Police Videos have Limitations As Evidence

Police Videos have Limitations As Evidence

Judge's Gavel - Scottsdale DUI Lawyer

Many police departments in Arizona and around the country now use body cameras or in some cases dash camera videos, to record the officer’s actions. While all parties in the criminal justice system would agree that videos are valuable evidence it would be a mistake to assume that videos will necessarily be a quick and easy way to decide issues of guilt in jury trials.

A June 25, 2017 New York Times article, Jurors Find Video Isn’t Providing 20/20 Vision in Police Shootings,  described three cases involving police officer shooting and killing of civilians which were recorded on videos however in none of the cases was the prosecution able to obtain a conviction. Reasons cited in the article for the video evidence not being decisive on the issue of guilt were gaps in video coverage and notwithstanding what events were recorded on the video those events still had viewed through the perspective of the officer as the events were taking place.

In one case, the video recorded the shooting but did not fully show the victim’s actions immediately prior to the shooting.  The defendant-officer testified the deceased was reaching for a weapon and the deceased’s girlfriend said he was not.  Without any video of that possible action immediately before the shooting the jury credited the officer’s testimony over the girlfriend’s and acquitted the defendant-officer.

In another case described in the article both the prosecutor and defendant-officer use the same video to support their respective positions. In the case the defendant-officer shot the victim two times. The amount time which elapsed between the shootings was approximately 1.69 seconds. At the time of the first shot the victim had a gun in his possession. After the first shot the victim through the gun away and so when the defendant-officer fired the send shot the victim was unarmed.  The prosecutor’s theory was the officer was guilty of murder because at the time of the second shot the defendant was unarmed. The prosecutor played the video of the 1.69 second time period individual frame by frame.  That playing of the video frame by frame clearly showed the victim throwing the gun away and that he was unarmed when the defendant-officer fired the second shot.  The defendant-officer’s attorney played exactly the same video at regular speed which showed a very chaotic scene.  The defendant-officer’s point was that video had to be interpreted in light of a rapidly changing chaotic scene in which it would not have been clear to him that the defendant had thrown the weapon away. Thus same video was used to support the prosecutor’s argument that the defendant-officer was guilty and the defendant-officer’s argument he was not guilty. The jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

The point of the New York Times article is video evidence is very important evidence however like any other type of evidence it is subject to limitations and interpretations and therefore is not simply a quick and easy answer questions of guilt.

This is a link to the New York Times article: Jurors Find Video Isn’t Providing 20_20 Vision in Police Shootings – The New York Times.

For more information about Arizona DUI and criminal law issues please contact Gordon Thompson who has used his experience to write a blog on topics of interest. You can also chat with Gordon about your specific questions.   Website:  https://GordonThompsonAttorney.net