CHARLESTON -- Three Nicholas County drug suspects who had pleaded guilty withdrew their pleas after the West Virginia Supreme Court of Appeals ruled that police cannot send "wired" informants into homes without a warrant.

An informant with recording devices had taped the three in their homes without a warrant, a practice the Justices banned in a Feb. 28 decision.

Nicholas County prosecutor Jonathan Sweeney said he would bring the three to trial in May.

"We will proceed with trial without the tapes," Sweeney said. "The whole trial will be based on the credibility of the informant.

"We would have let him testify anyway, but we would have let the jury see if the tape reflected his testimony."

Prior to the decision, police in West Virginia secretly taped suspects in their homes under state and federal authority.

The U.S. Supreme Court had upheld the practice in U.S. v. White. The Supreme Court of Appeals had upheld it in State v. Thompson.

In the new decision, three of five Justices agreed that the West Virginia Constitution requires a search warrant for secret taping in a home.

Chief Justice Robin Jean Davis wrote that the state Constitution gives greater protection from searches and seizures than the U.S. Constitution.

She called the Thompson decision a serious judicial error. Justices Joseph Albright and Larry Starcher concurred.

Justices Spike Maynard and Brent Benjamin dissented.

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