Exoneration of the Day - Innocent Couple Framed for Assault on Police Officers and Obstruction of Justice
Our justice system relies on police officers to gather the evidence necessary to convict criminals of breaking the law; it relies on prosecutors to piece that evidence together to prove guilt, judges to facilitate fair process, and criminal defense attorneys to protect a defendant’s rights from illegal intrusion. When charged with a crime, we cannot control which police officers investigate, which prosecutor files the charges, or which judge presides over the trial. We can, however, control which defense attorney defends our freedom.
Three Kansas police officers responding to a 911 call showed up at the home of a young couple on a September evening in 2014. The couple informed the officers that their presence was not necessary because there was no emergency in their home. Within a few minutes, the woman found herself under arrest. She was subsequently charged with disobeying a police order and obstructing justice. At a bench trial (which means there is no jury, just a judge), the officers testified that her male co-tenant had assaulted them and the couple became combative during the encounter. Her criminal defense attorney really dropped the ball by failing to obtain and review the video captured by a body cam worn by one of the officers. The judge returned a verdict of guilty on both charges based on the officers’ testimony. However, the day after trial, the prosecutor watched the body cam video for the first time and saw that the officers lied; the video showed that the male co-tenant had not assaulted the officers and that the couple had not been combative toward the police. The prosecutor then filed a motion to vacate and dismiss all charges based on this newly discovered evidence. The motion was granted before she was even sentenced thanks to the timely actions of an exemplary prosecutor.
This woman was exceedingly lucky to have been saved by a conscientious prosecutor. If you ever face criminal charges, remember to control what you can control and make sure your defense attorney protects your freedom with more than just luck.