The Supreme Judicial Court in Massachusetts has ruled that a documented “pattern of racial profiling of black males in the city of Boston,” makes an instinctive reaction to flee reasonable. “We do not eliminate flight as a factor in the reasonable suspicion analysis whenever a black male is the subject of an investigatory stop. However, in such circumstances, flight is not necessarily probative of a suspect’s state of mind or consciousness of guilty,” the decision reads. The law goes a long way to protecting common-sense reactions but fails in its scope. Why is this only limited to black males? Surely, given recent events of police shootings and unlawful civil forfeiture, everyone has an instinctive reaction to flee. Earlier, this office wrote a blog about a woman who had plead guilty to Felony Possession of a Controlled Substance after a flawed roadside chemical test read that her Advil was Crack Cocaine. Surely she now has an instinctive miss-trust of police. How about the Police in Mesa County who used a S.W.A.T. team to raid the wrong house? Surely that family has reason to flee from the police. The decision is a step in the right direction but is flawed and inherently racist. All peoples should have this protection. Fleeing the cops should not be used to demonstrate guilt or for reasonable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot. The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the field of Criminal Defense. We know that not all cops are out to protect society. If you have been wrongfully charged with an offense don’t hesitate to give our office a call.
Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor has written many dissents this year on cases involving the Criminal Justice system. Taken together, they appear to be a remarkable body of work from an increasingly skeptical student on the criminal justice system. The major dissent written was for the case Utah v. Streiff. In this case, a police officer stopped a man for no reason and arrested him on an outstanding warrant, finding illegal drugs in the search and arrest process. The Court ruled that the drugs found were admissible evidence in the case, but Sotomayor dissented. “What stops us,” she asked, “from becoming a police state and just having the police stand on the corner down here and stop every person, ask them for identification, put it through, and, if a warrant comes up, searching them?” In a town like Ferguson, where 80 percent of residents have minor traffic warrants, the potential for a de-facto police state has been created.
In July of 2012, Steven Galack was arrested on an out-of-state warrant for failing to pay child support. He was packed up in a prisoner van run by small private company. From Florida to Ohio, he was crammed into the back of the small van with many other arrestees without a bathroom or room to lie down. The drivers of the van are on a strict schedule. If they are late to one drop off appointment the company starts to lose money. There is no time to pay attention to the men and women piled in back. No time for bathroom breaks, and definitely no time to stop and sleep. It was 90 degrees outside and the Air Conditioning in the van was faulty. Mr. Galack started to become delusional. He began to ramble, scream, and kept the rest of the arrestees awake during the ride. The van stopped in Georgia, and one of the two guards driving the van told the other arrestees “Only body shots,” as they began to take turns beating Mr. Galack. The guard noticed Mr. Galack was dead more than 70 miles later, in Tennessee. Subsequent investigations turned up no convictions, and no reform for the private van company. This is the current state of the extradition process in many Southern and Mid-Western states. The article below details several such incidents. The article does not mention that much is being done to fix the gross injustice of prisoner transportation, and the hellish conditions that it entails.
Cite: Eli Hager and Alysia Santo, The New York Times, 7/6/2016
New limits on police authority are nearing approval in the Colorado legislature. The bills were put forth last year attempted to ban police from using chokeholds on suspects but experienced fierce opposition from police groups and Republicans. This year’s bill has been edited and includes compromises to suit all parties. Last year’s bill prohibited officers from using a choke hold. This year’s bill narrows that definition to ban only chokeholds that cut off air flow, not those that cut off blood flow. Police say it’s an important distinction. Sen. John Cook, a Republican from Weld county said the chokehold ban has been amended to the point that “the only one that would do it is a bad cop.” Sen. Michael Johnston of Denver said the amended bill still addresses public concerns about chokeholds. “This is in response to come of the tragedies that have happened because of overuse of the chokehold,” and “puts guardrails around when this can be used.” While some ban on chokeholds is obviously necessary, it is scary that the bill needed to be so specifically amended. In the heat of the moment, will an officer be able to determine if the suspect in question can breathe? Will the bill prohibit a chokehold if the suspect explicit states they can’t breathe? The compromises are yet another example of police fighting tooth and nail against restrictions to their power. Body cameras, restrictions on their ability to shoot at moving cars, and now the right to use a chokehold are all topics the police have lobbied against. Is it really so difficult for police to do their jobs, under surveillance and without violence? Sure, in some cases police need to use violence to subdue a violent suspect but that is also why we equip them with a baton, Taser, pepper spray, and gun. Why do they still need the chokehold? The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the field of Criminal Defense. Call our Denver office today for a Free Consultation.
This month, Aurora gave its police officers the authority to shoot at a moving vehicle when it poses a danger to the officer or members of the public- a shift from previous police that comes when other departments, including Denver, have moved away from such practices. The actual language in the Aurora Police Department policy changed from “will not” to “should not.” The language also states that officers should not shoot at a moving vehicle unless someone in the vehicle is using threatening deadly force by means other than the vehicle itself. “It really changes nothing,” Police Division Chief Jim Puscian said. Aurora Police have said the law comes with strict scrutiny. That being said, the public has seen the inability of Police Departments to hold themselves accountable. What the change in policy did was gave Police Officers the right to shoot at a moving car. It seems very difficult for an officer outside of a moving vehicle to assess a deadly threat from within the vehicle, if the vehicle itself is taken out of the equation. Additionally shooting at moving vehicle is incredibly dangerous public policy. Expecting a Police Officer to make accurate, controlled shots at a moving vehicle is a very tall order. This reminds me of a story I covered last year of an active shooter outside of the Empire State Building in New York City. New York City Police Officers, some of the best trained in the country, fired multiple shots at an armed individual and missed the target several times and hit innocent bystanders. And this is the with the best trained force and a target on foot. Imagine the scene of officers trying to hit a moving vehicle. And that is nothing to say if the officer is lucky enough to hit his target, then what? You have a potentially incapacitated driver at the wheel? The policy is a move away from other police departments and is probably a move to reduce police liability.
The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the area of Criminal Defense. We offer Flat Rate Retainers and competitive pricing. Call our office today for a free consultation.
Colorado is one of several states that does relatively little to keep cops with blemished records from being rehired. One example is Officer David Guiterman, who was involved in an excessive force lawsuit in Los Angles. Guiterman put a mentally-ill suspect into the back of a police car, pepper-sprayed the handcuffed man, and then closed the door effectively creating a gas-chamber like environment for the suspect. Guiterman later found work in Colorado, where he was arrested on charges of Domestic Violence. Cases like Guitermanns’ are not unique to Colorado. In fact, it is fairly common for bad cops to find work across state lines, and Colorado has some of the most relaxed procedures in this regard. Smaller towns often hire these cops because of a “We’re a small town, and we’ll get what we can get” kind of mentality. In many of these towns, officers are not screened, and there is no check into their background. What it creates is an environment where officers are not held accountable for their decisions. Lyle Mann, executive director of the Peace Officers Standards and Training Board in Arizona notes the in Colorado, there is a lower threshold for revoking the licenses of physicians for wrongdoing than for decertifying police. You can pick you doctor, but the police get to pick you. The Law offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the area of criminal defense and dealing with false accusations. Call our Denver office today for a free consultation.
Cite: Christopher N. Osher, The Denver Post, 10/11/2015.
The death of Freddy Gray has now led to the indictment of 6 police officers involved in his arrest. The officers had a motions hearing on Wednesday and their defense attorney’s lead the charge on some interesting procedures of criminal law. Police officers are usually on the opposing side of the bench when helping prosecutors dig up evidence in a case. Police are also used to the seemingly unlimited resources and media attention provided from the State to help them prosecute crimes and overwhelm typically indigent criminal defendants. This time, the indicted officers are forced to rely on the people they usually work against, the criminal defense attorney’s.
Each of the officers will have a separate trial and each will be tried in Baltimore. At the last hearing, the defense argued that the jury pool in Baltimore had been tainted by prosecutor Marylin Mosby’s comments to the media. When talking to the media, Mosby did mention some facts about the case including the knife in Freddy Gray’s pocket as well categorizing the actions taken that day by the officers. The defense used her comments as an attempt to dismiss the trials altogether. The judge denied those motions. In Baltimore these officers are now subject to the justice system they used to work for. This is not an enviable situation to be in, but I can assure you they appreciate the protections that a criminal defense attorney can provide to counterbalance the power of the State. The Police and Defense Attorneys are unusual friends, but as the saying goes, “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” The Law Offices of Steven J. Pisani specialize in the area of Criminal Defense. Call our Denver office today for a free consultation.
Cite: Lynh Bui and Ovetta Wiggins, Washington Post, 9/2/2015
A former Federal Heights Police Department officer, Mark Magness, pleaded guilty to attempted assault in June after he assaulted a robbery suspect. Evidence captured while wearing a body camera shows the officer threw the suspect into a refrigerator and viciously punched him several times. The incident was reported by fellow officers, and the incident was luckily caught on tape via body camera. This was the second time this officer had been charged for using excessive force against a suspect. In 2009, he plead guilty to a reckless endangerment charge and was allowed to remain a Federal Heights police officer. Police chief Karl Wilmes was not chief in 2009 and does not know why Magness was not terminated back in 2009. Magness’ attorney said his client no longer works for law enforcement and that the firing of Magness will not be appealed. “I busted him up,” Magness said on the video. “I take full responsibility”. If you feel you are the victim of excessive force, call the Law Offices of Steven Pisani, LLC. We specialize in Criminal Defense. Call us today for a free consultation.
The US Prosecutors have charged the six officers involved with manslaughter and police misconduct among a slew of other charges in the death of Freddie Gray. Charges will not bring Freddie Gray’s life back, but it does at least tilt the scales of justice toward balance. The officers will be given a fair hearing, trial and a due process along with criminal defense counsel that they did not give to their victim; a victim who apparently should not have been arrested in the first place. Mr. Gray was arrested for possession of an illegal weapon but the knife he possessed was not a switchblade as claimed by officers and was not illegal.
Baltimore has just become, with US Prosecutor Marilyn Mosby’s courageous actions, a leader in seeking justice for not only for African-Americans, but for anyone who have suffered at the hands of indiscriminate police abuses.
Denver’s police union was calling for the city’s top cop to resign for letting protesters dump red paint on a memorial for fallen officers during a protest.
Police Chief Robert White told his officers not to interfere with protesters outside police headquarters Saturday even as they poured paint all over the stone tribute.
Though he called the vandalism “disgusting,” it did not require “immediate enforcement,” White wrote in an email.
Police were also told to not interact with the protesters either, who were showing their support for Jessie Hernandez, the 17-year-old girl shot by police last month after allegedly threatening to run over an officer with a stolen car.
The non-action highlights the balancing that officers must do sometimes to keep the public peace in light of brazen criminal acts. The Denver Police Department and The Denver Sheriff’s department have been under fire of late with abuses taken place at the jail and questionable training practices.
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