The constitutional protections against unlawful search and seizure raise serious questions given our increasing reliance on technology. The courts are confronting novel questions about what constitutes a search, seizure, and self-incrimination. Police in Ohio have recently used a suspect's pacemaker data to arrest him on charges of arson and insurance fraud.
In September 2016, Ross Compton called 9-1-1 to report his house was on fire. The 9-1-1 operator told the Middletown, Ohio resident that the fire department was on their way and wanted to make sure everyone was safely out of the house. Compton reported everyone was out of the house; however, according to the operator, Compton was also heard yelling to someone in the background, “get out of here now.”
The possibly conflicting information on the emergency call may have been the first sign to police that something was amiss. The 9-1-1 call also recorded Compton saying he had “grabbed a bunch of stuff, threw it out the window.” He claimed that in the short time after he realized the fire had started, he'd packed his suitcases, broke a window with his cane, and tossed the suitcases outside before leaving the house.
After fire officials investigated the fire, they found “multiple points of origin of the fire from outside of the residence,” which appeared inconsistent with Compton's statements. Police officers then obtained a search warrant for the data from Compton's artificial heart to compare with his version of the events on the night of the fire.
A cardiologist reviewed the information and determined that it would be highly improbable for Compton to have been able to gather, pack, toss out suitcases, and carry other heavy items out the front door, given his heart condition.
Using the information gathered from the pacemaker, police arrested Compton on charges of arson and insurance fraud. According to Middletown Police, it was the first time they had used artificial heart data to make an arrest. “It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him,” said Lt. Jimmy Cunningham.
However, the pacemaker data appears to only be a small part of the evidence officers used to arrest the man. The police also relied on the multiple ignition sources, inconsistent 911 information, and gasoline found on various items of Compton's clothing.
Neighbors have expressed doubt that Compton could have intentionally started the fire. Another questioned why Compton would have started a fire in which his pet cat died. According to Compton, the investigation had gotten out of control and was “utterly insane.” “I had no motive whatsoever to burn down my house,” he said in a local news interview.
At the Gorelick Law Offices, attorney Lynn Gorelick has dedicated her legal career to defending people facing criminal charges in the East Bay. With more than 30 years of experience, Lynn Gorelick understands the local criminal laws and will make sure you get the justice you deserve. Contact the local East Bay criminal defense attorney who understands that you do not have to plead guilty just because you were arrested.