis, a public defender who represented Mooney, called the ruling "a major step forward in vindicating the Fourth Amendment rights of the homeless."
In a dissenting opinion, three justices said Mooney was a "trespasser on state property," and had no reasonable expectation of privacy, either in his belongings or in his makeshift home.