Refusing to identify police informants is within the state's right, says 6th District Judge Don V. Tibbs.
The ruling is likely to affect defense efforts to suppress evidence in the case of 80-year-old Bradshaw Bowman, who is accused of growing 66 marijuana plants on his Garfield County property near Calf Creek.Attorney Marcus Taylor, who pledged not to release the names of the informants to the public, said interviews with the informants are needed to gather information to support impending defense motions to suppress evidence.
Taylor contends illegal search-and-seizure procedures were used during Bradshaw's arrest last July. Taylor filed a motion earlier this month seeking informant identities.
In his ruling, Tibbs said a so-called "open field doctrine" applied to a July 26 search of Bowman's property; therefore a formal search warrant was not needed.
Bowman faces three drug-related criminal felony charges and a civil action by the state, which is seeking to confiscate 80 acres of his property under statutes that allow the state to dispose of property involved in drug-related criminal cases.
Bradshaw's troubles don't end there. The Utah State Tax Commission is seeking another $30,000 it claims Bowman owes for not purchasing a drug stamp required by a law passed by the Legislature to further aid in the fight against illegal drugs.
Taylor and Garfield County attorney Wallace Lee have been negotiating possible out-of-court settlements, so far without success.
Taylor said the county wants $120,000 to settle the civil action, an amount the defense attorney calls "extortion" and not comparable to fines paid by people who have been found guilty of illegal marijuana activities in similar quantities to that allegedly grown by Bowman.
Trial on the criminal counts has been postponed from July 10 to July 29, and the court is still in the process of setting court dates for the civil actions. Bowman, who is currently free on his own recognizance, is scheduled to meet with the Tax Commission in Salt Lake City on June 27 for a pre-trial hearing.
In handing down the ruling, Tibbs agreed with the county attorney's contention that releasing identities would have serious impact on the informants and their families and could adversely affect future cooperation between citizens and law enforcement officers.