Police officers illegally broke into the apartment of accused bomber Steven Douglas Thurman in May, but evidence they collected with his consent can still be used during the upcoming capital murder trial, the presiding 3rd District judge ruled Wednesday.
Judge Michael Murphy's ruling came in response to motions filed last month seeking to suppress evidence found during the search and statements the accused bomber made while the warrant was being executed.Thurman, 32, West Valley City, is charged with building and detonating a bomb that killed an 11-year-old boy. Prosecutors contend the bomb was intended for the boy's father, who was having an affair with Thurman's ex-wife. If convicted, Thurman could receive the death penalty.
Defense attorney Robert Van Sciver argued that the information used to obtain the warrant at Thurman's West Valley apartment was "stale" and said such evidence should be suppressed because officers illegally broke into his apartment without warning.
Murphy said the evidence shows the warrant was served in a "no-knock" fashion, despite the fact that a U.S. magistrate denied such authorization.
"It appears that the officers took it upon themselves to execute the lawful warrant in an unlawful manner," the judge wrote.
The officers "made a mere perfunctory knock" on Thurman's door at 6:15 a.m. on May 17 and then forced their way inside. No attempts were made to announce their identities and purpose before forcing entry, he said.
Thurman was in bed naked and offered no resistance when he was subdued and handcuffed. He was not allowed to dress for at least 15 minutes and possibly as long as an hour and 15 minutes."There can be little doubt that from the perspective of the defendant, chaos reigned for about an hour following the forced entry by six officers with guns drawn," said Murphy.
After about an hour, however, things calmed down. Thurman was clothed, treated by paramedics for a cut he received and had called his employer to say he wouldn't be in to work. It was at this time Thurman gave a consent allowing the officers to search a Midvale storage unit he was renting.
Thurman signed a second consent four hours later. Murphy ruled that both consents were "knowingly and voluntarily granted" and said the passage of time cleansed the consent of "any taint from the unlawful `no-knock' entry."
No relevant evidence was located in Thurman's apartment. Otherwise, evidence found there may have been suppressed, Murphy said. Evidence of gunpowder and other debris believed to have been used to make a remote-control pipe bomb was located in the storage shed. Because Thurman gave permission for officers to search there, that evidence can be presented before a jury.
Thurman told an Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms agent he was thinking about making a bomb a month earlier and said the first component he purchased was a pipe, court documents state. Murphy denied the motion to suppress the statements because Thurman had been given his Miranda warnings.
The judge also wrote that although some evidence used to obtain the warrant was old, officers didn't know about the information until the days following the bombing.
"The alleged staleness of information does not suggest the search would be fruitless and does not thereby undermine the probable cause upon which the warrant was based," Murphy said.
Trial is scheduled for Nov. 12.