Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tasercam!

Score one for the surveillance state.  On March 15 of this year Shawn Turner was arrested after a gun was found in a vehicle he shared.  After being charged federally, Mr. Turner moved to suppress.  In order to establish links between a search of Mr. Turner's person and the search of the car, the police made a number of factual assertions.  The testifying officers claimed that: (1) Mr. Turner consented to a pat-down search, (2) the gun they found was in plain view on the floorboard of the vehicle next to Mr. Turner, (3) Mr. Turner was nervous and fidgety during the encounter, and (4) Mr. Turner ignored the officers' commands to keep his hands out of his pockets.  All in all, a rather bleak factual landscape from Mr. Turner's perspective.

Enter the Tasercam.  What's that, you say?  A miniaturized pocket camera capable of emitting electrical current causing neuromuscular incapacitation?  Can I have one?

No and no.  The Tasercam was just a small video camera mounted on one officer's glasses.  But this video made all the difference to the district court's opinion suppressing the evidence.

On the issue of consent- "Officer Ralston testified that he asked Defendant if he could pat him down for weapons and that 'he consented.' The video does not support this testimony."

On the issue of nervousness- "the video does not corroborate the officers' testimony that Defendant was nervous. In contrast, it is apparent from the video that Defendant was relaxed and comfortable for the duration of the encounter."

On the issue of ignoring officer commands- "They agreed that he was cooperative, and this is corroborated by the video. It is not evident from the video that Defendant disobeyed Officer Ralston's directive to keep his hands out of his pockets. In fact, he complied with that directive."

On the issue of plain view- "The officers had been searching and looking through the driver's side window and/or door for several minutes prior to Corporal Green discovering the firearm, yet inexplicably, neither officer saw a yellow or gold handgun in a holster on the floorboard of the vehicle." 

Concluding that "are many inconsistencies in the record between the Topeka Police Officers' testimony, and the video recording of the encounter" the Court suppressed.  

Did you know to ask for Tasercam video in discovery?  Now you do.

(Disclosure Note- this is a Federal Defender's Office case.  Actually handled by the Federal Defender. Which makes it rather embarrassing that the Federal Defender's blog got scooped on this case by FourthAmendment.com. Sorry, Melody.)

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