leifertlaw August 6, 2012 Courts
The initial reports were horrific: A 22-year-old skateboarder had suffered severe head trauma after being attacked by four or five black males suspects in downtown Miami recently.
But as the public would soon find out, that wasn’t what happened at all, and the ensuing fallout underscores the simple fact that police do get it wrong – more often than we would like to think.
Our Miami criminal defense lawyers understand that what happened in this case was that the young man had gone out to skateboard and did not return. His father found him early the next morning near a parking garage, bleeding and unresponsive.
He rushed him to a nearby hospital, where he was prepped for brain surgery to relieve the pressure. As the young man was about to be wheeled into the operating room, police detectives came to question him about what happened. Now remember – this is a man who had multiple skull fractures and a blood clot on his brain who was about to undergo surgery.
They asked him yes-no questions about whether he was attacked. He was told to blink if the suspects were black or Hispanic and to blink for how many there were.
From this “interview,” police determined that the man had been viciously attacked. Media reports hit the airwaves and police and the family were desperate for tips.
However, it wasn’t until several days later that surveillance video of the alleged incident surfaced. Turns out, the skateboarder fell of his board and did a face plant onto the concrete, causing him to suffer a brain injury.
Even when the skateboarder began to emerge from the fog of his injury, he maintained that he remembered none of it – not the fall, not the police interview – nothing.
Now, we have to be fair to the police here in conceding that they had a job to do. If suspected a crime had been committed – and doctors had said his injuries could have been consistent with a beating – they had an obligation to do everything they could to investigate. And at that time, it may not have seemed they had much to go on.
But there’s a bigger issue here with regard to the fallibility of witness statements. No doubt, the alleged victim’s testimony would not have likely stood up in court, given his profound memory lapses. And thankfully, no one was arrested before the surveillance tape emerged.
However, there have been many cases in which questionable statements – along with questionable interrogation tactics by police – have been used not only to make an arrest but to secure a conviction.
Numerous stories have surfaced recently regarding throngs of inmates who were convicted decades ago, and were later exonerated based on DNA or other evidence that wasn’t available at the time. In fact, the situation has been so dire that it caught the attention of the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the U.S. Justice Department, which are conducting DNA reviews on thousands of old cases to determine if there were false convictions based on, among other things, weak witness testimony.
The bottom line for defendants is that it is crucial to hire a good attorney as soon as possible after your arrest.
If you are charged with a crime, contact the Law Offices of Leifert & Leifert, a Partnership of Former Prosecutors, for a free consultation to discuss your rights. Call 1.888.5.DEFEND.
Florida Criminal Lawyers