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Jailed for Remaining Silent?

From the New York Times:

“I anticipate that the government will seek an order from the court holding Jerry in civil contempt,” said the lawyer, Susan V. Tipograph, adding that her client had refused to testify as “a matter of principle” and because “he has no knowledge whatsoever” about the bombing or who caused it….

Mr. Koch was subpoenaed to testify in front of a grand jury examining the matter in 2009, Ms. Tipograph said, and refused then with no consequences. She added that his continued refusal was motivated by a conviction that “the grand jury was being used in a manner to fish for information about the political movements he’s been involved in.”

Most Americans are unaware of the astonishing powers of grand juries.  To learn more, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-16-13

Here are the 10 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, May 15, 2013:

  • Springfield, Illinois: A newspaper reporter has filed a federal lawsuit alleging mistreatment by more than a dozen police officers over the last three years. He alleges that “malicious arrests and issuance of tickets were committed in retaliation … for filing a lawsuit seeking access to internal affair(s) files of police officers who have been accused of misconduct.”
  • New York, New York: The parents of a 16-year-old boy shot by police say that he lay mortally wounded on the ground for 15 minutes before getting medical attention.
  • Leland, North Carolina: A police officer named in a wrongful arrest claim has resigned. He is one of two officers accused of falsely arresting a man. The man claims they cuffed him in a patrol car while his ex-girlfriend cleaned out his house, including his stuff.
  • Colorado Springs, Colorado: A man who was wrongly detained by police for carrying a holstered pistol is suing the city and members of the Police Department. After the incident, police acknowledged the arrest was made in error, and the ticket was dismissed.
  • Northwest, North Carolina: A police officer was charged in connection to an ongoing prostitution investigation. The SBI charged the now former lieutenant with solicitation of a minor for prostitution and filing a false report.
  • Forks Township, Pennsylvania: A police officer who threatened his girlfriend with a shotgun pleaded guilty to a domestic crime. He has been fired. He admitted to two misdemeanor charges of simple assault, receiving three years of probation under a plea bargain in which he agreed to continue therapy and have his firearms destroyed.
  • Update: Fullerton, California: The California Supreme Court has declined the appeal of a former police officer, which means he’ll face trial in the death of a homeless man.
  • Park City, Utah: A now former officer was arrested on numerous felony charges after a routine audit revealed that possible criminal acts had been committed. He faces felony charges in a total of three cases, including multiple theft charges and one count of failure to keep and pay public money.
  • Update: Northbrook, Illinois: A former police officer has been sentenced to two year probation after he agreed to plead guilty to charges that he stole jewelry from a home he’d been dispatched to check on.
  • Fountain, Colorado: A police officer was arrested by El Paso County Sheriff’s Deputies on suspicion of stalking. Deputies say a man reported he was being harassed and when they arrived the investigation revealed that probable cause existed for the charge of stalking, which is a class 5 felony.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-15-13

Here are the 8 reports of police misconduct tracked for Wednesday, May 15, 2013:

  • Manchester, New Hampshire: The estranged wife of a police officer testified that she was body slammed by her husband and suffered bruising to her upper thigh and right arm for confronting him about a secret email account he used to exchange photos with other women. The alleged attack happened in front of their 5-year-old son. After the incident he said to her, “Do not call the police because if you do I will get arrested. I will lose my job and you will end up with nothing.”
  • Ashland, Kentucky: A former officer has pleaded guilty to possession with the intent to distribute Oxycodone and possessing a firearm during the commission of a drug crime. He stole the drugs from a person’s house, which he entered under guise of a warrant, while in uniform.
  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania: An officer who allegedly ran a prostitution service has been cleared of that charge but convicted of numerous other crimes. The jury found him guilty of drug-related charges, insurance fraud, obstruction, making false statements to law enforcement, oppression, and conspiracy.
  • Update: Sacramento, California (First reported 05-13-13): A sheriff’s detective pleaded not guilty to a felony assault charge in connection with allegations he deliberately struck a teenager with a sheriff’s vehicle. He is on paid administrative leave pending the outcome.
  • Wellford, South Carolina: An officer was arrested by state agents after they said he sexually and physically abused a vulnerable adult. The State Law Enforcement Division said that he sexually battered and physically abused the victim who suffers from a mental condition impairing her from providing her own care or protecting herself.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: The city will reach a $237,500 settlement with a man who says that police officers used excessive force and caused significant injuries that sent him to the hospital when they arrested him. The complaint says that as he raised his hands, one officer used a Taser gun on him, causing him to fall down the steps and then the other officer then kicked him in the face, knocking him out.
  • Update: Camden County, New Jersey (First reported 01-07-13): A police chief charged with harassing a female civilian employee has resigned. He was suspended when the allegations first surfaced.
  • Vallejo, California: The father of a 17-year old robbery suspect shot and killed by police has filed a federal civil rights lawsuit against the city. In the suit the father says his son was shot while his hands were in the air and he was shouting “don’t shoot.” Police say they shot him after he pulled a handgun when they tried to arrest him.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-14-13

Here are the 7 reports of police misconduct tracked for Tuesday, May 14, 2013:

  • Lakewood, Colorado: A state trooper on the job for less than six months has been placed on paid leave while he faces accusations that he had unlawful sexual contact with a woman while he was off-duty.
  • Milan, New Mexico: A police officer was arrested after he allegedly assaulted and restrained a female friend against her will. On another day, when the officer was intoxicated, he pointed his police weapon at her in a threatening manner.
  • St. Tammany Parish, Louisiana: The family of an Iraq war veteran, killed after an alleged confrontation with sheriff’s deputies, is suing the sheriff and the deputies who shot him, claiming they used unnecessary violence and excessive force when he was killed in his driveway. The lawsuit says that he was unarmed at the time of the shooting.
  • Update: East Hartford, Connecticut (First reported 04-11-13): An officer is facing accusations that he used excessive force on a 12-year-old boy and has been suspended for two weeks. “We’re here to serve the citizens,” said the police chief. “If we lose the trust of the community, it’s very difficult for us to serve the citizens in an effective and efficient way.”
  • Douglas County, Nebraska: A sheriff’s deputy has been fired, and prosecutors are evaluating whether criminal charges are appropriate. He was fired because he was acting inappropriately, although the exact reasons were not released.
  • Lake County, Illinois: A deputy has been accused of soliciting sex from a prostitute. He was charged with one count of obstruction of justice and one count of solicitation of a sexual act.
  • Update: Atlantic City, New Jersey (First reported 03-13-13): A state trooper sergeant who led an unauthorized high-speed escort of luxury cars on a highway has been sentenced to one year of probation. No one was hurt, and there were no accidents. One witness described it as a “Death Race.”

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-11-13 to 05-13-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Saturday, May 11 to Monday, May 13, 2013:

  • Update: Memphis, Tennessee (First reported 02-21-13): A former officer who was involved in a fatal crash that killed two residents has been indicted. He is charged with vehicular manslaughter. He hit another car in an intersection without any emergency indicators on.
  • Sacramento, California: A sheriff’s detective faces possible assault charges after police said he ran down a teenager with a sheriff’s vehicle. The family of the officer, however, said the alleged victim has been harassing their family for more than a month and fabricated the allegations. The incident is still being investigated.
  • Update: Baltimore, Maryland (First reported 04-26-13): A police officer pled guilty to misconduct in office and resigned. Investigators found at least 120 images and at least 20 videos of him engaged in sexual acts. The time codes on the photos show that they were taken during his time working and a police uniform is visible in some of them.
  • Wheeling, West Virginia: A former sheriff will spend a year in federal prison for his role in the beating of a robbery suspect. He will also serve 18 months’ probation and pay his victim $1,850.
  • Strasburg, Virginia: A police officer lost his job over accusations that he used excessive force against a suspect in a drug case, falsified records and violated safety rules without a threat to life. Said the chief in a letter to the officer, “Although you deny the allegations, the evidence in this case is overwhelmingly against you in all three allegations.”
  • East St. Louis, Illinois: A police officer was among seven people named in a federal indictment, alleging they operated a cocaine distribution ring. He has been charged with possession and conspiracy to distribute more than 5 kilograms of cocaine.
  • Update: Saginaw, Michigan (First reported 07-23-13): A now former police trooper involved in a crash that injured another state trooper has been sentenced for a moving violation causing serious impairment and failing to use due care when passing a stationary emergency vehicle. He was ordered to pay $1,025 in fines.
  • California, Pennsylvania: Two police officers have been suspended as a result of an incident that the police chief believes put the public at risk. A bar fight broke out and the two on-duty officers had left for a couple hours for an unauthorized errand miles away, which left only one officer to patrol the entire borough on a busy Friday night.
  • Los Banos, California: The police department’s second highest ranking officer has been convicted of drunken driving, according to a county assistant district attorney.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-10-13

Here are the 11 reports of police misconduct tracked for Friday, May 10, 2013:

  • Mansfield, Louisiana: A police sergeant has been given a 15-day suspension without pay following an off-duty incident involving another officer. The second officer was not disciplined because she is already on suspension for an earlier unrelated incident. Mansfield aldermen are expected to consider a recommendation to fire her.
  • Jackson, Mississippi: A police officer was arraigned in federal court for federal bribery charges. The indictment states that he offered $10,000 to another officer “in connection with business transactions” of the JPD, involving things worth $5,000 or more.
  • Baltimore, Maryland: An officer has been charged by state police with prostitution and human trafficking in connection with an investigation into an escort service. The officer is accused of pimping out his wife.
  • Marinette, Wisconsin: A police officer has been charged with fraud for allegedly writing himself checks from the Police Explorers bank account. He is charged with two counts of theft by fraud. Each count is punishable by up to nine months in prison or a $10,000 fine.
  • Update: Barren County, Kentucky (First reported 05-02-13): A jury has found the sheriff guilty on two counts of witness tampering stemming from the arrest of a suspect who claims he was beaten. The same jury returned not guilty verdicts for two other law enforcement officers.
  • Cedar Park, Texas: A sergeant with the Texas Department of Public Safety SWAT team was suspended with pay this week after police arrested him on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.
  • Montgomery, Alabama: Another former state trooper was sentenced for using a state credit card to buy gasoline for his personal use. He was sentenced to three years, which was suspended for three years of probation, and ordered to pay $1,225 in restitution.
  • DeLand, Florida: A man who was fleeing from a traffic stop wound up dead; he was run over by a police car. The traffic stop was initiated because he was not wearing a seatbelt. “Marlon was running because he was scared,” said a friend. “He had a suspended license and was on probation and he was afraid.” Angry neighbors, relatives, and friends said they are tired of police’s rough handling of citizens in their neighborhood.
  • Marion County, Indiana: A deputy was arrested after officials said he was driving while intoxicated. They said he had a .21 BAC, which is nearly three times the legal limit.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: The city paid $93,450 to a deaf motorist who was pepper-sprayed during a traffic stop and jailed for four days. The police officer involved in the incident lashed out at the deaf driver with whom he had difficulty communicating.
  • Aynor, South Carolina: A former police officer was arrested a day after he was fired when an investigation discovered he asked a woman to lift her shirt in exchange for a traffic ticket being dismissed. “It is the mission of the Aynor Police Department to maintain the highest standards of ethical conduct for police officers,” said the police chief in a statement.

Brady v. Maryland — 50 Year Anniversary

Today marks the 50th anniversary of one of the most important criminal justice rulings of the Supreme Court.  On May 13, 1963 the Supreme Court issued its landmark decision in the case of Brady v. Maryland.  The case stands for the proposition that the government has a legal obligation to disclose exculpatory evidence and information to the accused and his defense attorney.  Here is the key passage:

We now hold that the suppression by the prosecution of evidence favorable to an accused upon request violates due process where the evidence is material either to guilt or to punishment, irrespective of the good faith or bad faith of the prosecution...  Society wins not only when the guilty are convicted, but when criminal trials are fair; our system of the administration of justice suffers when any accused is treated unfairly.

I like this language from a related case that the Court quotes approvingly:

“Petitioner’s papers are inexpertly drawn, but they do set forth allegations that his imprisonment resulted from perjured testimony, knowingly used by the State authorities to obtain his conviction, and from the deliberate suppression by those same authorities of evidence favorable to him. These allegations sufficiently charge a deprivation of rights guaranteed by the Federal Constitution, and, if proven, would entitle petitioner to release from his present custody….”

We should all be troubled that this rule was not clearly established in our law long before 1963, but better late than never.  And do note that the prosecutor cannot turn over evidence if the police have kept it from him.

Let’s take a concrete example to illustrate what this is all about.  Let’s say a  jewelery store was robbed by a guy with a gun yesterday.  Police arrived shortly thereafter to investigate and interview witnesses at the scene.  Three witnesses say the robber was an Asian male in his 50s.  Two witnesses say the robber was a white guy in his 30s.

Seven months later an Asian family arrives at your law office and asks you to represent their relative, a man who has been arrested for that jewelery store robbery.  Your client turns out to be an Asian male, age 55.  He has no criminal record.  He says he is innocent, but he has no alibi–home alone watching television is his story.  The prosecutor offers a plea bargain:  Your client pleads guilty and must do one year in prison.  If the deal is rejected and you insist on a trial, it’ll be a 10 year prison sentence.    The prosecutor informs you that this case is “open and shut”–showing you police reports of three witnesses from the scene.  And these three people also picked your client from a police line-up.   He says,  “Do we have a deal, or not?”   Since you are in the dark about the other two witnesses, you recommend to your client that he take the deal and plead guilty.  The client hates the deal, but he is frightened by the prospect of 10 years in prison and is unnerved that his own lawyer says that he will probably lose in court.  So he pleads guilty and is taken to prison.  You and the prosecutor move on to other cases.

The Brady rule is supposed to make such scenarios impossible.  As noted, the rule says the prosecution has to tell the defense about those other 2 witnesses and their statements that constitute exculpatory evidence for your client.  But there is a serious shortcoming with the Brady rule.  It is sorta like  the 55 mph speed limit for motorists on the highway.  Violations are common.   In 2010, a federal judge wrote, “The persistent recurrence of inadvertent violations of defendants’ constitutional right to discovery in the District of Massachusetts persuades this court that it is insufficient to rely on the Department of Justice training programs for prosecutors alone to assure that the government’s obligation to produce certain information to defendants is understood and properly discharged.”  In 2009, a federal judge in Washington, DC threw out the criminal case against Alaska Senator Ted Stevens.  The judge said withholding evidence that could be helpful to defendants had become a troubling trend.

The troubling trend is found in the state courts as well.  John Thompson spent 18 years in prison, 14 of those years isolated on death row, before exculpatory evidence came to light.  He did not commit the crimes of armed robbery and murder.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg noted that this was no isolated incident in New Orleans:  “From the top down, the evidence showed, members of the District Attorney’s Office, including the District Attorney himself, misperceived Brady’s compass and therefore inadequately attended to their disclosure obligations … Based on the prosecutors’ conduct relating to Thompson’s trials, a fact trier could reasonably conclude that inattention to Brady was standard operating procedure at the District Attorney’s Office.”  See Connick v. Thompson  (2011).

So we have 50 years of experience now and still great reluctance to face the fact that Brady is mostly a paper tiger.  When violations do come to light, often years later, the courts typically engage in a “harmless error” analysis.  That is, they look to see if the outcome of the case would have been any different if the rules had been followed.  If not, the court will just scold the prosecutor that what he did was improper but the conviction will stand.  In my book, I suggest the courts adopt another rule: Automatic retrials whenever a Brady violation comes to light.  This stricter rule would, I argue,  “spur officials to meet their obligation, and improve the overall administration of justice.”  The Innocence Project is proposing another approach in Texas and elsewhere.

For a related article where I discuss the connection between plea bargains and the Brady rule more fully, go here.

National Police Misconduct NewsFeed Daily Recap 05-09-13

Here are the 9 reports of police misconduct tracked for Thursday, May 9, 2013:

  • Wichita, Kansas: The city has been sued twice over claims that the same police officer drove dangerously while on duty, leading to the death of a 12-year-old in one instance and resulting in serious injuries to a motorist in another. According to the lawsuits, the officer’s actions have been called into question in three separate incidents in less than two years.
  • Bethel, Alaska: A police officer is being charged with being intoxicated while on the scene of a police shooting. He was not the officer shooting, but he was assisting at the scene. The state is charging him with three misdemeanors: two counts of DUI and one count of misconduct involving a weapon.
  • Caseyville, Illinois:  The police chief has been charged with two felonies, both alleging official misconduct. He is accused of using a vehicle seized by police for his own personal use. He is also charged with taking luggage purchased by the village and using it for himself.
  • Umatilla, Florida: The police chief is on paid administrative leave, and could be fired, pending the internal investigation. One of his officers detained and questioned two 13-year-old middle-school students without their parents being present in the room. “I cannot find a good cause or reasoning behind why the parents of the children arrested were not allowed to be in the interviews,” the city manager said.
  • Washington, DC: Civil rights lawyers filed two lawsuits alleging that Metro Transit Police officers assaulted two teenagers in separate incidents and then fabricated charges to justify arresting them.
  • Update: Wilcox County, Georgia (First reported 10/25/12): The former sheriff was sentenced to ten years in prison for assaulting an inmate inside of the county jail and for conspiring to cover up the incident. “Today’s sentence reflects that law enforcement officers who assault inmates in their custody and make false statements erode the trust of the people that they have sworn to protect,” said the Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the civil rights division.
  • Newark, New Jersey: A police officer admitted in federal court to fraudulently receiving $60,000 in federal public housing assistance for a home he owned in the city. He remains suspended without pay, but has agreed to voluntarily resign his position.
  • St. Petersburg, Florida: An officer who was in a high-speed car crash was suspended without pay for five days and ordered to attend remedial driving school, following an internal review of the incident.
  • McKenzie, Tennessee: A police chief has been accused of stealing city property, including a tractor and two street sweepers. The items were valued at over $10,000 and went missing while he was the chief.
  • Abilene, Texas: A police officer has quit after being arrested on charges of public intoxication and firing a gun in a public place.

Man Run Over by Police Cruiser

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal:

Investigators are searching for answers and members of a DeLand neighborhood are angry, all wondering how a man fleeing early Wednesday morning from a traffic stop ended up dead, run over by a police car.

Details about the incident remain sketchy. But preliminary reports indicate Marlon Brown, 38, fled from an attempted traffic stop, first in the vehicle he was driving, and then on foot.

A minute later, as Brown ran through a field, two DeLand police officers who heard the call over the radio followed in their patrol cars. Somehow, one of the police cars ended up knocking down a fence at the end of the field, and Brown ended up dead, under the car.

It all started because the man was not wearing his seat belt.

H/T:  Reason

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