FanPost

Any lawyers in the house? What to make of the maddening media speculation

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Hi, yes this is Aaron. North Attleboro PD? Why do you want my cell phone?
(via storage.canoe.ca)

With the swirl of conflicting media reports on the ‘pending obstruction of justice’ warrant for Aaron Hernandez. I thought that it might be useful to review (a) what the US Constitution has to say about (a) individual rights to privacy and (b) how this might relate to ‘obstruction of justice’, particularly when it comes to destruction of one’s own personal property. I point this out as it appears that the Mr Hernandez’ home security system and cell phone were destroyed before the police made their appearance at his humble North Attleboro home. We do not know who carried out such destruction, nor do we know when this might have happened (just before the police arrived, or months before?). Is it against the law to destroy your own personal property? Nope. But we can all agree that it ‘does not look good’.

The law school at Cornell University provides a nice search engine for things constitutional...here we go, first up, the 3rd Amendment (with links to sources):

3rd Amendment: The third amendment to the constitution prohibits, in peacetime, the quartering of soldiers in private homes without the consent of the owner of the home. It states that "[n]o Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law." (http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/third_amendment). This has been extended to include rights to privacy. This right has developed into a liberty of personal autonomy protected by the 14th amendment. The 1st, 4th, and 5th Amendments also provide some protection of privacy, although in all cases the right is narrowly defined. The Constitutional right of privacy has developed alongside a statutory right of privacy, which limits access to personal information (http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/third_amendment).

Obstruction of justice (http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/obstruction_of_justice): is defined in the omnibus clause of 18 U.S.C. § 1503, which provides that "whoever . . .corruptly or by threats or force, or by any threatening letter or communication, influences, obstructs, or impedes, or endeavors to influence, obstruct, or impede, the due administration of justice, shall be (guilty of an offense)." Persons are charged under this statute based on allegations that a defendant intended to interfere with an official proceeding, by doing things such as destroying evidence, or interfering with the duties of jurors or court officers.

A person obstructs justice when they have a specific intent to obstruct or interfere with a judicial proceeding. For a person to be convicted of obstructing justice, they must not only have the specific intent to obstruct the proceeding, but the person must know (1) that a proceeding was actually pending at the time; and (2) there must be a nexus between the defendant’s endeavor to obstruct justice and the proceeding, and the defendant must have knowledge of this nexus.

§ 1503 applies only to federal judicial proceedings. Under § 1505, however, a defendant can be convicted of obstruction of justice by obstructing a pending proceeding before Congress or a federal agency. A pending proceeding could include an informal investigation by an executive agency.

DEFINITION FROM NOLO’S PLAIN-ENGLISH LAW DICTIONARY

An attempt to interfere with the administration of the courts, the judicial system, or law enforcement officers, including threatening witnesses, improper conversations with jurors, hiding evidence, or interfering with an arrest. Such activity is a crime. Definition provided by Nolo’s Plain-English Law Dictionary.

What is interesting is the notion of ‘compelling state’s interest’ in the right to privacy issue and interfering with ‘judicial proceedings’ i.e. as a defendant, which AH is not (yet?). So far, from my VERY limited research on this subject, legal precedents on ‘compelling state interest’ in one’s private life has thus far involved judicial proceedings in sexual intimacy, abortion, rights of the child and personal information and autonomy. For Mr Hernandez, his personal property—home security and cell phone, would be of much interest to the state/law enforcement. The various media reports suggest that these items were never available to law enforcement, and it looks like the ‘obstruction of justice’ reporting are linking these points. Did law enforcement officials ask to see his home security footage and cell phone prior to their destruction? This is not clear. If so, then I would guess that such a scenario would amount to obstruction of justice as the state would have had ‘compelling interest’ in these items but were ‘obstructed’ by some person carrying out its destruction.

So, how about it…any law experts in the house?

The views expressed in these FanPosts are not necessarily those of the writers or SBNation.

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