(ANDERSON, Ind.) — Your cell phone data is off limits to police without a warrant. The Indiana Supreme Court is considering whether that means a new trial for a serial robber.
Marcus Zanders is serving a 61-year sentence for a string of liquor-store robberies in Dearborn County in 2015. Police cracked the case by getting cellphone records from Sprint which showed Zanders’ phone in the vicinity of two package stores right around the time they were robbed. The Supreme Court ruled that since police were collecting evidence from a third party, not from Zanders himself, that no warrant was needed.
But the U.S. Supreme Court ruled this year in a similar cas that cellphone data belongs to you, not the phone company, and requires a warrant. The court didn’t throw out Zanders’ convictions, but sent the case back to Indiana’s justices to assess whether the use of that evidence denied him a fair trial.
Zanders’ attorneys argue the cell data is hopelessly intertwined with his arrest and conviction. Prosecutors argue there was enough evidence for the search warrant which led to Zanders’ arrest even without the Sprint information, including a Facebook post in which Zanders bragged about the holdups and uploaded photos of the cash and liquor. Prosecutors say a nearby gas station attendant reported Zanders asked for directions to the nearest liquor store shortly before the store was robbed, and security video shows a man matching the robber’s description.
And Deputy Attorney General Steve Creason argues the use of the cell phone data falls under an exception in the U.S. Supreme Court opinion for public safety emergencies. He says Zanders was a suspect in four holdups, all of which involved the robber threatening the victim with a gun. Creason says it was a matter of time before someone ended up dead.
Defense attorney Leanna Weissmann says that would only make sense if police had pinged Zanders’ phone to find out where he was. She argues information on where he was several days ago doesn’t match up with an emergency search.
The Indiana Supreme Court heard arguments at Anderson University. As always, there’s no indication of when the justices will rule.
indiana’s Supreme Court justices take questions at Anderson University after hearing oral arguments. (Photo: Eric Berman/WIBC)