The Rhode Island Supreme Court said in a decision released Friday that a lower court judge was wrong in throwing out evidence against a man accused of killing his girlfriend's 6-year-old son.
Superior Court Judge Judith Savage said in 2012 that a police search that found text messages violated Michael Patino's constitutional rights against unreasonable search. Savage said police needed to get a warrant before looking at the messages.
The judge also harshly criticized the conduct of the Cranston police, saying officers compromised the integrity of the evidence.
The attorney general appealed Savage's ruling to the state Supreme Court, which ruled that Patino did not have a reasonable expectation of privacy in text messages on his girlfriend's phone. The messages can now be used in the prosecution of Patino.
"I am very pleased that the Supreme Court recognized that the defendant lacked any objective expectation of privacy with respect to text messages contained on phones and in records not belonging to him," Attorney General Peter Kilmartin said in a news release.
Marco Nieves was taken to Hasbro Children's Hospital in October 2009, where he was later pronounced dead.
Patino was dating the boy's mother at the time, and stayed at the family's apartment in Cranston several nights a week.
Police said Patino caused the injuries that led to the boy's death. Patino has been held at the ACI since his arrest in 2009.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.