A recent case out of Massachusetts shows the obligation state prosecutors have in charging citizens with crimes.
In this case, four men are facing gun charges and the police didn’t secure a video tape that could have cleared their names.
Surprisingly, this happens with more frequency than one might expect. Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers have seen time and time again where police get some type of evidence in a case and manage to lose it, mislabel it or otherwise taint it.
This violates a defendant’s due process rights. Every person charged with a crime has the right to examine evidence that the prosecution intends to use to try to put them in prison. It’s a basic right that sometimes gets trampled upon.
In drug cases in Jacksonville, for instance, police must carefully store evidence they find in order to prove the weight, which goes a long way toward proving a person is guilty of the crime. In other cases, evidence seized may stay in a cop’s trunk for an entire shift, get mixed up with other evidence or otherwise lose its authenticity.
Police are notorious for tramping through crime scenes and doing harm to their own cases and potentially denying a defendant evidence they may be able to use in their favor. When officers get a call of a violent nature, their first goal is to rush into the house and ensure it’s secure and that there are no people with weapons inside.
Their second goal is to make sure that if someone is harmed, they get the medical attention they require. In the meantime, officers will leave fingerprints everywhere and trample upon potential footprints, DNA and fingerprints. This can contaminate the evidence they hope to use to find a suspect.
In the case outside Boston, The Sun Chronicle reports, four men were charged earlier this year with being involved in a gun offense outside a gas station. But rather than secure the video tape from the scene, police left it at the gas station. One officer saw it because he mentioned it in his police report.
But rather than get a copy, the gas station workers were allowed to eventually tape over the surveillance video, so the defendants no longer have it available to use in their defense. They believe the video will show that they aren’t guilty. But because it’s not available, they will never know.
A judge is expected to rule on whether not having the tape violates the defendants’ Constitutional rights. Their lawyers are asking that the judge drop the charges against them. The judge is expected to make a decision in the next few weeks.
Prosecutors are required to ensure that all evidence that is available — not just what is favorable to their case — is handed over to the defense. That means that even if they speak with a witness who may not have seen anything, they should note it in a report so that the defense can speak with that person. This is essential to guarantee a Jacksonville criminal defendant gets a fair trial.
The Forbess Law Firm has been aiding clients who face criminal charges in Jacksonville for more than a decade and is here to provide aggressive criminal defense to anyone accused of a crime. If you or a loved one requires a Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer, contact our firm today. We are available through our website or by calling us at 904-634-0900.
More Blog Entries:
Jacksonville Man Accused in Drug-Related Shooting: November 5, 2011
Two Charged After Jacksonville Strip Mall Shooting: November 1, 2011
Gas station security video accidentally taped over, by David Linton, The Sun Chronicle