Court sidesteps key crime ruling

In what many see as a surprise move, the US Supreme Court decided an important case, but failed to resolve the hot controversy it had said it would on possible modification of the longstanding ''exclusionary'' rule, which governs the admission of evidence in criminal trials.

The result is a mixed victory for the Reagan administration, which is pushing for a tougher stance on crime and suspected criminal activity, Monitor legal correspondent Curtis J. Sitomer reports.

Splitting 6 to 3, the high court made it easier to obtain search warrants based on anonymous tips alone by upholding a search by Bloomingdale, Ill., police that was prompted by an unsigned letter. But the court failed to rule whether a so-called ''good faith'' exception should be made to excluding criminal evidence from trials when the arresting officers make an honest mistake in conducting the search.

The justices said they were barred from considering the exclusionary rule in the Illinois case, because the state court had not had a chance to consider it first.

The surprising element is that the Supreme Court had specifically asked lawyers in this case and the Reagan administration to address the ''good faith'' issue in their arguments. A key thrust of the Reagan war on crime is that too often the guilty go free when important evidence is discarded because it was improperly gathered.

Among other actions, the justices ruled 5 to 3 that companies may have ''interlocking directorates'' - people serving simultaneously on the boards of competing corporations.

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