MADISON, Wis. (AP) — The state Supreme Court reinstated a homicide conviction Tuesday against a central Wisconsin man accused of stabbing a teenager outside a party nearly five years ago.
The ruling wipes out an appeals court decision last year to reverse Devin W. Felix’s conviction and grant him a trial. That court said evidence investigators obtained after they arrested Felix without a warrant should have been suppressed.
But the justices voted 5-2 to adopt a federal ruling that holds evidence stemming from a warrantless arrest is fair game if it was gathered after the arrest.
Felix’s attorney, Leonard Kachinsky, said he was disappointed. Since the ruling is rooted in state law, he said it’s unlikely the U.S. Supreme Court would take the case.
“He was looking forward to a new trial and seeing what would happen,” Kachinsky said.
According to court documents, police arrived at a drinking party in September 2007 in Schofield to find 18-year-old Nathaniel Davids bleeding in the street. He had been stabbed multiple times and later died.
Partygoers told investigators they heard Felix, now 23, say he was going to prison because he stabbed someone and had left the party in a green Chrysler. Police tracked Felix, of Weston, to his mother’s apartment about six hours later.
The green Chrysler was in the driveway. A detective knocked on the door and it popped open. The detective could see Felix sleeping in a chair and officers ordered him outside at gunpoint.
Outside the house, Felix told police he had a knife in his pocket. Officers didn’t find one on him but located one next to Felix’s chair. He later gave police a statement detailing his involvement in the fight and Davids’ death and police seized his clothes.
He eventually pleaded guilty to second-degree intentional homicide and was sentenced to 28 years in prison in 2009.
He argued on appeal the circuit court judge should have suppressed his statements and ruled the knife and his clothes were inadmissible because they were the products of an illegal arrest. The 3rd District Court of Appeals agreed and sent the case back for trial with orders to suppress the evidence.
But the state Supreme Court adopted a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held evidence obtained outside a suspect’s home following a warrantless arrest is admissible if police had probable cause to make the arrest.
Wisconsin Justice Patrick Crooks wrote police had probable cause to go after Felix based on witness statements, triggering the exception.
Justice Ann Walsh Bradley wrote in a dissent that police had enough time to obtain a warrant for Felix’s arrest. She warned that adopting the exception could encourage more illegal arrests.