I was in District Court most of the morning and saw an interesting set of events. As they unfolded, I paid more and more attention, but I’m sure I missed some details at the beginning. Here goes:
First: A prosecutor, a cop, defense lawyer Oscar Buitron, and the defendant at the bench. Testimony was being taken in a DWI case. Something about a CAD report and whether or not the officer really had called in to dispatch to check the license and registration on a vehicle as he had previously sworn under oath.
I suspected, and later confirmed, that it was some sort of continuation of a pretrial hearing that had already occurred. The officer was insisting that he indeed had called in to check the vehicle, but he was squirming, uncomfortable. Just a little bit. He’d testified before, so he was almost holding his own.
But it was obvious from the questioning that Oscar thought he could prove the officer was being… let’s say… untruthful. And more importantly that he had the goods to prove it. Then out came the CAD report itself (of course).
I had other things going on, but my interest was piqued and I managed to catch something about “if you press this button here”, “then you press that button there”, “blah blah blah”. They were up at the bench, no microphones, I didn’t catch everything being said.
After testimony concludes, there’s some chatter about resetting it to another-another-pretrial setting so that Oscar can bring in some more witnesses (APD officers no less) who will be able to show that the arresting officer’s testimony – that he had called it in, that dispatch had called him back and said the registration wasn’t current, but that he had then manually deleted that information from the CAD report itself – was impossible. (Never mind nonsensical. “Gee, let me take some time out of my busy day to erase the confirmation that this was a good stop.”)
Second: Probably 15/20 minutes later I’m chatting with that prosecutor about something completely unrelated, and the bailiff walks up to him and says, “The officer wants to talk to you”. He motions to the jury room. The prosecutor excuses himself from our conversation and leaves.
Third: Another half hour later… the defendant is back at the bench entering a plea. To back time on a misdemeanor.
Now I don’t need to see parts one and two to know that as a general rule when a defendant walks up to the bench in Felony Court and pleads to a misdemeanor, that he’s getting a significantly above average deal in his case. Never mind that it was back time: no probation, no more jail. Oscar was obviously well prepared and had gotten a good result.
By the way, I left it out of the initial description, but the prosecutor had brought out other traffic violations for the court to hang its hat on, so this was – despite the testilying – no slam dunk win for the defense.
I talked to Oscar afterwards (who among us doesn’t love it when one of our brothers or sisters ekes out a victory) and found out some more details. It was a habitual case. The defendant had (at least) two prior pen trips and was looking at a minimum of 25 years if convicted on the indictment.
More invigorating (perplexing? commonplace?) still was that Oscar hadn’t known this would pop up during the first pretrial. The officer had already listed in his PC affidavit, and testified to traffic violations that weren’t demonstrably false, when he decided to just “add” the testimony about calling in the license to dispatch. (This is a favorite police “excuse” in my experience. Which is foolish because it’s one of the easiest to catch them on.) Nothing mentioned about it though in the PC or the offense report.
Oscar’s BS detector went off. He asked the judge to continue it, rechecked the tape which confirmed his memory that the officer appeared to discover that the vehicle was unregistered well after the stop, and ordered the CAD.
Mostly though, it’s that second step listed above that intrigues me so. The cop in the back room sweating and “needing to talk” to the prosecutor.
What exactly did that officer tell the prosecutor, when the bailiff alerted him that he needed to “confer”? I’ve never worked for the State, so I can only imagine the possibilities…
- “Hey I’m not sure how intoxicated he was after all. Can you work out a deal?”
- “Please drop this case… I don’t want to come back on it. Ever.”
- “Quick question for you… what’s the penalty for perjury again?”