Abracadabra: Lost Video Appears in D.C. Simple Assault Case
Sometimes cops are lazy. Sometimes they are sloppy. Washington, D.C criminal defense lawyers have to be prepared to deal with both. Case in point: my client was charged with two counts of assault and two counts of possession of a prohibited weapon. The total maximum penalty if convicted of all four charges would be up to two years in jail. (she had no criminal record, so probably wouldn’t have done anything close to that amount of time, but that’s not really the point). The charges stemmed from an encounter that my client had with four teenagers that began in a Chinese food carryout restaurant. My client claimed self-defense, but it was her word against four complaining witnesses. Or was it?
As I do in every D.C. criminal case, I requested that the government disclose any video that police recovered from the crime scene. I also sent my investigator out to see if the cops missed anything. The prosecutor told me that there wasn’t any video. Well, that surprised me, because the manager of the carryout told my investigator that there had been video (before they recorded over it, as businesses always seem to do), and that the police had been given a copy. This is a pretty serious discrepancy.
So I combed through the paperwork some more, and saw that the detective on the case had recovered video, but that he could not get it to play. He determined that the file was corrupt, and therefore, no video actually existed. I’d be a pretty bad D.C. criminal defense lawyer if I accepted that, especially in an assault case. It seemed to me that maybe the officer should at least let me take a shot at getting the the video work. And that is the argument I made on the morning of trial. The judge agreed, continued the case, and ordered the government to turn over the video file, even if they deemed it unplayable.
Ten minutes after I popped the video in my computer, I was watching my client being harassed by four teenagers as she tried to place a food order at the Chinese carryout. Well, that was pretty important evidence, since the complaining witnesses claimed that my client started the fight. Fast forward to trial, and the judge, as he handed down a NOT GUILTY verdict on all charges, specifically pointed to the video as the key piece of evidence exonerating my client.
The point here isn’t that I’m a great lawyer who put on a great trial (although if you want to take that away from this, be my guest). The real point is that you can’t always trust the cops and the government to provide everything they’re supposed to provide to a D.C. criminal defense lawyer. I don’t know if the cops were lazy, sloppy, or just plain didn’t care, but their failure to do their job almost led to the loss of valuable evidence. And without that evidence, my client may have been wrongfully convicted. Your D.C. assault lawyer will need to be aggressive about making sure that the police and the government do their job, so that your lawyer can do his.
If you have been charged with simple assault in D.C., Arlington, Alexandria, or Fairfax, you need a Virginia or D.C. simple assault lawyer that will go the extra mile for you. Contact Jay Mykytiuk at JPMLegal for a consultation.