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Month: April 2015

Tampering with Evidence Makes You Guilty…


Tampering with Evidence Makes You Guilty - Taser - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

Tampering with Evidence Makes You Guilty… of Tampering with Evidence, not Murder.

This is, for now, the final installment of the sad saga of Officer Slager’s shooting of poor Mr. Walter Scott.

People are talking about how Slager must be guilty because he apparently planted the Taser next to Scott’s body. The one that he probably thought Mr. Scott had grabbed out of his hand, but which in fact had flown out behind Slager and hit the dirt after Scott appeared to grab it.

It seems that Slager picked up the Taser and dropped it next to Scott’s body. Looks very bad. But remember what I said in my prior post about how Slager might have believed that if Scott had grabbed his Taser it might create an argument that Slager was shooting him because he thought Scott was a fleeing felon who was armed and dangerous.

I say might because it is not exactly an easy argument to make. However, that does not mean that his lawyer should just give up and not make the best argument he can for his client. That is the every decent criminal defense attorney’s job, like it or not.

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A Perfect Storm of Bad Things: Tales from the Boston Bomber Trial

Boston Bomber Trial - Tsarnaev - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

Well, I have resisted getting into the Boston Bomber case.

However, it represents the perfect storm of many of the themes we’ve been exploring in recent posts: an impossible fact pattern, a Defendant who is universally reviled after killing or maiming a bunch of innocent bystanders (including a small child), pundits falling all over themselves to see who can say the stupidest thing… and now my favorite, a small snippet of evidence demonstrating my entire point about how this type of evidence can be misleading and must be considered in context.


Last point first: we are now in the “Penalty Phase” of the trial. At least as I type this we are – by the time this is posted it will probably be over. I predict, contrary to just about everyone I know, that the jury won’t vote for Death.

We shall see.

The misleading snippet of “evidence”, to use the term loosely, was presented, of course, by the U.S. Government Prosecution. By doing this they are demonstrating yet another fundamental principal of criminal defense work that I have not discussed here: overplaying your hand and willfully attempting to mislead the jury.

Actually, I sort of have discussed it in terms of “framing a guilty man.” For this is what they are doing.

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Questions, Questions!

Questions about Courts and Criminal Defense - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

People have been asking questions about the last few posts, and, of course, I can’t resist replying.

The first thing I heard were questions about how I represent people when I “know” they are guilty. The answer to that is both simple and complex, as usual.

The simple answer is that I make a point of not knowing if they are guilty. The complex answer takes a bit more explanation (see below).

A young lawyer said that clearly Slager was guilty, so what was my point? Fair enough. However, I have been doing this longer than this lawyer has been alive, even if he is in his thirties. Age and experience give you a certain perspective, which helps me answer both questions.

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Cops Gone Wild - Bates - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

It’s a giant flood of bad cops, raining down from the internet skies. A veritable avalanche of bad behavior, much of it caught on tape. Bad cops on tape.

By bad I don’t necessarily mean dishonest. Just bad. Take the case of the Tulsa, Oklahoma reserve deputy, Robert Bates, an insurance agent who gave a lot of money to the elected Sheriff in Tulsa for his campaign. Voila. Like magic. Somehow at 73 years of age this guy is smack dab in the middle of a major sting-bust.

A bust for selling illegal firearms, no less. Really?? Could there possibly be a more inappropriate place to stick an old fat campaign contributor?

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Everyone Deserves a Decent Defense

Right to a Good Defense - Atticus Finch - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

The Right to a Good Defense.

Sorry if I am going overboard on the case of Officer Slager’s shooting of Walter Scott. I just can’t help it. If law school exams had been this interesting I would have enjoyed them much more.  Real life is so much more interesting than anything you can make up.

Even when it’s tragic.

What has me going this time is the behavior of Slager’s original Lawyer. I am very tempted to rant about what this lawyer did. Instead I will try to simply state what he did, according to news reports, and I will then point out what I would have done differently. He won’t be able to sue me that way.

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I love the Witness Organization.

Witness Organization - Recording Police - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

I LOVE the Witness organization. Founded by Peter Gabriel, their mission is to help people create valid and admissible videotapes of wrongdoing by authorities. How can that not be great? It is totally turning everything on its head. Watching the people watching us. In a way that works.


My initial reservation is the one I have expressed previously: When cops are misbehaving it might be better to just do what they say rather than it risk your life. You are just as dead right as you are dead wrong and so on.

Still, when it works, it is wonderful. And, as I noted in my last post, it can cut both ways. In the now infamous Officer Slager shooting of Mr. Scott in North Charleston, it may even provide a defense for Slager, depending on the other evidence that exists.

Cameras are inherently neutral witnesses after all.

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Cops Get Away With Murder… Or Not (the Fleeing Felon Rule)

Cops Get Away with Murder - The Fleeing Felon Rule - Seattle Criminal Lawyer BlogFinally. A cop is being treated like any normal citizen.

Well, almost. It took a real live caught-in-the-act video to make this happen. The common thread in the so-called “expert” analysis is that if Officer Slager had not been caught on tape he never would have been charged.

I’m a bit frustrated that my last post got lost in the tech wilderness. I wrote it several days before this horrible incident happened in North Charleston. If it had posted before this shooting it would have looked like a prediction. But, then again, who wants to predict someone being killed?

However, I do have a prediction about this case that will probably surprise you.

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iPhones Cause Police Brutality

iPhones Cause Police Brutality - Seattle Criminal Lawyer Blog

It’s official. Cell phones cause police brutality.

Incredible how that works. Just start shooting video and there they are, beating people to death, sitting on their chests until they suffocate, even gunning them down.

It’s like bad magic.

Just kidding. Except I’m really not. Because there is nothing funny about any of this. The sad truth is that police have been getting away with this behavior forever, but until the advent of cell phones, making virtually everyone a potential on the scene TV reporter, nobody believed it.

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