A blog by Miami Criminal Defense Lawyer Brian Tannebaum. Commenting on criminal law issues of local and national interest.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Roll The Tape, And Hold The Stale Defense

The onslaught of videotaped beatings of suspects has created the following script:

1. Beating is taped.
2. Tape is shown all over the world.
3. Outrage over police conduct is expressed.
4. Defenders of the police conduct proclaim that not everything is on the tape. (sometimes that's actually true).
5. Public is asked to withhold judgment.

Now watch this:

Brian Tannebaum is a criminal defense lawyer in Miami, Florida practicing in state and federal court, and the author of The Truth About Hiring A Criminal Defense Lawyer.


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  1. Prince Georges county cops behaving badly? Say it ain't so. At least they didn't shoot his dog.

    This once again illustrates a point I've stressed before: When you make a video recording of policd misconduct, don't reveal the video until after the officers involved have purjured themselves in their written statements.

  2. Listening to the radio this morning, it sounds like the video and publicity MIGHT do something.
    The FBI is supposed to be looking into it(??); one cop suspended and POSSIBLE criminal charges are pending.

    I'm not holding my breath that anything will actually happen, but it's nice to have some hope.

  3. Anonymous7:37 PM

    Let me give you some magic words here: Totality of circumstances. IF that video is all that happened, it looks pretty damning. There is however a question of what (if anything else) was in play at the time at the time. I can hone in on 30 seconds of a twenty minute transaction and it would look pretty bad for the cops unless you see the entire 20 minutes. Or maybe not and these actions weren't reasonable. That question is why we have courts and a legal system.

    Futhermore, even if that video IS the entirety of what happened, the outcome will vary highly depending on the prosecutor, the political climate, the inclinations of the judge and jury and the quality of the defense counsel. The fact pattern is just one ingredient to the criminal justice soup. Anything from no charges against those officers to them going to prison for years can result, with the same facts.

  4. Hey, Anonymous, thanks for playing. I believe your post was item #4 in Brian's script.

    In a sense, you're absolutely right about the video itself. There are a number of circumstances not appearing on the video that might justify the officers' actions. For example, perhaps the cops had just received a report of a man with a gun acting strangely, and McKenna matched the description. In that case what you're seeing is an attempt to subdue a possibly armed offender. The repeated baton strikes might be an attempt to keep him from reaching for a weapon. It could have happened that way.

    But -- and this goes back to my previous point -- that's not the explanation the officers put down in their paperwork. The story they gave should have been visible in the video, and it's not. Totality of circumstances might explain the beat-down, but I can't even imagine a way to explain the lying.

  5. EdinMiami2:08 AM

    The lying part is easily explained. The guy was/is/will be guilty. Because the guy was/is/will be guilty of something, the lie is only a lie in the technical sense. A technical lie in these circumstances is actually a truth that has not manifested itself at the time of utterance. Because the truth could conceivably manifest itself at anytime, the constructive lie is an actual truth!