Criminal defense lawyers serving: Stanislaus, Sonoma, Tuolumne, Merced, San Joaquin Counties - and Federal Courts in Sacramento and Fresno

“THE BODY-CAM IS THE THING, WHEREIN….”

Many police departments are equipping their officers with body cameras.  This is widely viewed as an advancement in criminal justice, affording a measure of protection for both the peace officer and the public.  It is becoming so commonplace that one must resist the urge to draw adverse conclusions when an agency digs in its heels and refuses to use them.

Kirk McAllister was hired to defend a woman charged with domestic violence.  He substituted in for her previous attorney, who had set the trial three weeks away.  After getting the police reports, the first thing Mr. McAllister did was secure the body camera videos and begin studying them.

The trial began August 15, 2016.

While cross-examining the arresting officer Mr. McAllister asked, “Describe my client’s injuries.”  He answered, “She wasn’t injured.”  Next he asked, “Didn’t you say you would document her injuries?”  The officer again said, “No, she wasn’t injured.”  Finally, Mr. McAllister asked, “Didn’t you offer to photograph her injuries?”  Once again he answered, “No. She wasn’t injured.”

The next day Mr. McAllister played portions of the body cam video for the jurors.  The most dramatic one showed the client sitting in the back of the patrol car,  sobbing (she had never been arrested before).  She pointed to her left arm and said, “What about my injuries?”  The same officer said, “Don’t worry, ma’am. I will document them. I’ll have photographs taken of them.” In fact no photographs were taken of her injuries.

The jury found Kirk McAllister’s client not guilty.

Body camera videos may be helpful or they may be harmful to the defense, but they must be studied by the attorney.  Technological innovations are absorbed by the criminal justice system just as quickly as they affect the rest of society, but there is one constant: it is still thorough preparation that wins cases.

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