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Judge orders police to return photos to photojournalist who was arrested

Six months after police arrested David Morse for photographing a protest, confiscating his photos through a search warrant, a judge has ordered those photos to be returned to him.

Now we’ll see how long it takes the University of California Berkeley Police Department to comply with t


Six months after police arrested David Morse for photographing a protest, confiscating his photos through a search warrant, a judge has ordered those photos to be returned to him.

Now we’ll see how long it takes the University of California Berkeley Police Department to comply with the court order.

Morse, whose byline is Dave ID on Indybay, said he just received a copy of the signed order on Thursday so it’s possible police also received the order that day.

“My lawyers will call them tomorrow and see what’s up,” he said in an email interview with Photography is Not a Crime late Thursday.

While the court order signed by Alameda County Superior Court Judge Yolanda Northridge is a victory, it is a disgrace that it took this long to quash the original search warrant.

In fact, it is a disgrace that a Alameda County Superior Court Judge Carl Morris signed the search warrant in the first place.

“He was, I believe, misled by UCPD,” Morse said.

What police failed to tell the judge in the search warrant is that Morse had identified himself as a journalist during the protest. California law protects journalists from having their work seized by police.

According to the San Jose Mercury News:

“We wrote a search warrant (seeking the photographs) in good faith,” she said. “A judge signed it.”

The department has not considered changing the way it deals with journalists, said Capt. Margo Bennett.

On December 11, Morse was arrested with seven others during a protest in front of Chancellor Robert Birgeneau’s home on campus.

Some of the protesters were carrying lit torches or “items in their hands that were burning,” according to the police report.

The police report also claims that “some members of the group through burning threw burning items at marked patrol cars arriving in the area, at the Chancellor’s house, and in the foliage surrounding the house.”

They also noticed photographers in the area.

“Officers also reported seeing flashes of light similar to those of a camera flash in the area of the house,” the report states.

One of the officers spotted Morse with a camera and immediately arrested him. Other protesters that were arrested also had their cameras seized.

All eight were charged with arson and assault on a police officer.

In asking Judge Morris to sign the search warrant, Berkeley Police Officer Nicole Miller said she believed the seized cameras would provide the evidence they needed against the protesters.

Morris signed the warrant on December 12.

On December 16, charges against all eight suspects were dropped for lack of evidence.

That should have been enough for Morris to quash his own search warrant. Especially since it was already widely reported that Morse was a working journalist on assignment at the time of his arrest.

As it is now, Morse is not aware if the other suspects who had cameras seized will get their photos returned to them.

He is planning on suing.


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