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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Friday, May 19, 2017

Do Jurors Favor Police Testimony?

Criminal defense lawyers face this question every day in the courts across the land. When a police office testifies in uniform, does his or her stature as a law enforcement professional add credibility to that testimony?

Our friend Neil Rockind has made a cottage industry out of effectively cross-examining the police. His prepared and relentless style and his "at war" approach to this difficult task makes him one of the best in the industry.

Recently, CNN covered this important topic that has had consequences locally and nationally in some of the high-profile police shooting cases. In this story, CNN covers the new ingredient now involved in many cases where a law enforcement officer testifies: video evidence.

If a jury is inclined to lend credibility to an officer, whether because of their uniform or their professional law enforcement status, does video evidence sway their view toward seeing the truth? Seeing what really happened in a given incident is a very useful "truth-tool" in many cases.

Other recent cases have also poked holes in the officer's credibility. For example, consider the Livingston County double murder case of Jerome Kowalski. He is considering post-conviction motions while he awaits the completion of an investigation into whether the officer in charge of his murder trial -a Michigan State Police detective- was having an affair with the judge presiding over his case: Judge Theresa Brennan.

In Kowalski's case, the detective's admitted affair with the judge casts doubt on the credibility of the officer. As an officer-in-charge, the detective did not actually provide testimony in the murder trial. On the other hand, there certainly is the appearance of impropriety when the detective is carrying on an illicit affair with the presiding judge in the case.

When a police officer is charged with a crime, or accused of using excessive force, jurors are asked to directly assess the officer's credibility. Many jurors are reluctant to second-guess an officer's split second decision regarding whether to use deadly force in a violent street encounter.

Each case will continue to be decided on its own merits. The thin blue line is getting even thinner.

Post #592

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