Recently I gave a talk to a property rights organization on how parole affects property owners. However, when I finished all the questions directed at me were about the botched January 28th drug raid at 7815 Harding Street in which two homeowners were killed and four officers wounded by gunfire.
One angry homeowner jumped up to say that every officer who entered the dwelling should be charged with burglary because “the search warrant was no good.”
As it turns out, the affidavit upon which the search warrant was based, was fabricated by Houston narcotics officer Gerald Goines. He swore that a confidential informant, who on many occasions gave information that led to the seizure of drugs, said he bought black tar heroin at the Harding Street address. A subsequent internal HPD investigation revealed that the informant was non-existent. The investigators contacted every one of Goines’ informants and none of them had ever been to the house on Harding Street.
I would like to know why Goines chose that particular location for a drug raid. He did not have to fabricate a search warrant affidavit because there are plenty of illegal drug dealers in Houston who need to be busted. There is the possibility, improbable as it may be, that Goines used the search warrant to settle a prior personal beef with Dennis Tuttle and his wife Rhogena Nicholas, the two homeowners who were shot dead.
Even though the affidavit was a lie, the search warrant itself was valid. The warrant is a court order that directs any law enforcement officer to enter an identified structure in order to search for specific evidence and to arrest any individuals if called for by the affidavit.
Thus, officer Goines could have given that search warrant to any Houston police officer, any Harris County sheriff’s deputy or any Harris County constable, each of whom would have been obligated to obey the court order.
Now let’s pretend the Harding Street raid turned out well with no one injured and the seizure of a couple of pounds of black tar heroin. The DA would have to dismiss all charges if it was discovered that the affidavit was fabricated. And the officer(s) who lied would be charged with perjury.
In the Harding Street case, Goines and any other officer who participated in the composition of the affidavit and swore to it, should be charged with murder because the fabrication led to the killing of the Harding Street homeowners.
So, the answer to the question ‘Was the Harding Street search warrant valid?’ is yes.