Another body camera fiasco leads to dozens of dismissals
In an earlier blog post, we discussed the deplorable state of affairs that caused Baltimore prosecutors to drop dozens of criminal cases — but the news just keeps getting worse.
Prosecutors in Baltimore recently found out that their officers didn’t exactly understand when their body cameras were recording — a fact that caught two officers in the act of planting drugs in a suspect’s property when they couldn’t come up with any legitimate evidence to make an arrest.
Now, a third officer has stepped forward and admitted that evidence on his body camera was a “re-enactment” — rather than the actual seizure of some drug evidence. Prosecutors dropped another 43 pending criminal cases almost immediately. Others may follow once the prosecution finishes identifying all of the cases in which the officer’s testimony is necessary for a conviction.
In order for the legal system to work, an officer of the law’s testimony has to be above reproach. In an ironic twist, the body cameras given officers were designed to encourage the public to trust the city’s police again after several years of civil unrest, public protests and occasional violent reactions to questionable police actions.
Instead, they may have done significantly more damage to the image of Baltimore police — who now have a reputation for being corrupt and willing to do whatever it takes to make a charge stick against anyone they decide to target.
While officials are quick to note that the latest case was self-admitted and the officer isn’t officially suspected of planting evidence, it doesn’t change the fact that — had he not come forward — the jury in any of those 43 cases might have relied on visual evidence that was, in essence, faked. If the jury can’t even trust what it sees on the body cameras officers are wearing, why should a jury convict anyone based on an officer’s word alone?
Problems like these are a signal that arrests that rely solely on evidence provided by one or two officers are automatically questionable — and something that your criminal defense attorney can fight.
An attorney can discuss your pending criminal case regarding drug charges, theft or similar offenses and determine which course of action will work well in your favor.
Source: The Baltimore Sun, “Prosecutors say third body-camera video of 'questionable activity' by police emerges, drop dozens more cases,” Kevin Rector, Tim Prudente and Jessica Anderson, Aug. 21, 2017