The job of being a criminal defense attorney is a difficult one, and more so because you are constantly contradicting and questioning the testimony of police officers. Oftentimes it’s a losing battle, because most jurors are reluctant to believe that a cop would lie – or even exaggerate. But the tables turn in the rare instances when cops are charged with civil rights violations.
Bobby Frederick at the South Carolina Criminal Defense Blog had been covering the criminal trial of SC Trooper Steve Garren, who was basically caught red handed by his dash cam of swerving to hit a fleeing pedestrian suspect, all-the-while claiming “yeah, I hit him. I was trying to hit him.”
Despite this video evidence, replete with an audio admission, the jury found him not guilty. Now I have no idea what happened at the trial or in the jury deliberations, but the fact that this guy was a state trooper was the 800 pound gorilla in the courtroom. Certainly this would have been evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury if we were talking about a civilian defendant. But jurors will give police officers a huge benefit of the doubt – whether it be with respect to weighing credibility against the defendant, or with respect to the rare instances where law enforcement officers are actually held to task for committing a crime.
These are one of the rare, rare situations where a jury will ever give a criminal defendant the benefit of doubt – including possibly acquitting him despite their belief that he was guilty. The jurors may have thought, yeah he did it, but the guy he hit deserved it, he shouldn’t have been fleeing.
– John H. Bryan, West Virginia Attorney