Cops And Union Rep Lie About What Video Shows Because Judge Never Allowed Recording As Evidence

from the sometimes-evidence-isn't-evidence dept

The video recording of St. Louis police officer Rory Bruce’s unprovoked attack on a handcuffed suspect speaks for itself. Within the first 15 seconds of the video captured by the police van’s camera, Officer Bruce slams a forearm across the face of his arrestee. The attack was “unprovoked” in any legal sense of the word. The audio quality is negligible but it appears to be a response to the handcuffed teen’s contemptuous (of cop) laughter.

For this action, Officer Bruce lost his job. Not only was Bruce fired by the St. Louis PD, but he was charged with assault, something rather uncommon in the police world. Of course, Bruce was still in his probationary period, something that made his firing much easier.

What’s captured on the video doesn’t mesh with statements made by Bruce’s lawyer.

Bruce’s attorney, Joseph Hogan, said his client was squatting down, performing a search, when the “guy makes a move,” and Bruce jumped up and hit him with a forearm.

This clearly isn’t true. The suspect makes no move and neither officer is squatting at any point before Bruce struck the handcuffed teen. Hogan also suggested police officers shouldn’t be held accountable for actions performed under the influence of “adrenaline.”

Hogan complained that police and prosecutors didn’t take into account the shooting before the teen’s arrest, saying that adrenaline must have been pumping for both officers.

This shooting involved Bruce’s partner Jacob Fowler (another rookie who was fired for this incident) firing his weapon at the suspect after the teen pointed a gun at him.

While this video clearly shows an attack on a handcuffed suspect, this recording was never viewed by the presiding judge, Theresa Counts, who found Rory Bruce “not guilty” of assault. Plenty of outrage has bubbled up over this fact, but Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice details the events that led to a crucial piece of evidence being ignored.

There was nothing life or death about the decision Rory Bruce made to pound this cuffed teenager in custody. Yet, he was acquitted by Associate Circuit Court Judge Theresa Counts Burke. Not because she found this conduct acceptable, but because she never watched the video.

“Prosecutors had also tried, but failed, to get the teenager on the stand. First they couldn’t find him, then when they did, he asserted his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination.

But the video never made it into evidence because the law required prosecutors to authenticate it with someone who had personal knowledge of the events. Bruce refused to testify against himself, on the same constitutional grounds as the teen.”

The teenager involved was never charged, leaving the prosecution with nothing to trade off for his testimony. As for doing the right thing against Bruce, well, the right thing on the street can sometimes be a bit different than what some of us might hope for.

But what of the other officer present, Bruce’s partner, Jacob Fowler?

“That left Fowler, who claimed the same but was forced to testify after prosecutors granted him immunity from charges and obtained a last minute order from another judge.

When Fowler viewed the footage, he testified it differed from his recollection of events.”

Maybe he recalled rainbows and unicorns. Who knows? What he clearly didn’t recall was anything that could be used against his partner. What a surprise.

“Burke ruled she thus couldn’t authenticate it. That left only the testimony of a few police employees, who couldn’t say much because of hearsay rules.”

So, now we know, if we weren’t clear before, a recording of an event sometimes just isn’t enough evidence. It may be crystal clear in the court of public opinion (and it certainly seemed “authentic” to the St. Louis PD, which fired Bruce and his partner) but can turn absolutely useless when it catches in the gears of the justice system.

But the most troubling (read: repulsive) aspect of this whole debacle isn’t the fact that Bruce wasn’t charged, or that Judge Theresa Burke didn’t watch the video. It’s the words of Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association, who not only flat out lies about the events clearly captured by the camera, but claims this sort of footage is being used the wrong way.

Words are exchanged and then; “It’s one forearm blow as he’s trained to do,” said Jeff Roorda with the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association.

Roorda says he can see Bruce crouched down and the suspect moving forward. He says Bruce was only defending himself.

Again, at no point before Bruce hits the suspect are either of the officers “crouched down.” Both are completely upright for the entire 15 seconds before Bruce’s attack.

Roorda says the judge did right—he told News 4, police videos like these should be used to protect police. “Now, it’s become a “gotcha-head hunter” tool that we’ve seen internal affairs go over-board with.”

That’s the most disgusting sentiment. Roorda feels video captured by police cameras should only be used when what’s recorded justifies police actions. If St. Louis cops can’t behave themselves, despite knowing they’re on camera and despite believing internal affairs is prone to “going overboard,” the problem isn’t with the cameras or internal affairs. Roorda wants these two officers reinstated, even though the St. Louis PD itself doesn’t want them around. After all, they’ve been exonerated by the court, so in Roorda’s mind, there’s no reason to keep two bad cops off the street any longer.

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Comments on “Cops And Union Rep Lie About What Video Shows Because Judge Never Allowed Recording As Evidence”

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53 Comments
Rikuo (profile) says:

Wait what? A video recording is presented and all a guy has to do to get it discounted is say that’s not what happened? So there’s no questions on the guy like “Are you then saying the video is doctored?” or anything like that? So what does this mean for example for CCTV footage of a robbery in a shop? The robber just has to say “Nope, that didn’t happen” and thus, he gets off?

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Re:

It appears as if the prosecutors granted Fowler immunity in hopes he would authenticate the recording, but that obviously didn’t work. And if Fowler knew he was the last chance the prosecution had to get the video entered as evidence, it’s little surprise he chose to deny its “authenticity.”

In the robber scenario, I would imagine the shopkeeper would authenticate the recording as it’s in his own interest — pressing charges against the thief. The teen who was struck had little to gain. He wasn’t suing the PD or pressing charges against the officer who hit him. Testifying would have seen some more interest being paid to his own criminal activity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

You’d assume that means he lost his immunity. If his testimony did nothing, then he wouldn’t have said anything inciminating and thus given nothing in exchange for immunity. That should nullify any deal they have with him and hopefully they ram whatever charges they can down his throat.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

He was given immunity to testify, not immunity to testify to the authenticity of the video.
If a person is given immunity so they will testify, there isn’t anything that legally binds them to say what the prosecution wants them to say. They just agree to testify and then they are granted immunity, no matter what they end up saying.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Presumably in that case, the shop owner would be around to say that the recording is accurate. In this case, there was no one to claim that since they couldn’t find the teen or get him to cooperate.

My question is when is this authentication rule applied? How does this rule work when there is no one but the suspect present (such as burglary of an unattended shop), or when only the suspect survives (murder)? How would recordings of those be authenticated by someone with personal knowledge of the incident?

GMacGuffin says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

“the law required prosecutors to authenticate it with someone who had personal knowledge of the events”

This is most odd. I don’t know from criminal law or MO law, but usually authentication requires “sufficient evidence that it is what you say it is.” I.e., not a whole lot. And that it was filmed by the police would in my mind cover that. It should be self-authenticating due to the source.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Selective access to police video is old news

It’s routine in most municipalities for street-corner videos to disappear when they show something that would put police in a bad light. I’ve advocated that public video (including dashcams and such) should be public access and governed by a party independent to the police for exactly that reason.

This is the sort of thing for which vigilante gangs are made. For when the Department of Justice no longer gives a shit about justice.

Anon says:

No Surprise...

Let’s see – you refuse to testify against the guy that assaulted you, you refuse to verify the video. Should you or anyone be surprised the guy gets off?

What bothers me is the law about validating video. As mentioned above, if a burglar does not authenticate the video, then what? It didn’t happen? More likely, a video should be admitted with the defence right to challenge its acuracy – is the provenance correct – can the people who set it up and made it, stored it, retreived it able to show its origin? Is it apparently altered or not, according to forensic analysis?

RyanNerd (profile) says:

Does this stupid authentication law apply to only the police?

I wonder if this scumbag used the same lame excuse of not being able to authenticate a video to get off being charged?
I did a quick internet search about this law but was unable to find it. Anyone out there with more time on their hands than I that maybe has found this? I just want to see how it is worded and if it only applies to police videos.

stk33 says:

Re: Does this stupid authentication law apply to only the police?

Here’s an article that discusses this, and confirms that it’s a requirement that “a competent witness can testify that the photograph fairly and accurately depicts the scene about which he or she is testifying”, with further references to the case law.

http://apps.americanbar.org/lpm/lpt/articles/tch06061.shtml

ArdvarkMaster (profile) says:

Thin Blue Line

Cases like these are the reason why fewer and fewer people trust the police. If the only thing you can count on them to do is back each other up, then “Protect and Serve” really means nothing.

And before someone says “it’s only a few bad apples”, those few bad apples spoil the whole barrel because their fellow officers insist on protecting the few bad apples instead of tossing them out. Until the police start acting like the law applies to the police, until they treat those among their ranks who break the law as criminals, more and more people will believe they are no better than armed thugs, to be avoided at all cost.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Thin Blue Line

those few bad apples spoil the whole barrel because their fellow officers insist on protecting the few bad apples instead of tossing them out

This. There are bad people in every profession (although some professions are more attractive to bad people than others, and I would maintain that law enforcement is one of those). What determines the trustworthiness of a profession is how those bad people are dealt with. Police have a terrible track record at this, and so on the whole it’s dangerous to place much faith in them. If you’re victimized by a bad cop, it won’t be you vs the bad cop. It’ll be you vs the entire police department.

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Fifteen seconds

If the pertinent part of the action happens within the first fifteen seconds of the video, I wouldn’t accept it as valid either, because by definition everything that happens is out of context. We’re walking in on Act 2 of a play, with no idea what happened in Act 1 and no way to judge whether or not anything that we’re seeing (on either side’s part) is justified.

Capitalist Lion Tamer (profile) says:

Re: Fifteen seconds

The St. Louis PD must have thought it was valid AND had access to the entire video. After all, they canned both the officers involved.

Prior to that, it looks like the perp was in the van. The union rep makes the excuse that previous to his detainment, he pulled a gun on the officer, who then shot at him (and missed). Does that Act 1 excuse Act 2? It may make it more understandable (cops are human beings) but it doesn’t justify the action.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fifteen seconds

there’s not context beforehand. the van door is shut. there’s no interaction. it doesn’t matter what happened prior to him being held in the van as whatever he has done has now passed and normal rules should apply. your reasoning is dumb. I mean, if someone broke into somebody’s house and immediately shot them and you had it on video, you’d want it thrown out?? I can understand if the video just starts when they’re all out of the van. But the guy is in the van. He’s in custody. There’s really nothing he could have done that could have justified the cops reaction. I honestly can’t think of one remote possibility let alone one idea that will actually make sense. You’re reasoning shows very little thought.

FarSide (profile) says:

Re: Fifteen seconds

Gimme a break. Did you even watch the video?

The kid was in the van, handcuffed behind his back. They made him step out.

They pulled his coat down to make it even harder to move his arms, as if he could do anything anyway.

BAM, arm to the face.

Unless the kid had a gun hidden under his tongue, there was NO reason for that. Other than no control.

(Also, they seriously think cops should be excused from responsibility because of ‘adrenaline’??)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Fifteen seconds

I would imagine that there is more video than what was shown, I can’t see the video switching “on” at where the above video starts. It was most likely shortened for internet consumption. In fact to be at all effective as a deterrent the video must run constantly and there should be no way for the officers to turn it off.

Anonymous Coward says:

…also suggested police officers shouldn’t be held accountable for actions performed under the influence of “adrenaline.”

Shoot…are they going to update the Controlled Substances List for the rest of us?

“P1: Book him for failure to submitting to a Drug Test.
P2: You suspect Iodine (table salt)?
P1: No, I suspect…Adrenaline!”

stk33 says:

Re: Liar cop

Lying is not some aberration, but a technique they are taught in the police academy, and are required to use. More generally, the whole concept of investigation and “interview” is based on deception. Here’s good article on the subject that gives lots of details, which I’m sure most people will qualify as dirty tricks.

http://people.howstuffworks.com/police-interrogation1.htm

“With a few exceptions, the police are allowed to lie to a suspect to get him to confess. The belief is that an innocent person would never confess to a crime she didn’t commit, even if she were confronted with false physical evidence of her involvement.”

Anonymous Coward says:

Geez, I thought the Supreme Court judges were incompetent, but this so called ‘judge’ Theresa Counts, almost makes them look Supreme Court look competent.

Come’on Theresa, we know what’s going on here ;). Turning a blind eye to video tape evidence that shows a police officer beating a suspect in hand cuffs.

For shame.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

This shooting involved Bruce’s partner Jacob Fowler (another rookie who was fired for this incident) firing his weapon at the suspect after the teen pointed a gun at him.

Sure he was in custody and hand cuffed. This day and age be smart enough, to kiss an arresting officers, ass. Once in custody your state owned, DICKWAD

mattshow (profile) says:

Times like this really make me wish I could get a hold of the transcript or judge’s decision. All the blog posts on this are based on media reports, and the media is SO awful at reporting on things like this.

As people here and on Simple Justice have posted, there are ways to get video evidence admitted without independent corroboration. There’s a chance the judge provided more of an explanation as to why she wouldn’t admit the video, and if so, I’d like to read it.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Hogan also suggested police officers shouldn’t be held accountable for actions performed under the influence of “adrenaline.” “

So if I shot a cop can I then claim that I was under the influence of adrenaline as a defense?

If that defense works for cops then why can’t it work for me?

It is the job of a cop to be able to handle these sorts of situations properly. If a cop can’t do it because of adrenaline or whatever other reason then they should lose their jobs and should have never became cops in the first place.

“video captured by police cameras should only be used when what’s recorded justifies police actions.”

Because the cops shouldn’t serve the people, they should serve themselves. Everything they do should be self serving.

No, the opposite should be true. Those videos should be around to ensure that cops don’t do anything wrong and to ensure they receive punishment when they do something wrong. The cops should hold the burden or filming everything and proving their case when they make a case against someone and proving their innocence whenever the possibility of guilt arises (ie: when someone got hurt and it could have been a cop hurting them).

Anonymous Coward says:

Union Liars!

Get rid of the public sector union pigs at the trough.
They abuse the tax paying public and should be dismantled.

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Digger says:

This type of officer better run and hide

Because now, there will be all sorts of video cropping up, real or not, showing him assaulting everyone from babies to grandmas, and that video will be authenticated and he will spend the rest of his life being Bruno’s bitch.

Actually, any law enforcement officer who abuses his / her position of authority should be sent to gitmo, before being summarily executed.

This applies to the FBI, CIA, NSA as well. So all you constitutional terrorists – you know who you are – the assholes who think that the constitution doesn’t say what it says and doesn’t mean what it means – watch out – you’re going to rue the day you stepped outside the law and committed treason against the United States citizens which you swore to protect against your own type of actions.

btr1701 (profile) says:

Cops

> This shooting involved Bruce’s partner Jacob
> Fowler (another rookie who was fired for
> this incident) firing his weapon at the suspect
> after the teen pointed a gun at him

Was he fired for this? Or for something else? Because it’s perfectly reasonable and justifiable to shoot someone (teen or not) who’s pointing a gun at you.

If he was fired for legitimate self-defense, that’s just as much bullshit as his partner’s assault of the cuffed kid.

> But the most troubling (read: repulsive) aspect
> of this whole debacle isn’t the fact that Bruce
> wasn’t charged, or that Judge Theresa Burke didn’t
> watch the video.

Bruse *was* charged. What do you think the trial was all about? You don’t go on trial for assault if you haven’t been charged with assault to begin with.

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