Police Officer Killed During Execution of a Search Warrant In North Carolina

In State v. Miller, 282 N.C. 633, 194 S.E.2d 353 (1973), police entered a building to execute a search warrant. During the search, the defendant shot at the police officers, killing one officer and injuring another. Id. at 635-37, 194 S.E.2d at 354-55. The defendant was charged with first-degree murder. At trial, the defendant moved to suppress all evidence about the shooting that police obtained once inside the building, arguing that the officers' search warrant was invalid, and thus "all evidence obtained by such an illegal search was inadmissible by Fourth Amendment standards." Id. at 639, 194 S.E.2d at 357. The trial court denied the defendant's motion, and he was ultimately convicted of second-degree murder. Id. at 638, 194 S.E.2d at 356. The Supreme Court of North Carolina found that the search warrant was defective, and thus the officers' entry was unlawful. Id. at 639, 194 S.E.2d at 356-57. Nonetheless, the Court affirmed the defendant's conviction, holding that the statutory version of the exclusionary rule in effect at the time "was not designed to exclude evidence of crimes directed against the person of trespassing officers." Id. at 641, 194 S.E.2d at 358. See N.C. Gen. Stat. 15-27(a) (Cum. Supp. 1971), repealed by 1973 N.C. Sess. Laws ch. 1286, 26 ("No evidence obtained or facts discovered by means of an illegal search shall be competent as evidence in any trial."). According to our Supreme Court: Application of the exclusionary rule in such fashion would in effect give the victims of illegal searches a license to assault and murder the officers involved -- a result manifestly unacceptable and not intended by the Legislature. Although wrongfully on the premises, officers do not thereby become unprotected legal targets. Even trespassers may not be shot with impunity. . . . Therefore, the gun and all other evidence seized, if relevant and material to the murder charge, was admissible; and it was competent for all eyewitnesses, both for the State and the defendant, whether lawfully or unlawfully present, to testify regarding every relevant fact and circumstance seen or heard bearing upon the shooting. Id. at 641-42, 194 S.E.2d at 358.