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Friday Roundup

Eyewitness ID.  As this article notes (h/t to Crime & Consequences),

New Jersey's highest court ordered changes Wednesday to the way eyewitness identifications are used, saying the current system is not reliable enough, fails to deter police misconduct and overstates jurors' ability to evaluate the evidence.

New Jersey police had already been employing pretrial identification procedures designed to minimize error, such as the use of double-blind photo arrays and lineups.  (Ohio passed legislation mandating similar procedures, which I discussed here.)  The New Jersey Supreme Court decision, which you can read here, deals more with trial procedures, especially the use of jury instructions to make jurors aware of the problems with such evidence.  As the court notes, since the US Supreme Court last addressed the issue in Manson v. Brathwaite 34 years ago, a wealth of sociogical and psychological research has highlighted those difficulties, especially in regard to stranger and cross-racial identifications.

In that light, it's interesting to note that there's a case on that issue on the Supreme Court's docket for next term.  I'll discuss that next week.

We have a winner.  Okay, I know sometimes the legislature will give funky names to crimes.  "Having weapons while under disability" makes it sound like you got out of your car packing an Uzi after pulling into a handicapped spot.  But then I stumble across this story, which relates the all-too-common experience of some adult taking youth sports -- in this case, a football league for six- and seven-year olds -- a bit too seriously.  Apparently concerned that the referees' rulings might impair his ability, a decade or so hence, to try to peddle his offspring's talents to the highest bidder, a la Cam Newton's father, Dejuan Wells ran onto the field and began cursing the zebras.  The affair escalated, with the result that Wells bit two of the off-duty police officers attempting to restrain him.  The story concludes by noting that "Wells has been charged with battery, battery by body waste, resisting law enforcement, criminal trespassing, and disorderly conduct."


Who says working at Westlaw and spending your days coming up with headnotes isn't fun?  Especially when you can come up with one like this for the case of Washington v. Alaimo:

[1] Federal Civil Procedure 2820

170Ak2820 Most Cited Cases

Inmate plaintiff's complete disregard of and noncompliancewith explicit court order to show cause why Rule 11 sanctions should not be imposed upon him for filing motion for improper purposes warranted dismissal with prejudice; motion which plaintiff filed was entitled "Motion to Kiss My Ass" in which he moved "all Americans at large and one corrupt Judge Smith [to] kiss my got [sic] damn ass sorry mother fucker you." Fed.Rules Civ.Proc.Rule 41(b), 28 U.S.C.A.; U.S.Dist.Ct.Rules S.D.Ga., Rule 41.1(b).

 Let's go to the video.  As I've mentioned before, my technological savvy is deep, but not wide.  I'm pretty good with computers, but everything else...  I just figured out how to use my copier's zoom feature a couple years ago.  Last year, I bought a smart phone, then took it back a week later because I was too dumb to figure out how to use it.  I've never sent a text message, nor taken a picture, with my cell phone.  I like to take photographs, but I've never used a camcorder.

Fortunately, somebody knew how to use one at a Critical Mass bike ride in New York City a few years back.  The rides are dedicated to the proposition that bicyclists have road rights, too, and sometimes people don't take too kindly to the idea of masses of bike riders clogging up city streets.  One of those people, apparently, was Patrick Pogan, the police officer in the video  you can check out here.

Pogan filed a report alleging that the bicyclist, Christopher Long, had purposely steered his bike into Pogan, and Long was charged with attempted assault, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.  Then somebody anonymously posted the video on the Internet, and things pretty quickly went to shit for Pogan, who'd been on the force all of 11 days before the incident.  He was convicted last year of filing a false police report. 

One might think that police would welcome the assistance of citizen cameramen to help in weeding out the bad apples on the force.  One would be, by and large, wrong.  As this article notes, someone wielding a camera in the vicinity of police can often find themselves the target of prosecution, either for "obstructing justice" or, under the laws of at least twelve states, violating statutes which require all parties to a recording to consent to it.  Despite exceptions in those statutes for recording in public places where "no expectation of privacy exists," bad things continue to happen to people like Christopher Drew,

who recorded his own arrest for selling one-dollar artwork on the streets of Chicago. Although the misdemeanor charges of not having a peddler's license and peddling in a prohibited area were dropped, Drew is being prosecuted for illegal recording, a Class I felony punishable by 4 to 15 years in prison.

If found one of the more interesting things about all this was a comment on the YouTube site:

First thing that shocks me is: why? What's the point of it?

The second thing is how the rest of the people are completely unresponsive. If this happened here in Portugal, people would flock to defend the citizen. My guess is people in the US fear the police, which is not good at all...but apparently with good reason.

Another "good reason" was provided at Pogan's sentencing.  He was facing up to four years in prison, and his lawyer argued for probation.  The judge went him one better:  "The defendant doesn't need any further supervision by the court and the verdict is conditional discharge, period."


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