Open Letter to an Honest Cop

by Jamison Koehler on July 13, 2012

Dear Officer Parrish:

A couple of weeks ago, I cross-examined one of your colleagues from the 3rd District.  The issue at that hearing was similar to the one under consideration today:  Whether or not the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion or probable cause to detain my client.

Your colleague decided to strengthen the government’s case against my client by lying.  She did not look at me once during the first part of her testimony.  I knew she was going to lie when she looked across the room at me for the first time and narrowed her eyes.  Call me naïve but I am still surprised every time this happens.  Did she not know I had the radio tape contradicting her testimony on the laptop in front of me, cued up and ready to play for the court?  The judge “credited” her testimony anyway and denied my motion.  My client was ultimately convicted.

The prosecutor today gave you every opportunity to “improve” your testimony.  I could have objected when the prosecutor went back to the same line of questioning again and again.  But something about you – something about our conversation in the anteroom prior to the hearing – told me you were not going to shade your testimony.   You were not going to budge from the truth.  And, although I am not right about many things, I was right about this.  “No,” you told the prosecutor, “there was nothing else about my interaction with the defendant that raised any suspicion.”

I know you will not be rewarded for your testimony.  If anything, I imagine that the testimony you gave today will go unnoticed and unremarked upon by your bosses.  I assume also that accolades from a criminal defense attorney will only embarrass you.  At the same time, I get the feeling that preserving your integrity is personal reward enough for you.  You were doing your job when you arrested my client a couple of months ago and you were doing your job today when you testified to the circumstances of that arrest.  I hope that you will take pride in knowing that, motion granted or denied, justice was done today.  Sometimes everyone does what he or she is supposed to do.  Sometimes, win or lose, the system actually works.

Respectfully, Jamison Koehler

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

shg July 13, 2012 at 5:45 am

Whether or not justice was done is a matter for the religious to argue. The law was upheld because a police officer testified truthfully. That’s the best we can hope for.

Jamison Koehler July 13, 2012 at 6:02 am

Fair enough. I tend to equate the two, as in: system works –> justice. But I guess there are value judgments attached to the loaded term of “justice” that I wouldn’t want to implicate here.

Ahcuah July 13, 2012 at 1:41 pm

“Did she not know I had the radio tape contradicting her testimony on the laptop in front of me, cued up and ready to play for the court? The judge ‘credited’ her testimony anyway and denied my motion.”

What I want to know is just how it is that judges do this?!?

Jamison Koehler July 13, 2012 at 5:09 pm

Exactly. Judges absolutely hate to acknowledge that police officers can lie. The more interesting question for me has to do with the prosecutors.

Norm Pattis July 14, 2012 at 10:10 am

Dear Jamison:

Truth is a far more difficult thing to determine than either of us like to acknowledge.

Cop

Noah Clements July 16, 2012 at 10:31 pm

It is truly saddening that we are more surprised when a police officer testifies truthfully to something that may help our clients than when they lie or shade the truth to hurt them. Especially about circumstances surrounding an arrest.

I will say that I was also pleasantly surprised recently at an officer’s trial testimony that obviated the need to put my client on the stand.

Congratulations on your pleasant surprise.

Fred July 16, 2012 at 11:52 pm

Dear Mr. Jamison,

wouldn’t the Judge crediting the false testimony be grounds for an appeal, especially if the testimony was crucial for the conviction? Did you try to have the office charged with perjury? In this case could sanctions be asked against the prosecutor for subornation of perjury (assuming he prepped the officer for testimony)? Perjury is a serious crime, more so if the person committing it is an officer. This should not go unpunished. It certainly sets a bad precedent – had I been the prosecutor I would have been very angry, you can lose cases for reasons like this. Did the prosecutor say anything to you about it, or did he/she just pretend nothing happened?

Fred

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