Pubdate: Wed, 14 Mar 2001
Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press (MN)
Copyright: 2001 St. Paul Pioneer Press
Contact:  345 Cedar St., St. Paul, MN 55101
Author: Jenny Price, Associated Press


MADISON, Wis. - The state Supreme Court upheld a man's conviction for drug 
possession for the second time Tuesday, ruling that a tip from an anonymous 
911 call was enough reason to stop him and search his car.

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case back to the state's highest court last 
April, ordering the court to review the case of Roosevelt Williams again in 
light of two recent decisions regarding police searches. In one of those 
decisions, the U.S. Supreme Court sharply curtailed police power to rely on 
anonymous tips to stop and search people.

The state Supreme Court split 4-3 on Williams' case, the same way it did in 
April 1999, when it upheld the search and his conviction the first time.

Williams was arrested in November 1995, after police were notified of a 911 
call in which a woman told authorities that a person was selling drugs from 
a blue and burgundy Ford Bronco.

The officers found a blue and burgundy Chevrolet Blazer in the area. A man, 
later identified as Williams, was sitting in the driver's seat and a woman 
was in the passenger's seat.

Police said Williams' right hand was out of view behind the passenger's 
seat. Fearing that he was holding a gun, the officers drew their weapons 
and put Williams and the woman in the squad car. The officers searched the 
Blazer and said they found marijuana and 26 rocks of crack cocaine.

"The officers were reasonable in fearing for their safety and executed a 
limited search of the vehicle to quell that fear," Justice Patrick Crooks 
wrote for the majority.

Williams was charged with possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. He 
tried to get the court to suppress the evidence, arguing that the police 
searched him based on the anonymous tip without taking any steps to 

"The more reliable the information in the call is, the less the police need 
to do on the scene," said assistant attorney general Warren Weinstein, who 
argued for the state. More unreliable callers still can provide some 
information police can use to investigate, he said.

Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Maxine White denied the motion, and Williams 
was found guilty and sentenced to 30 months in prison before the appeals 
court reversed the decision. The Supreme Court reinstated the guilty 
verdict for the second time Tuesday.

But in his dissent, Justice William Bablitch, joined by Chief Justice 
Shirley Abrahamson and Justice Ann Walsh Bradley, said the facts of the 
case did not permit a constitutional stop or search.

"For all we can tell from the record, her allegation of criminal wrongdoing 
is based upon nothing more than 'idle rumor or irresponsible conjecture,' " 
Bablitch wrote, referring to the woman who made the 911 call.

Williams' attorney, assistant state public defender Melinda Swartz, said 
she was considering petitioning the U.S. Supreme Court again to review the 
state court's decision.
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