Americus Times-Recorder, Americus, Georgia

Local News

March 23, 2006

Court rules in favor of Scott Randolph

Split Supreme Court decision settles police search question raised here in 2001

AMERICUS — A woman dials 911 from her home phone. Her husband is up to no good and she’s pretty sure he’s been using drugs. When police arrive, they are greeted at the door by the woman, who is quickly followed by her husband. While she is pleading with the cops to come in and find the drugs her husband has hidden, he stops them cold by refusing permission for the search. The cops are left with few immediate options aside from turning around and heading back to the station.

Though the scenario is hypothetical, today the U.S. Supreme Court affirmed one-time Americus attorney Scott Randolph’s contention that the cops had no power to enter his home without his permission or a warrant when they responded to a similar situation.

“A disputed invitation, without more, gives an officer no better claim to reasonableness in entering than the officer would have absent any consent,” wrote Justice David Souter in the majority opinion.

Though the ruling limits options for law enforcement officers during investigations, local legal minds downplay its applicability.

“No, I don’t think it strikes a significant blow,” answered Southwestern Judicial Circuit District Attorney Cecilia Cooper.

The situation, she said, is just too rare.

“In the five years I’ve been district attorney, this is the first time I’ve had this situation come up,” she said.

Circuit Public Defender Sam Merritt concurred, but added that in an age of vanishing freedoms, the decision is a boon for personal liberty.

“Absolutely. It’s good news because every time our civil rights are sustained rather than limited — that’s good news for everyone,” he said.

On July 6, 2001, Randolph’s wife, Janet Randolph, called police to report that her husband had fled with their son. When Americus Police officers arrived, Janet Randolph recounted tales of the couple’s marital and financial troubles, as well as drug abuse — specifically by Scott Randolph.

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