Warrantless searches expanded in drug case
WASHINGTON, May 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. Supreme Court, in an 8-1 ruling, made it easier for police to break down a door and enter an apartment without a warrant in drug cases.
At issue is the "exigent circumstances rule" -- allowing police to act without a warrant when they believe circumstances make a search without a warrant "reasonable" despite the restrictions in the Fourth Amendment banning "unreasonable" searches and seizures.
Police in Lexington, Ky., set up a controlled buy of crack cocaine, then followed the suspected drug dealer back to an apartment complex. Smelling marijuana outside an apartment door, they knocked loudly and announced their presence. At that point they heard sounds from inside the apartment "consistent with the destruction of evidence."
The police then said they were coming in, broke down the door and saw drugs in plain view.
The suspect pleaded guilty conditionally -- on the condition he could appeal for the suppression of the evidence. Eventually, the Kentucky Supreme Court ruled the exigent circumstances rule did not apply because the police should have foreseen their conduct would prompt the apartment occupants to destroy the evidence. In other words, the police should have paused and obtained a warrant.
The U.S. Supreme Court disagreed.
In an opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito and announced by Chief Justice John Roberts, the majority said assuming "that an exigency existed here, there is no evidence that the officers violated the Fourth Amendment or threatened to do so ... "
Endeavour travels in space one last time
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla., May 16 (UPI) -- The U.S. space shuttle Endeavour blasted off for the last time Monday, taking its crew of six astronauts on a 16-day mission to the International Space Station.
Weather cooperated for the 8:56 a.m. EDT liftoff from Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the space agency reported on its Web site. The climb to orbit took about 8 1/2 minutes.
The crew members for space shuttle Endeavour's STS-134 mission are Commander Mark Kelly, husband of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords who attended the launch while undergoing rehabilitation for from a gunshot wound to the head, Pilot Gregory H. Johnson, Mission Specialists Michael Fincke, Greg Chamitoff and Andrew Feustel and European Space Agency astronaut Roberto Vittori.
The Endeavour and its crew will deliver to the ISS the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer and spare parts.
Syrians seal off Lebanon border town
BEIRUT, Lebanon, May 16 (UPI) -- Syrian troops have blockaded a border town to keep their citizens from fleeing into Lebanon, Lebanese security sources said Monday.
"The influx today is very low because [the Syrian army] has surrounded Tall Kalakh," Mayor Khodr al-Hajje of the Lebanese village of Amayer told The Daily Star of Beirut.
Officials said more than 5,000 Syrians have crossed into Lebanon and the number spiked over the weekend. Tall Kalakh is 30 miles west of the Syrian city of Homs, where protesters have clashed with President Bashar Assad's regime.
The Lebanese army warned against "any attempts to destabilize the area" and promised "severe legal measures against violators."
Local officials said Syrians have been crossing by other nearby routes.
Fighting between the Syrian army and protesters raged in Tall Kalakh Sunday, and a soldier and a woman died after being evacuated to hospitals in northern Lebanon.
Social Affairs Minister Salim Sayegh said Lebanon has begun taking humanitarian aid to the refugees.
3-state search on for 6-year-old boy
AURORA, Ill., May 16 (UPI) -- Police in three states searched for a 6-year-old boy who disappeared after his mother's apparent suicide in a Rockford, Ill., hotel room, officials said.
The boy's father, James Pitzen, 39, said he last saw his son Timothy, Wednesday morning on his way to kindergarten, the Chicago Tribune reported.
Pitzen's wife, Amy Fry-Pitzen, 43, withdrew her son later Wednesday before going to a zoo and water park, police said. She called relatives Friday to say the two were not in danger. Witnesses said they saw her alone at a food store. The next day, motel workers found her body.
The mother "left a note indicating that Timothy was fine and that she left him in the care of unnamed people," Aurora police said in a statement.
Police from Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa searched for the boy, The (Aurora) Beacon News said. Officials described him as about 50 inches tall, weighing about 70 pounds, with brown hair and brown eyes.
Info recovered from 447's data recorders
PARIS, May 16 (UPI) -- Accident investigators say they recovered data from the flight recorders on an Air France jetliner that crashed into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2009.
The crash of Flight 447 killed all 228 people aboard.
An international team of government and industry experts retrieved the data from the plane's "black boxes" during the weekend and hope it explains why the Airbus A330 jetliner dropped out of the sky, The Wall Street Journal reported Monday.
The French Bureau d'Enquetes et d'Analyses is leading the investigation.
The bureau said it recovered "all the data" from the jet's black boxes and "all of this data will now be subjected to detailed, in-depth analysis."
The jetliner was the first major commercial airliner to disappear in mid-flight in decades, the Journal said.
Investigators said the flight-data recorder was in excellent condition, despite spending nearly two years on the ocean floor at a depth of 12,000 feet. The jet's cockpit voice recorder was slightly damaged but information from it was successfully retrieved as well, the report said.
It will take several weeks, at minimum, before the data analysis is complete, officials said.
The plane disappeared while flying through heavy storms en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris June 1, 2009. Automated messages sent by onboard computers shortly before the crash indicated problems with the jet's external air speed indicators.