Posts Tagged ‘cops’

COPS Episode Ends with Victory for Client

June 9, 2010

My daughter recently recorded an episode of “COPS” that was filmed in Jacksonville. The whole family sat down together to watch just for fun.  To my surprise, I soon realized that one of my cases was featured on this episode!

It was a re-run of an old show that originally aired at least eight years ago.  The case was one of those that I’ll never forget.  And since “COPS” doesn’t tell the whole story, I can reveal how it ended favorably for my client.

The officers went to an apartment to serve a search warrant. Prior to the execution of the warrant, there was some discussion at the police station indicating confusion over the address at which the warrant was to be served.  On the show, you see the officers use a battering ram to burst into the apartment (without the constitutionally-required knock and announce, but that’s a story for another day) and arrest the people inside.

Here’s what happened off-camera.  The sworn affidavit for the search warrant that the officers presented to the judge alleged that a confidential informant had bought drugs at a specific address, but when I deposed the officer who prepared the affidavit, he testified that he had mistakenly written the wrong address on the affidavit.

I filed a motion asking the court to force the State to reveal the identity of the confidential informant so that I could question him regarding where he bought the drugs.  If the address alleged on the affidavit for the warrant was in fact not the one where he bought the drugs, then the warrant would be invalid.  The judge agreed that these unusual circumstances justified the extraordinary remedy of compelling the State to reveal the identity of the CI; otherwise, my client’s Fifth Amendment right to cross examine the witnesses against him would be denied.

The State chose to drop the charges rather than reveal the identity of its confidential informant.


Mistrial Did Not Mean Disrespect

June 7, 2010

Apparently, Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba believes that everyone should always believe the word of a police officer, no matter what.  Perhaps he needs to pay more attention to the news if he wants to understand why not everyone feels the same way.

Jacksonville resident Jacquan Shootes’ second trial recently ended in a mistrial after a hung jury.  He is accused of shooting at Jacksonville police.  His defense was that the officers didn’t identify themselves, so he didn’t realize they were undercover, and therefore he shot in self-defense.

The jury deadlocked, which means that at least one person had some doubt about whether the State had proved the charges beyond a reasonable doubt.  According to the Times-Union, Cuba said “it’s a pretty sad day when people would take the word of a criminal over the word of four officers.”

Should the jurors automatically have believed the police over the defendant, just because they’re cops? I think not.  Jurors are supposed to weigh the evidence, evaluate the testimony of all the witnesses, and decide who is telling the truth.  That’s just what the jury did in this case.  We should respect the jury’s decision, just as Cuba would have if the verdict had been guilty.

The same day that the Times-Union reported on the trial, the paper also featured these headlines: “Officer’s hero-to-handcuffs story continues” and “Lawtey officer held in scheme to solicit bribes for tickets.”  The following day, this headline appeared: “Officer fired for fatal traffic crash.”

If you follow the news in Jacksonville, you’re familiar with these stories, and you know how many times officers have been accused of wrongdoing in the last few years. You can find all kinds of similar stories all over the country.

The point is that cops are people too, just like the rest of us. We should all be held to the same standards.  It’s not “disrespectful” to question the word of a police officer who testifies in court.

In the interest of full disclosure, I will note that the defense attorney who tried the case, Waffa Hanania, is a close friend of mine.  However, I have not talked to her about the case, either before or after the trial.