Judge says no-knock warrants have his attention - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Judge says no-knock warrants have his attention

Atlanta's top cop, Richard Pennington, called in the FBI to investigate his officers' actions. Atlanta's top cop, Richard Pennington, called in the FBI to investigate his officers' actions.
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November 28, 2006

Albany -- The FBI is now looking into the shooting death by Atlanta Police of an 88-year-old woman during a narcotics raid of her home.  The officers were issued a "no-knock" search warrant, which allowed them to go into her home unannounced.  

The Atlanta woman shot three officers when they kicked in her door, before they killed her in a shootout. The officers told a Judge an informant bought drugs at the woman's home to get that warrant.

Now the informant says police told him to lie after the shooting.

South Georgia law enforcement and Judges say no knock search warrants are necessary to fight crime, but know they must not be abused.    

South Georgia law enforcement officers use no knock search warrants, but Dougherty County Sheriff's Investigator Craig Dodd says officers must prove to a judge a reason for one.  "In order to get a no knock search warrant, you have to list for the judge who signs it very specific reasons. You can't get a no knock search warrant for just any reason."

The no knock search warrant allows Police to burst into your home or business with just an announcement of who they are. Chief Judge Loring Gray says requests for these warrants  require serious thought. "We have the greatest respect for the Fourth Amendment and we believe in the sanctity of a person's property."

Dodd worked in drug task forces where he said no knock search warrants were needed. But he says officers are not eager to use them, because of the danger.

Former District Attorney Brown Moseley says, "No knock search warrants are at times absolutely necessary. But across the state, it's been very much abused."

With the attention brought by the investigation into the shooting death of Kathryn Johnston in Atlanta, Judge Gray says search warrants will be even more closely judged.  "But it's something that will certainly be forefront in my mind when we start talking about no knock search warrants, or search warrants of any kind for that matter," the judge said.

Dodd says law enforcement officers need the no knock search warrants at times, for their safety. And says Police who abuse the policy hurt other law enforcers.

Kathryn Johnston was buried today. The Atlanta Police officers who raided her home are on paid leave while the shooting is investigated by the FBI.  

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