Friday, April 11, 2008

So why are you so defensive, Officer?

An attorney related this series of deposition questions he asked an officer recently:

Ofc: When the window opened, I smelled the odor of Marijuana.

Atty: What training have you had regarding the odor of Marijuana?

Ofc: When I was in the Police Academy an instructor lighted a marijuana cigarette and allowed all of us to smell it.

Atty: Have you ever smelled marijuana before that?

Ofc: How is that relevant to this case? (officer starts looking at the state attorney and shifting around uneasily in his chair)

Atty: I want to know was this time in training the first time you have ever smelled marijuana?

Ofc: I don't see how this is relevant to this case. Whether I had smelled marijuana before has nothing to do with this case. What does it have to do with this case? (by this point the officer is about jump out of his chair, clearly agitated by the questions)
Atty: So you don't want to answer the question of whether you have smelled marijana before?
Ofc: No.
Atty: Okay, for the record I will certify the question.
I think a peek in the personnel file of this officer, particularly the job application portion, might be worthwhile.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Can I look at Officers Minsky's report before I testify?

An interesting thing occured in Miami today. Seven students who had been charged with various offenses had the charges dropped after the State Attorneys office realized that all of the reports looked way to familiar. I have to give props, which I am loathe to do, to the State Attorneys for actually looking at the reports and deciding not to pursue charges on cases that seemed to be at the worst fraudulent and at best not accurate.

This does, however, bring up another issue that is always bothering me. Everytime I have a case that more that one officer is involved, the officers agree which one writes the report and every one of them review that one report right before they take the stand. While I have gotten most of them to admit to that on the stand, it seems inherently wrong that an officer can witness something and months later use a document he did not assist in preparing to remind him of minor details that he in all probability didn't observe. I know, some of you are saying, "well at least you have depositions so what is the problem. You can use the mistakes he made there and impeach him." Not so easy, since a lot of them decide not to come to deposition and they still use the initial officers reports. I would like for a hard and fast rule, no reports, no testimony.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How about a Happy Meal?

The Florida Legislature has been battling among themselves regarding people who have been wrongfully imprisoned and subsequently exonerated, i.e. by DNA evidence. The Legislature has been trying to develop a plan to make automatic awards based on a number of factors. The Republicans, however, are requiring that the individual have no prior felony convictions, in other words "clean hands" before they will agree to any automatic payment plan.
Currently if someone wants payback for all of the years they have lost due to a wrongful conviction, they have to petition the Legislature. A lot of times they get nothing. Alan Crotzer, who lost twenty four years, more than half his life, due to a wrongful conviction recently got such an award of $1.25 million for his time. He would not be eligible for this award under the Republican plan.

It is amazing that the legislature is being so heartless. You can imagine how much Mr. Crotzer has lost during that time. If he had any children, they are in their mid 20's. He would have missed so much of their lives. When he went to jail, their were no cellphones, Starbucks, mp3 players, things we take for granted these days. What does a prior felony conviction have to do with the fact that for 24 long years, or 8,760 days he was not free.

The payment he is receiving is comes out to approximately $52, 000 per year. He says he is not bitter. He is a better man than I. I cannot see the money being a fair trade off for all the experience of life that he lost. Congratulations Mr. Crotzer and I wish you all the best.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008


Every time I go into court I worry that the jury will always believe the police over my usually multi-convicted client. However it seems that police officers are doing their best to help me out.

Take for example this case. Four deputies from the Orange County Sheriff's Office Narcotic Unit were disciplined, two being dismissed, and two being suspended without pay. All of this came about when one of the deputies was arrested for perjury. An interesting upshot of this is that one of the deputys bought drugs. And there may be yet more hooked once all of the investigations have been completed.

Another example is this case where an officer from the Orlando Police department pushed a woman down the stairs. He arrested the woman saying he spit on her. Unfortunately for this officer, there was an independent video of the incident and did not show the officer wiping his face when he was supposedly spit on. This officer falsified a police report but due to a technicality he could not be punished for this transgression.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Imagine the Expense

The House Committee on Security and Public Safety of the Florida Legislature. voted down a measure 10-1 that would have required that the police record all interrogations in felony cases. One reason was the costs. This is downright funny. Looking at this mornings paper, I noticed that the 750 gb my book external hard drive cost $159. How many hows of interrogation would that hold? The legislature must be assuming that every person arrested for a felony is questioned. I would guess roughly 10 percent are, at best. They also talks about the transitions from a witness to a suspect. Everyone knows that the police routinely talk to the client prior to putting them on tape so that their methods (often the methods used in the Reid techniques) are not discovered. Then after they get them to say what they want them to say, then they put them on tape.

Ironically, if you want to question a police officer about a shooting, you are required to have every word he utters recorded, pursuant to the "Police Bill of Rights" established by Florida Statutes. I guess our constitutional bill of rights is far less important than the police bill of rights.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Don't Tase Me Bro

Orlando is fast becoming the Taser capital of the world. Recently, an eleven year old was tased by a deputy at the school she attended, allegedly because she punched the deputy. Sorry, but I think if the deputy is not sufficiently wary or smart enough to be able to physically control an eleven year old, the department should review it's training guidelines rather than making excuses for the deputy.

The mentality in this area, however is tase first ask questions later. One officer, Jonathan Cute of the Orlando Police Department was sued in federal court for one of his tasing. A subesquent posting on a blog site, if believed, showed that he was extremely tase happy. He is currently on administrative detention in a police shooting of a driver where the driver subsequently died. A taser was used there also.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Uhm, He smoked Marijuana when he was in jail, Judge

Ever have the experience of trying to explain to a judge during a violation of probation hearing that your client tested positive for marijuana a week after being released from jail because he had been smoking the stuff in the jail? And then watch the Judge roll their eyes? Well along comes a story like this and we find redemption!!!

Seems in tiny little Bartow Florida a couple of detention deputies were arrested for providing the inmates with some of the wacky tobaccy. Deputies Michael T. Redmond, and Jarrett R. Brice were the deputies arrested as they had worked a deal with inmate Freddie Street and his girlfriend Latifah Balil to get the marijuana into the jail. So the Polk County Deputies arrested them.