Child pornography conviction overturned over faulty warrant

July 6, 2018

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — Police who found a man viewing adult pornography in his car didn’t have probable cause to search his computer and phone for child pornography despite seeing images of girls in sundresses and cheerleader outfits, the state Supreme Court ruled Friday.

Robert Norman was convicted of possessing child sex abuse images after police found him with his pants down in a Walmart parking lot in 2016. He consented to an initial search of his laptop, on which police found images of girls interspersed with photos of women in various stages of undress.

After getting a search warrant, police also found images of naked girls. But in his appeal, Norman argued that those images shouldn’t have been used against him because the request for a search warrant failed to establish probable cause. The high court agreed Friday, reversing his conviction and sending the case back to the lower court.

The court said police who requested the search warrant failed to provide a link between child pornography and Norman’s viewing of legal adult pornography along with images of girls wearing cheerleading uniforms and sundresses.

“The problem here is that there was no evidence that the defendant possessed child pornography — instead, that was what the police were hoping to learn by obtaining the warrant,” wrote Justice Anna Barbara Hantz Marconi. While the affidavit stated that “child erotica” images typically are prelude to sexually explicit images of children, it failed to provide any foundation for the state, she said.

Norman also argued that there was insufficient evidence to prove that the images used against him depicted children or that they depicted sexually explicit conduct. The court rejected that argument. Senior Assistant Attorney General Stephen Fuller declined to comment. Norman’s attorney did not return a call seeking comment.

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