In an 8-1 vote, the court said Geno Harrell’s 2010 arrest and convictions in municipal court and on appeal to circuit court were wrong – that the man would not have behaved badly if a law enforcement officer hadn’t violated his rights against unlawful seizure.
Whether the state will appeal the reversal wasn’t known Tuesday.
In August 2010, Harrell was walking two pit bulls down a Starkville street when the police chief asked someone to investigate.
When an officer reached Harrell and attempted to talk to him, Harrell kept walking. The officer told him to “hold on” and asked for his name and social security number.
Harrell became irate and demanded the officer’s name and badge number.
Ultimately, Harrell was arrested and charged with disorderly conduct and failure to obey a law enforcement officer.
Harrell appealed the circuit conviction and fines.
“The state never contends that criminal activity was afoot,” Judge Joseph Lee writes. Neither was there testimony that Harrell was in violation of any city ordinances about pit bulls.
The local officer did not have the required “reasonable suspicion” that Harrell was doing something illegal, and thus anything he said or did after the unlawful stop was inadmissible, Lee added.
The court of appeals reversed the circuit court decision and ruled the case over.