>
Powered By

Back to The Advocates News

Bobby Cutts and Weighing a Bias

Against Law Enforcement as a Juror

 

By Willoughby, Associated Content, Inc.

Ohio police officer Bobby Cutts is on trial for the murder of Jessie Davis. Should any previous biases for or against police officers affect a juror's judgment?

The last time my wife was called for jury duty she admitted to me that she hoped that if she were be selected as a juror the trial and the jury decision would not hinge on the testimony of a policeman or city detective. As she is very straight laced and has never violated a single law or had any contact with law enforcement I was at a loss to understand her statement concerning the viability/credibility of law enforcement. To the best of my knowledge she and we had no reason to doubt the integrity of our local police force.

Seeing the questioning look on my face she explained how she had been negatively influenced against policemen in general after watching wall to wall coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial. Initially she was convinced of Simpson's guilt, but as the trial wore on and powerful defense attorneys led by Johnnie Cochran, F. Lee Bailey and Alan Dershowitz presented evidence of the mishandling of evidence and hints of planted evidence by the Los Angles detectives Furman, Vanatter and Lange she began to have doubts of Simpson's guilt and seriously questioned whether racism and an overly zealous desire to convict at all cost was driving the detectives to misrepresent if not plant evidence in the case.

After building a highly speculative case against the veracity and motives of the detectives on the case F. Lee Baily shocked the world by providing a tape recorded some ten years earlier in which detective Furman used the "N" word repeatedly in reference to Afro-Americans. Furman had earlier denied ever having used the word while under oath. He was later indicted for and pleaded no contest to charges of perjury.

Many observers of the trial, including my wife, decided that this one proven lie validated all of the other implications of lies made by the defense.

While I disagree with my wife's conclusions concerning the motives and veracity of the detectives in the Simpson trial her reaction does suggest that the past and present actions by law enforcement officers can and do have a significant effect on their credibility. I believe this to be especially true when it comes to jury acceptance of testimony by law enforcement personnel. The Simpson jury verdict may be evidence of this.

Looking back in my own personal experience with law enforcement I can find a couple examples in which my dealings with police did not improve my relationship with local law enforcement:

My first experience with the police came when I was 16 years old. I had recently gotten a driver's license and used a car to drive to and from work after school. Two nights a week I worked until midnight. On leaving work I would drop a fellow worker, also a teenager at his home. One night driving my co-worker home at 12:15 AM I noticed a police patrol car following closely behind me. I was well within the speed limit and was actually relieved to see the police there. I felt safer for their presence. After ten minutes the police car flashed its' blue light and signaled its' siren for me to pull over, which I did immediately. As I reached for my my driver's license two officers approached the car one on each side and simultaneously pulled open the doors and wrestled both of us from the car. We were face down in the gutter with an officer's knee in our back before we knew what was happening.

When I attempted to question the officer I was told to "shut up".

Both officers asked how much we had had to drink. ( I was 16 and had spent the past 8 hours unloading freight trucks and mopping floors in a large grocery store where I was employed).

When I denied ever drinking these two officers insisted they could smell alcohol on our breath and hinted there also a smell of weed.

They began tearing my old car apart. Seat cushions were removed and torn, glove compartment items raked out into the floor, and floor mats ripped up during the "search".

Finding nothing the two officers were furious and proceeded to write a ticket for speeding, claiming I was driving 20 MPH in a 15 MPH zone.

Two weeks later I had to take time away from my job to go to traffic court. The Judge on reading the charge questioned whether the area in which I was ticketed was a 15 MPH zone. For whatever reason he had knowledge that this area now had a limit of 20 MPH. Case Dismissed, but I had lost sleep and two hours of pay all over trumped up charges from two rookie policemen looking for fun.

Would that incident effect my opinion of police testimony in a trial? As much as I would like to say "no" I can only say I have never forgotten the incident and believe it does influence my opinion as to the credibility of some policemen.

A second incident early in my life which added to my concern for police credibility involved an operation in the grocery store in which I worked.

The store manage concerned over a very high level of shop lifting had hired an off duty police to surveil the store from behind a hidden screen which gave viewing access to the various aisles of the store. The policeman would watch until some unsuspecting shopper concealed an item either in a shopping bag or under clothing and proceeded to checkout without paying. At this time he would walk to the checkout station and once the suspect left the store with the concealed item would confront them by flashing his badge at which point he would ticket them for petty theft.

It was a good and necessary plan as the store was losing a substantial amount of money as a result of theft.

However after six months of this activity most of the shoplifters had either been apprehended or aware of the operation took their business elsewhere. Arrests fell off dramatically to only one or two a month.

Fearing well paying after hours job was about to end the police officer developed a scheme in which he on seeing formerly arrested shoplifters would target them by confronting them outside the store and producing evidence he, the policeman, had planted on their person. His favorite plants were relatively small items which could be concealed and dropped in the suspect's pocket or purse without detection. He would carry with him small bottles of inexpensive perfume, or deodorant, of after shave (which by the way he had taken from store shelves without benefit of payment).

It was not until (unknown to him) the store installed a surveillance camera and caught the crooked policeman in the act.

Would this influence my opinion of police testimony in a jury trial?

Absolutely!

In writing the above, I fully realize that many/most policemen are honest, dedicated public servants. However when the question is posed would your former contact with law enforcement weigh in your judgment of their credibility.....I have to answer "yes".


 

 

2008 Associated Content, All rights reserved.


 


Back to The Advocates News

back to top