Posts Tagged ‘evidence’

Did the Police Really “Mishandle” a Rape Case?

April 8, 2010

The Florida Times-Union reported recently that the Jacksonville Beach Police Department “mishandled” a rape case by releasing a photo of a suspect fingered by an informant to the media.

I don’t think the case was mishandled at all—at least in comparison to any other case. It certainly wasn’t unusual for the police to use an informant to try to solve a case. And it wasn’t unusual when the informant identified a suspect from a photo. Publicizing such a photo is actually pretty routine.

This case made headlines because as it turned out, the man in the photo owns a business and two homes. He went to the police station voluntarily, made a statement, and gave a DNA sample. Most named suspects don’t do that.

Apparently the informant misidentified the suspect.  It’s not clear whether the misidentification was intentional or inadvertent, or whether the informant was reliable in the first place.

But just because the suspect in the photo is a businessman with two houses, does that mean per se that he couldn’t be the perpetrator? The point here is that most suspects aren’t cleared simply because they protest their innocence. Why did the police publicly apologize for what is essentially routine police work?

What the police should be doing is questioning their use of informants and re-thinking whether the informants they use really are reliable.  Too many convictions are obtained by relying on the questionable information provided by informants, some of whom are actually paid by the police.

And for that matter, the police should be looking more carefully at the reliability of all eyewitness identifications.  How many people convicted solely on the testimony of an eyewitness identification will have to be exonerated before they admit that it’s just not that reliable, especially without corroborating evidence?


Cops in Jail

February 5, 2010

Kudos to the Jacksonville police officer who had the courage to turn in two fellow officers recently for committing a crime on the job.  Apparently the officers wanted to look for drugs in a house located in a high-crime area, but they didn’t have a search warrant.  So instead of developing the probable cause they would have needed to get a warrant, they decided to take matters into their own hands.  They removed a room air conditioner and went into the house, then made up a story about a lady driving by who reported a burglary so it would look like they were justified in going into the house.

They didn’t find any drugs in the house.  Now they’re in jail.

Sadly, too many officers take shortcuts.  Over the course of the last 18+ years as a criminal defense attorney, I’ve seen it too many times.  I’ve had clients tell me about it again and again.

I guess these officers feel like the ends justify the means, but they never do.  Their actions taint all of the hard-working, dedicated officers who play by the rules while protecting the public.

The criminal justice system is designed to ferret out the truth, and most of the time it works.  Usually, when it fails, it’s because a cop or a prosecutor decides that winning is more important than justice.  It never is.

I’m sure the officers charged in this case will feel entitled to a fair trial, which they are.  I’m sure they’ll want the evidence used against them to be obtained legally, which it should be.  That’s the thing about the Constitution—it covers all of us, in all cases.

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