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WI Court of Appeals Affirms Miguel A. Ayala's 2008 Milwaukee County Homicide and Armed Robbery Convictions

 

"Keeping Milwaukee's neighborhoods safe is one of the central functions of state and local law enforcement," says Van Hollen. "My office remains fully committed to the fight against violent crime."

 

MILWAUKEE - This morning, the Wisconsin Court of Appeals (District I) affirmed Miguel A. Ayala's 2008 Milwaukee County convictions for one count of first-degree intentional homicide and three counts of armed robbery, all by use of a dangerous weapon and use of force. The court of appeals concluded that Milwaukee police did not violate the Fourth Amendment when they entered the bedroom of an apartment in which Ayala was staying as an overnight guest. Police had probable cause to arrest Ayala, and exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry.

 

Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen, whose office represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, quickly praised the decision. "Keeping Milwaukee's neighborhoods safe is one of the central functions of state and local law enforcement," said Van Hollen. "My office remains fully committed to the fight against violent crime."

 

On January 26, 2008, Ayala and two others confronted Miller Brewing Company executive Lodewikus "Vic" Milford and three of his Miller co-workers as they left a Milwaukee restaurant. Armed with a gun, Ayala demanded money from Milford and his co-workers. Ayala then shot Milford twice, killing him.

 

Milwaukee Police investigators received information implicating Ayala in the murder and robberies. They also believed Ayala was staying at an apartment associated with Ayala's street gang. The investigators received consent to enter the apartment. They then entered a bedroom in which they believed Ayala was staying. They discovered both Ayala and a loaded handgun latter connected to the crimes. The investigators questioned Ayala, who admitted involvement in the murder and the robberies.

 

Ayala argued that the police investigators lacked valid consent to enter the apartment and had no legal justification to enter the bedroom without a warrant. The Wisconsin Court of Appeals disagreed. It accepted the Milwaukee County circuit court's findings of fact and held that police obtained proper consent to enter the apartment.

 

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals then held that the police investigators had probable cause to arrest Ayala, and exigent circumstances justified the warrantless entry into the bedroom. From the decision and opinion:

 

"We also note that a delay in obtaining a warrant might have facilitated an escape, or an escape attempt by Ayala, possibly with the assistance of his acquaintances who were still in the apartment or persons unknown in the tavern.

. . . .

Had the officers waited for a warrant to enter the bedroom while guarding the slightly open door of the bedroom they reasonably believed an armed and dangerous suspect to be in, both police and civilians either in the apartment or in the tavern below would have been at an unreasonable risk of injury had Ayala awakened and realized the circumstances. The alternative of the officers surrounding the building while waiting for a warrant was also not a viable solution for two reasons. First, the additional time needed to obtain enough police officers to secure the property (including the tavern) increased the risk that Ayala would awaken and attempt to escape. The commotion that additional law enforcement presence would cause would likely draw a crowd, make Ayala aware of the presence and intent of police, and increase the risk of injury to the officers and civilians if, as the officers suspected, Ayala was armed and/or attempted escape. Second, police uncertainty as to how many people might render assistance to Ayala increased their risk of injury, as well as the risk to civilians, had Ayala become aware of the circumstances during the delay required to obtain a warrant. We conclude that Ayala's arrest was lawful because the urgency reasonably perceived by the officers was compelling, and the danger they reasonably perceived for themselves and others if they did not move quickly was substantial. Based on all the circumstances known to a reasonable police officer at the time, exigent circumstances made the warrantless entry into the bedroom constitutionally permissible."

 

Wisconsin Department of Corrections records indicate that Miguel A. Ayala remains incarcerated at the Green Bay Correctional Institution, Green Bay, Wisconsin.

 

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals' decision and opinion appears at the court's website:
http://www.wicourts.gov/ca/opinion/DisplayDocument.pdf?content=pdf&seqNo=57894

 

The Milwaukee County District Attorney's Office prosecuted Ayala in Milwaukee County Circuit Court. Assistant Attorney General Mark Neuser represented the State of Wisconsin in the Wisconsin Court of Appeals.