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Judges and jurors – Police are not immune from lying

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Fairfax criminal lawyer on challenging police credibility

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Judges and jurors must know that police are not immune from lying.

Consider Michael Picard’s plight. State trooper(s) from my natal state of Connecticut in September 2015 told Picard he was unlawfully filming them. Picard insisted he had the legal right to film them while they were in public. The police then seized his phone, but did not realize that the phone was still recording.

That is where the truly pathetic law enforcement behavior begins, after the inexcusable seizure of Picard’s phone in the first place. At minute 1:5o of the recording, police not only cook up baseless criminal charges to bring against Picard, to cover their “ass” (a cop’s own word), but, for the public disturbance charge, at least one of the cops even cooks up a lie that never-present civilian witnesses of the non-existent disturbance departed before providing statements to the cops.

Prosecutors ultimately dismissed the charges against Picard, but only after he had to obtain a lawyer to defend him, and only after he was on pins and needles about the possible outcome of the case.

In September 2016, Picard filed a civil rights lawsuit against three Connecticut state troopers in this incident in Connecticut federal court. The online docket indicates that Piard’scase is in the early stages of discovery.

A critical part of the role of the judge and jury is to assess the credibility of all witnesses, and not to cloak law enforcement with any more a presumption of credibility than any other witness. A critical part of this assessment is to permit significant latitude to criminal defense lawyers in cross examining cops and other witnesses. Clearly, the police prevarication in Michael Picard’s case underlines that.

Too often, police misconduct does not get recorded, and police deny their wrongdoing.  What would have happened to Michael Picard if no video existed of his encounter with the police?