451 U.S. 997 (1981)

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U.S. Supreme Court

TRAPPER v. NORTH CAROLINA , 451 U.S. 997 (1981)

451 U.S. 997

Patrick M. TRAPPER et al. v. State of NORTH CAROLINA
No. 80-1163 Supreme Court of the United States May 18, 1981

On petition for writ of certiorari to the Court of Appeals of North Carolina.

The petition for writ of certiorari is denied.

Justice BRENNAN, dissenting.

Stone v. Powell, 428 U.S. 465 (1976), held that "where the State has provided an opportunity for full and fair litigation of a Fourth Amendment claim, a state prisoner may not be granted federal habeas corpus relief on the ground that evidence obtained in an unconstitutional search or seizure was introduced at his trial." Id. , at 494 (footnote omitted). The effect of this holding was to make this Court, on direct review, the only federal forum available to the accused to monitor state-court compliance with the Fourth Amendment. I dissented in that case and reminded by Brethren that " institutional constraints totally preclude any possibility that this Court can adequately oversee whether state courts have properly applied federal law." Id., at 526. "[O]ur certiorari jurisdiction is inadequate for containing state criminal proceedings within constitutional bounds," because "federal review by certiorari in this Court is a matter of grace, and it is grace now seldom bestowed at the behest of a criminal defendant." Id., at 534. While the lower federal courts by way of habeas corpus are better suited than are we on direct review to assure state-court compliance with Fourth Amendment requirements, we are now duty bound by Stone v. Powell to fulfill this monitoring function. The denial of certiorari in this case demonstrates, however, that the Court will not discharge that duty, because the petition presents a substantial issue whether the North Carolina courts properly applied the Fourth Amendment. I, therefore, dissent from the denial of certiorari and would set this case for argument.


Petitioners were arrested for various crimes connected with the possession, sale, and delivery of marihuana. Deputy

Page 451 U.S. 997 , 998

Sheriff Charlie Carawan, of Hyde County, N.C., first met petitioner Lombardo two years prior to his arrest when Lombardo purchased property about one-half mile from Carawan's home. App. to Pet. for Cert. 13. Lombardo's property is "located adjacent to a paved, rural road and adjacent to the main stream of Fortescue Creek" which is connected to the Intracoastal Waterway. Id., at 13-14. Improvements were made on the property, including construction of rock driveways and a metal gate.

Several events caused Carawan to become suspicious of activities on the Lombardo property. First, "Carowan [sic] began to receive reports from some of his acquaintances in the neighborhood that they had begun to hear the sounds of heavy truck and boat engines on and near the Lombardo property," sounds which were "unusual in that area." Id., at 14. In addition, on December 21, 1978, Carawan assisted a boat which was stuck in the mud bottom of Fortescue Creek about one mile from the Lombardo property. Based on his knowledge of the channels of the creek and of the prevailing winds that day, Carawan disbelieved the story of the boat's skipper that he had become disabled in the Pungo River and then drifted into the creek where he ran aground. Id., at 14-16. Sometime thereafter, Carawan motored his small boat near the Lombardo property to observe activities thereon. While doing so he heard two rifle shots which he believed came from the Lombardo property, one of which apparently passed near him. Id., at 16.

These events led Carawan to suspect that the Lombardo property was being used for marihuana smuggling. Id., at 16-17. Accordingly, Carawan arranged for two state troopers to be stationed east and west of the intersection of the rural paved road leading to the Lombardo property and U. S. Highway 264. Id., at 17. On the night of January 13, 1979, Carawan secluded himself 50 yards from the Lombardo gate and observed the property until about midnight, when a truck which appeared to be heavily loaded left the Lom- [451 U.S. 997 , 999]

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