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Cops Must Show Cause For Surveillance Secrets

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So say a panel of appellate court judges after ordering a new trial for a man deemed a habitual offender who claimed he was denied his Sixth Amendment rights after cops arrested him on gun charges at a North Lawndale liquor store. Brandon Barber invoked the Confrontation Clause in appealing the 2013 conviction, which resulted from police surveillance at a location near the store on Chicago’s West Side that wasn’t disclosed at trial. Patrol Officer Oscar Navarro observed Barber repeatedly flashing a piece before his partner found the semi-automatic that Navarro ID’d as the weapon while searching a storage area at the back of the West Ogden Ave. outlet.

Because Barber’s counsel didn’t file a pre-trial motion, the Cook County judge who heard the case denied a request to lift the qualified privilege that lets cops guard the exact locations of their surveillance sites. However, First District Appellate Court judges acknowledged precedent on the legality of privilege in holding the rights of the accused above procedure. They said the judge’s decision prevented prosecutors from demonstrating why the exact location of the vantage point some 75 feet from the front of the store should be kept under wraps, an error that unduly limited Barber’s ability to challenge the testimony of his accuser. The order means that the seven-year prison term Barber received at sentencing thanks to two prior gun convictions also is overturned.