Entries categorized "Government Misconduct"

Skewed View

The law student author of Nuts and Boalts wrote:

Extern 2 and I walk into the building coming back from lunch and we see the security officers asking some WHITE guy to leave. He keeps arguing with them but is generally moving away from the four or five security officers. He's pretty close to the door when one of the officers shoves him to the ground. At some point in all this he makes gestures as if he's about to punch like clenches his fist, etc. One of the officers says, "Don't punch him buddy or you'll go to jail." Anyway, as soon as the guy got up after the first shove, he gets shoved down again. This time he lands outside the building. He gets up and punches the officer in the face. One of the guards says, "Oh now you're going to jail." And the scuffle ensues. Long story short, officer ended up with a broken nose.

Sadly, this extern didn't seem bothered that officers bullied, beat up, and then goaded a citizen into fighting back.  Instead, he interpreted what he saw solely as a crime.  Four or five officers toss you to the ground - twice.  No problem: the law does not cover government misconduct.  Just another day of government work.


Protecting Their Own

Sometimes prosecutors and trial judges forget that they are not their locale's fiduciary.  After Kevin Roghneen broke a cancer survivor's arm in three places, he was sued.  Of course, the prosecutor did not dismiss the criminal case (even though the prosecutor's duty is to do justice, and not to insulate the city from liability).  The judge also refused to dismiss the case.  His reason:

I think the fact that there is a ten million dollar lawsuit really means that the court should not be dismissing this criminal case.

Wow.  You can read about the case here.

(Hat tip: CrimLaw.)


Deputies Taser Inmate to Death

A video of the murder "terrible incident" is available hereCriminal charges are forthcoming.

UPDATE: Oops, my bad.

"A Gwinnett County grand jury had decided not to pursue charges in the Taser gun-related death of an inmate at the county jail." 

Sorry for the mistake.  I figured that since most prosecutors can indict a ham sandwich, District Attorney Danny Porter could make a case for, at least, negligent homicide.  But hey, what do I know?

District Attorney Danny Porter provided details of the investigations to a grand jury and that grand jury decided not to pursue an investigation of their own. They, however, chose not to view the videotape taken at the jail.

“They were aware of the tape and the disturbing aspects of it, but chose not to view it,” Porter said. “They chose not to see it and chose not to go any farther."

“For all intents and purposes, this ends my case,” he said.


Judge Noonan Calls Out Lying Police Officer

Judge John T. Noonan is a textbook example of a social conservative who duly applies and interprets the law.  In a decision today, he calls out a police officer for lying.  Scroll down to the emboldened text for the exact wording.

On September 16, 1998, so the affidavit continues, [Jeff Potter of Placer County's marijuana eradication team] searched the trash at Baldwin’s home address. He found “marijuana leaves and stems recently cut from a mature marijuana plant. The marijuana was fresh green and still moist.” He also, he said, had found “marijuana seeds and a hydroponic grow rock. There were also two black 1/2 gallon planting pots commonly used in indoor marijuana grows and four packages of ‘rain drop’ irrigation equipment commonly used in indoor marijuana grows.” He concluded on the basis of his specific training in the investigation of narcotics and his ten years of experience in approximately three hundred narcotics cases that “[t]he items found in the trash inspection reveal an ongoing criminal activity to grow marijuana indoors.” He also concluded that “it is common for persons involved in the cultivation of marijuana to also be involved in the sale of marijuana.” Potter sought a warrant listing the documents and property he expected to find; he did not mention guns. On September 23, 1998, a state court judge issued the search warrant that Potter sought.

According to the plaintiffs’ evidence, the only marijuana in their trash searched by Potter were blackened bits of marijuana wrapped in a paper towel, the remnants of smoked marijuana. They bolster their claim of falsity in Potter’s affidavit by thirteen declarations from other individuals whose trash was searched by MET. In each instance MET officers swore they found “marijuana leaves and stems recently cut from a mature marijuana plant” and that “the marijuana was fresh green and still moist.” In each instance, these thirteen individuals swore they placed no marijuana or products of marijuana in their trash.

The Baldwins’ further evidence is that the “rain drop” irrigation equipment was only for outdoor landscaping and that this fact should have been obvious to a trained narcotics investigator. The equipment included a sprinkler spraying water up to 14 feet, a soaker hose, and 6² heavy duty support stakes; none of these items are used in an indoor grow. The two black gardening pots pointed to no illegal activity. The “grow rock” in Potter’s affidavit was, the plaintiffs also state, a lava rock with no implication of criminal activity.

***

First, when Potter’s lies are taken out, what is left is an unidentified citizen at an unidentified date telling a sheriff’s deputy of marijuana growing at an unidentified time; also the presence of a rock and two pots, the uses of which are ambiguous. No magistrate could have authorized a search on this basis, essentially amounting to an informant’s tentative tip.

***
Plainly, Potter’s lies were substantial in moving the magistrate [to issue a search warrant].

I suggest that those fearful of Evil Conservative Judges spend some time with Judge Noonan's opinions and articles.


Testilying

At a criminal trial of a protestor, a police officer testifed under oath that

[The defendant] put up such a fight at a political protest last summer, the arresting officer recalled, it took four police officers to haul him down the steps of the New York Public Library and across Fifth Avenue.

"We picked him up and we carried him while he squirmed and screamed," the officer, Matthew Wohl, testified in December. "I had one of his legs because he was kicking and refusing to walk on his own."

One problem.  During a recess, the defense lawyer obtained a videotape that contradicted Officer Wohl's sworn testimony.

A videotape shot by a documentary filmmaker showed Mr. Kyne agitated but plainly walking under his own power down the library steps, contradicting the vivid account of Officer Wohl, who was nowhere to be seen in the pictures. Nor was the officer seen taking part in the arrests of four other people at the library against whom he signed complaints.

Will Officer Wohl be prosecuted for committing perjury?  Will the Department of Justice file a criminal complaint against Wohl, whose lies likely led to the defendant's unjust prosecution?  Section 1983 has a criminal analog (18 U.S.C. Sec. 242), though DOJ somehow forgot how to use it.

According to the story, not only are police officers lying, but government lab technicians are destroying evidence.

Last week, [a different defendant] discovered that there were two versions of the same police tape: the one that was to be used as evidence in his trial had been edited at two spots, removing images that showed Mr. Dunlop behaving peacefully. When a volunteer film archivist found a more complete version of the tape and gave it to Mr. Dunlop's lawyer, prosecutors immediately dropped the charges and said that a technician had cut the material by mistake.

So it was a mistake, 'eh?  Anyhow, please read the full story for more "mistakes."

Many thanks to Objective Justice for bringing this story to my attention.


A Few Online Sources About Police Lies

Riley v. City of Montgomery, Ala., 104 F.3d 1247 (11th Cir. 1997) (citing magistrate judge's report, which concluded that a lead "[police detective] routinely falsified records and may well have lied about the existence of a confidential informant").

Morgan Cloud, "The Dirty Little Secret," 43 Emory L.J. 1311 (Fall 1994) (collecting examples of police perjury).

Robert Bauman, "Good Faith Breeds Bad Cops," Reason (May '95) ("A 1988 investigation of the Boston police Drug Control Unit revealed that its members routinely fabricated the existence of informants and lied to obtain warrants from judges.") [I can't find the report online, but a search of Lexis-Nexus of periodicals from 1988 should turn up some reliable citations.  The investigation was conducted after a police shooting.]

Curt Brown, "Attorneys Pore over Past Cases," South Coast Daily (Aug. 17, 2001).  A judge found that a police detective made false statements in an affidavit.  Because of the police officer's perjury, the judge demanded that the detective produce a confidential informant the detective had allegedly relied upon in previous warrant applications.  Rather than produce the informant, prosecutors dismissed a pending criminal case. 

Maro Robbins, "Undercover cop put on night shift," San Antonio Express-News (Feb. 18, 2001) ("Federal prosecutors have dismissed two cocaine cases and scaled back a third because an undercover police officer lied about his information source in a sworn statement requesting search warrants.")  [The SA Express-News requires a payment of $2.95 for the full article, though a summary of the article is available here.]


Publicity Costs

It's common for law enforcement officers to hold a press conference after making an arrest.  If, for example, the police and prosecutors hold a press conference to show the public that a serial killer has been arrested, a press conference is valuable.  It allows people to breath a little easier.

These days press conferences are held many police officers and prosecutors hungry for the limelight.  Sadly, law enforcement often invite members of the media to videotape a "perp walk."   This serves no legitimate law enforcement interest and permanently harms the defendant's reputation.

Because I find publicity-hungry police officers sickening, I was pleased to learn that a publicity stunt backfired on the police - a 4.5mm backfire.

A jury on Thursday awarded $4.5 million to a high school girls basketball coach who was arrested by the San Marino Police Department and accused of molesting a girl, although he was never charged with a crime.

Patrick Gillan filed a lawsuit against the department in May 2002, claiming defamation and intentional infliction of emotional distress arising from false arrest.

***

He was arrested in December 2001 for investigation of sexually assaulting a female student who alleged she was molested several times when she was 17.

Soon after, police held a news conference and showed Gillan's mug shot, which was then broadcast on several TV stations and published in a few newspapers. Gillan was released after being booked, but court documents said that he had only been "detained."

Superior Court Judge Robert O'Brien ruled Thursday that there was no probable cause for the arrest.

***

During the civil trial, attorneys for the police department argued that officers were doing their job to investigate the girl's claims and weren't liable for damages.

But Gillan's attorney John Burton said some people still see his client as a threat and the negative publicity has done damage to his reputation. Burton said the accusations were fueled by the girl's family who wanted the girl to become a Division I college basketball star.

The girl, Taylor Bouchard, who is 21 and testified at the trial, ended up at a Division III college and told her coach she had been molested by Gillan while in high school.

"It was an excuse she had made up to get her out of a situation with college basketball and her over-domineering parents," Burton told jurors.

Bouchard, who continues to maintain she was molested, and her mother, were named in the lawsuit but were dropped as part of a settlement agreement.