Articles Posted in abuse by police

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The jury selection process was dicey. Who among you is open to the idea that the police aren’t telling the truth and the Defendant is? A few hands went up. Most just stared at the Defendant wondering why she was going to trial. Who among you will judge the officers’ testimony just like any other witness? Well, now, this case just might be more interesting than the civil fraud case down the hall. Everybody seemed willing to keep an open mind if the choice is the prostitution trial or listening to a series of bad checks being reviewed.

So twelve citizens who couldn’t think of a good enough reason not to be there were sworn in as the jury. 9 women and 3 men were on the panel.

The detective testified he came into the spa, paid his money, and got an excellent massage until the time when the Defendant started lightly touching his privates. At that point he negotiated a “happy ending” for $30.00. The detective who was in the parking lot listening in on a concealed audio device, come on now, it was hidden in his pants hanging on a chair, heard the bust signal and came rushing in.

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In an effort to stamp out crime, the undercover officer entered the business slowly, looking around for any sign of the criminal activity. He thoughtfully removed a $100 bill and gave it to the suspect. He was directed into the darkness of the back room. Slowly, ever so slowly, he removed every piece of clothing that he had on. Then, all in the line of duty, he laid down on the table, not knowing what to expect next. The suspect came in ready to give him his money’s worth.

The suspect firmly and then with ever increasing pressure massaged the officers not so supple body. After what seemed like an eternity, the officer, who of course now was completely and fully engaged, asked for what he had come for. Will you give me sex? He questioned the suspect again and again. She, not wanting to do anything other then make an honest living, was taken aback. Repeatedly she refused, offering only a legitimate massage.

The officer, feeling unsatisfied, gave the secret arrest signal anyway.

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It wasn’t too long ago that I cautioned those who were comfortable with law enforcement practices to ask “Who watches the watchers?” On the heels of a nationwide scandal involving the NSA and their blatant violations of our Constitutional rights comes a scandal that strikes much closer to home. 18 L.A. County Sherriff’s deputies working in L.A. County jails have been indicted for multiple counts of federal civil rights violations.

Ranging in rank from deputies to sergeants to lieutenants, in other words, all the way up to supervisors, these 18 deputies are accused of violently beating inmates, detaining visitors against their will, and obstructing investigations into their wrongdoing by hiding away inmate victims from the FBI. In fact, these deputies attempted to intimidate an FBI Agent at her home, going so far as to tell her they were seeking a warrant for her arrest . What may have been the final indignity, among all the indignities suffered by the general public visiting friends and relatives in custody, was the detention and roughing up an Austrian Consulate official attempting to visit an inmate. This event apparently reached the ears of the Federal government when the Austrian government complained about the abusive treatment suffered by their official. Apparently it’s not enough to get action when only American citizens complain of mistreatment and abuse. Let a foreign dignitary get abused and it’s guaranteed action by those in power.

Abuse by the law enforcement agents we trust to protect our citizens and, yes, even our citizens who have been detained either suspected of or accused of a crime can’t be tolerated by a law abiding society. It’s easy to think that anyone in jail should suffer whatever consequences await him or her. But that is dangerous thinking because it is against the principles of our Constitution and basic notions of humanity (5th amendment, 6th amendment, 8th amendment). It reduces our democracy and our civil liberties if we, as a society, tolerate such rampant abuse. We entrust our law enforcement officials with the duty to protect all of us. We must remain vigilant as a society. The FBI and federal government are doing the right thing, but it should never have come to this in the first place. Our state and local communities must demand our law enforcement officials live up to the motto written on the side of their patrol cars, “To Serve and Protect”. It’s time the motto is changed to read, “To Serve and Protect Everyone Equally”.

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Los-Angeles-CA-Justice-DENIED.jpgOn November 8, 2013, the Los Angeles Times had a headline that read, “34 year wait for justice is over”. The defendant, Kash Register, was convicted of murder in 1979 on the testimony of a woman named Brenda Anderson. Register spent 34 years in State Prison maintaining his innocence. He couldn’t be paroled because he always maintained his innocence. He refused to admit to a murder he didn’t commit. The Parole Board is programmed to deny parole to those inmates who don’t admit their crime because without an admission, how can the inmate be rehabilitated?

So, Register languished in prison, denied his freedom, the basic human rights of American citizens, but not the love of his family, who believed in him from the beginning. Along came Loyola Law School who diligently sought out the truth.

What truth were they seeking? The truth that the prosecution had failed to disclose to Register’s defense attorneys that Brenda Anderson’s sister had told LAPD before trial that her sister was lying. Brenda Anderson’s sister told the police in 1979 that the man she had seen commit the murder was not Register.

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Hiding-Evidence.jpgSubvert the criminal justice system. Lie to the judge. Hide evidence. Sounds like a defendant in a criminal case doesn’t it?

Who else could it be? If it isn’t the criminal defendant, it must be the much maligned criminal defense attorney, right? You know who he or she is, right? He’s the one who you love to ask at cocktail parties, how can you represent those guys (defendants in a criminal case)?

Well, it’s not either one of the above. In the case of the State of Texas against Michael Morton, the liar was none other than the prosecutor, Ken Anderson.

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Feel like a cop roughed you up or is lying in his police report? Contrary to popular belief, not every person who is arrested is a liar, and sometimes they’re telling the truth when they tell people the cops beat them up or are lying about what happened. That’s not to say that all cops are bad apples, but some certainly do less than their best in serving the public.

In California, a well-trained criminal defense attorney would know to file a Pitchess motion. A Pitchess motion (named after a landmark California case) is where an attorney asks the local police agency to give them any recent records that a cop may have used excessive force or been reported for lying. Such evidence can be absolutely crucial in establishing that you aren’t just making everything up, and also in making sure a jury knows that just because someone is a cop, they are not an angel! Make sure you hire a criminal defense attorney who is in court every day and is well acquainted with the nuances of criminal defense law. Only that kind of attorney can be counted on to remember all of your rights when you need them most!

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Are you trying to get your belongings back after the police took them away? It’s an all too common situation to be in. The police have taken you into custody or searched your house. After tearing through your stuff they decide to keep certain things that are valuable to you and probably don’t have much to do with why they’re there. Well, just because they have taken your belongings the police don’t have the right to keep them! Even if you’ve been arrested or the police had a search warrant, an experienced defense attorney has a good chance of getting your property back for you.

Penal Code §1536 commands the police to keep anything they take from you in their custody. They can’t just dump it off at an auction or say they “lost it”! §1536 also says that the court can order the police to release your belongings back to you at their discretion! An inexperienced attorney may not know that the law entitles you to get your possessions back. An experienced attorney can write a §1536 Motion to Return Property and get the judge to order your property returned to you.

This is just another reason why it’s very important to have the right attorney helping you at all times to make sure your rights and your property are respected.

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When the police arrive at a crime scene the yellow tape goes up securing the scene. We’ve all seen it on the television show, CSI. In fact, according to CSI Los Angeles, Miami, Navy and everywhere on television it’s the science of the crime scene investigation which solves the crime. The rest of the actors are just the means to the end. It’s the DNA, fingerprint analysis, and countless other scientific advances that lead to the solving of the crime. But, what happens to the evidence once it’s collected?

It’s the Crime Scene Investigator’s job to collect the evidence. This evidence can be identified by the first responders, the detectives at the scene, and the CSI people themselves. Some of it is located simply by drawing a chalk mark around it and some has to be found by means of instruments. Once collected it’s placed in collection containers. These can be as simple as paper lunch sacks. For example, bullet casings are often placed into paper lunch sacks. The container is then closed and secured with evidence tape, initialed by the collector, and placed into an evidence locker for later analysis or use in court.

But, what happens if the evidence is collected and then given back to the victim? For example, if a wallet is stolen, and the culprit is found a short time later with the wallet often times the police will give the wallet back to the victim. Sometimes photographs may be taken to preserve the look of the item but the possibility of forensic analysis is lost forever to the suspect. DNA analysis is no longer a possibility once the item is returned without any attempt to preserve the item for analysis.

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My client was represented by another lawyer for 18 months. Not satisfied with the fact that his lawyer wanted him to plead guilty to stabbing two people at a party (violations of Penal Code Section 245(a)) he hired me. The Defendant told me he had been to a party where one of his friends had brought a NOS tank. NOS is nitrous oxide and is used by many young people to get high. The owner of the house where the party was being held didn’t want the NOS at the party and told the Defendant and his friends to leave. Before the Defendant could leave he was confronted by numerous party goers who decided they would attack him and teach him a lesson.

The Defendant was confronted by multiple individuals who were threatening him. He found a knife near the NOS tank and was waving it in front of him in order to ward off the attackers. He knew he had not stabbed anyone and certainly hadn’t stabbed anyone intentionally. A friendly stranger stepped in and grabbed the Defendant’s hand and led him out of the party to a place of safety across the street. During the trip across the street to safety the stranger noticed his hand had been cut by the knife in the Defendant’s hand. The Defendant apologized for cutting him and left the area. Before he left, he threw the knife in the bushes. After leaving he decided throwing the knife away wasn’t a good idea and he went back to retrieve it. Of course, when he did that he was arrested for a stabbing that had occurred at the party and for cutting the stranger’s hand.

At the police station he was questioned by the police. The reports stated that the Defendant had confessed to stabbing the two victims at the party. My client denied ever having said any such thing. Fortunately, the conversation at the station was recorded. The previous lawyer had not listened to the tape recording so he didn’t know when the police officer testified at the Preliminary Hearing as to what was in his reports, that the report itself was either a lie or just inaccurate. Either way, when I listened to the audio it was clear the client was telling the truth, he never confessed to stabbing anyone and , in fact, had denied it.

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The United States Supreme Court on January 11, 2012, rendered a decision in Perry v. New Hampshire, that limits the ability of the defense to successfully attack a suggestive or unreliable identification of the defendant by an eyewitness. Eyewitness identification has long been the subject of commentary and even experiments. Many of us have seen the video of or even participated in a situation where a professor has a classroom full of students when a subject rushes in steals the professor’s purse and the class is asked to describe the suspect. It’s incredible how varied the descriptions of the suspect are. Different facial features, races, clothing, height and weight and numerous other identifiers have been listed by witnesses seeing the same thing. How many times have you been in line at a theater, seen someone you think you recognize and been mistaken? It’s happened to all of us.

Stress of an unexpected, even scary, situation can affect one’s perception and ability to accurately identify suspects or describe events. On a personal note, I witnessed a car crash right in front of my eyes. I stopped, waited for the police, submitted to an interview, and was told that my account was completely “wrong”. Physical evidence and other eyewitnesses made it quite obvious that what I thought I had seen was just plain in error. I didn’t mean to mess it up or make a mistake, it just happens because when events occur quickly under unexpected conditions what we think we see isn’t always what actually happened.

Now, when a police officer investigates a crime and gets a description of the suspect from the victim he can just take the information or by his questions and technique he can influence the identification. For example, when a photograph of a suspect is shown to a victim several similar looking photos are used in a “six pack”. The eyewitness is asked to view the subjects, admonished it’s just as important to exonerate the innocent as to find the guilty person and just because a picture is in the “six pack” it doesn’t mean the perpetrator’s photo is contained in it. When that doesn’t happen and a singular photo is shown to a witness and no positive identification is made, what do you expect would happen if that same singular photo is placed in a subsequent “six pack” ? Isn’t that overly suggestive? Isn’t that type of police technique almost ensuring the identification of the photo of the singular photo individual? Of course it is. Once suggestive procedures like this one are used, the ultimate identification of the suspect (now defendant) taints the whole process. Now you will never know if the identification is the product of what the eyewitness saw or the suggestive procedure used by the police.