Decision reversed in appeal of drug case

Published 10:09 pm Monday, August 2, 2010

Judge Beth Kellum on Friday overturned a decision made in Chilton County Circuit Court to suppress evidence in a drug case involving Dandre Shamar Jemison of Clanton.

The case stems from an incident in October 2008, when Clanton Police Officer David Clackley pursued Jemison on foot and placed him in custody. After retracing Jemison’s steps, the officer found a bag containing different colored pills later determined to be ecstasy. A search of the suspect’s vehicle turned up approximately $9,000 in cash.

Jemison was later charged on one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

In his motion to suppress the package of ecstasy as evidence, Jemison argued that Clackley’s search of the property — reportedly Jemison’s uncle’s property — and vehicle were unwarranted and violated his Fourth Amendment rights. Jemison also questioned the facts leading up to his arrest in several points that he said showed an “overall unconstitutional and unreasonable encounter.”

Following an evidentiary hearing, Circuit Judge Ben Fuller granted the motion to suppress the evidence. To suppress means that the judge has determined that the evidence cannot be legally used in trial to prove one’s guilt.

In the Court of Criminal Appeals, the state contended that no illegal search took place because the ecstasy was not found as the result of a search but rather on the ground along the path where Jemison had fled. Clackley reportedly admitted that he did not see Jemison toss the package but did find it along his path of flight.

District Attorney Randall Houston said even if the recovery of the drugs were the result of a search, it was a constitutional search.

“He (Jemison) threw the stuff down and he ran,” Houston said. “The only time you can object to a search is if you are in a constitutionally protected area, such as a house. The message here is, don’t run from the police.”

The state also found that Clackley did not need a warrant to search the vehicle because the discovery of the pills gave him probable cause.

“We don’t appeal very often, but we do when we strongly believe that we are right,” Houston said.

Based on Kellum’s decision, the case will be restored to its active docket on the circuit level.