Admissibility of a Body Found in a Vehicle After Police Stop for Speeding in New York

In People v. Turriago, 90 NY2d 77, 681 N.E.2d 350, 659 N.Y.S.2d 183 (1997), after stopping the defendant's van for speeding, the police obtained his consent to search his vehicle and found the body of Fernando Cuervo in a steamer trunk in the rear of the van. Based upon the hearing court's finding that the police illegally obtained the defendant's consent, the Court of Appeals reasoned that the murder victim's body was primary evidence of the illegally obtained consent and was not admissible at trial. However, secondary evidence, such as defendant's later confession, was potentially admissible under the inevitable discovery doctrine. The Court of Appeals noted that: "the suppression court could have further found the existence of a very high degree of probability that the body of Cuervo would have been discovered through [an] inventory search and that, following the discovery, incriminating secondary evidence, i.e., evidence not obtained during or as the immediate consequence of the invalid consent search (see, People v. Stith, 69 NY2d 313, 506 N.E.2d 911, 514 N.Y.S.2d 201 (1987)), would also have been obtained by the police." (Turriago, 90 NY2d at 87.)