By RICHARD MEEHAN
The Cool Justice Report
Dec. 12, 2007
EDITOR'S NOTE: This column is available for reprint courtesy of The Cool Justice Report, http://cooljustice.blogspot.com
In one for the record books, a New York City detective found himself on the other side of the prison bars this week as he was arraigned in a Bronx court on 12 counts of perjury. Detective Christopher Perino had detained a teenager suspected of involvement in a shooting. Perino testified in April in the youngster's trial that the boy wasn't questioned. Unfortunately for Perino he neglected to thoroughly search the suspect. The youngster had an MP3 recording device on his person that his family had recently given him. The savvy kid pressed "record" and at his trial Perino was confronted with the recording. This prompted an immediate recess and Perino's referral for prose-cution. As for the kid he was facing 25 years but was offered a deal for 7 years on a plea to a weapons charge.
Facebook, MySpace and Youtube have created a generation of digital historians. Any youngster with a digital camera or cellphone camera and a computer can become an instant Steven Speilberg. Add Photoshop to the mix and even neophytes can manipulate images and create a distorted reality. More and more we are seeing grainy cellphone video capturing some dramatic event as it unfolds. Much of what is posted on the internet is sophomoric nonsense. Some unfortunately, is mean spirited. Whatever it is, it remains in the cyber world indefinitely. People caught in an embarrassing moment have been victimized by cyber pranksters memorializing that moment for all time.
As for Det. Perino, a cop lying under oath subverts the system of justice. When we conduct jury voir dire defense lawyers always inquire of potential jurors concerning proposed police testimony. Routinely, in every criminal jury instruction, a court will inform jurors that a police officer's testimony is entitled to no greater weight or sanctity than any other witness. A cop is not more believable simply because he or she is a police officer. In voir dire jurors often will pay lip service to understanding this axiom of law, but in reality the testimony of a cop always receives greater weight. We want to believe that those sworn to protect us and trained in giving testimony will honestly relate what they learned or observed.
Sadly, there are some who are so committed to obtaining a conviction that they will depart from the truth. The burden of proving this is often insurmountable. It is usually the word of the accused, often someone with a criminal record, against a veteran officer. Perino should be accused not only of perjury but also stupidity. The law permits a reasonable pat down or search of a person detained by an officer, for the cop's protection. Even a cursory frisk would have revealed the recorder. Bad luck for a bad cop!
SLIP SLIDING AWAY
In Casselberry, Florida this week a 12-year veteran police sergeant was fired for suing homeowners after she slipped and fell on water on a floor as she was called to rescue a one-year old who nearly drowned in the family pool.
Sgt. Andrea Eichorn apparently slipped and sustained a fractured knee. The child suffered brain damage and can no longer walk, talk or swallow. Eichorn reportedly was a decorated officer. Injured on the job, she had every right to bring a worker's compensation claim against her employer. It would not have implicated the already devastated family.
She also had every right to bring suit against the homeowners if they had been negligent in allowing water to accumulate on a slippery surface. Whether you possess a potential right and whether you should exercise are different questions.
Exercising the right to sue should also be tempered by reason and compassion.The problem for Eichorn was that this was in the midst of efforts to resuscitate the nearly drowned baby. The mere fact that one is injured on the property of another is not an automatic entitlement to collect damages. There must be proof that the homeowner was negligent. Negligence is the failure to do what a reasonably prudent person would do under the same circumstances. No reasonable jury would ever find those parents negligent for not mopping up the water left by rescuers.
BARRY BONDS PICKED UP ON WAIVERS BY THE FEDS
The controversial home run king was signed to a new deal this week, when a federal magistrate in San Francisco released him on a $500,000 non surety bond following his arraignment on multiple counts of perjury and obstruction of justice.
Flanked by a team of six lawyers, Bonds entered not guilty pleas to the indictment. Non-surety bonds are uncommon in our state system, but are often employed in federal cases. It is a promise that if you do not appear to answer for the charges you will forfeit to the United States the amount of the bond. Generally, these types of bonds are em-ployed when an individual demonstrates financial stability and sufficient assets.
In addition, the feds have a much easier time tracking down bail absconders than does a state court. In an unusual twist, Bonds was not required to surrender his passport, although that was requested by the prosecutor. His lawyers argued that his job as a professional baseball player required him to travel to Canada for games in Toronto and Montreal.
When Michael Vick was indicted the commissioner of the National Football League acted swiftly to suspend him from play. Bonds is a free agent shopping for another team to pay him the $20 million that the Giants were paying him before his release.
He is entitled to the presumption of innocence like any other defendant. He is already suspected of sullying one of the greatest sports records of all time. For the integrity of the game he should take a leave until his criminal travails are at an end. If he is truly innocent he should welcome the opportunity to defend his reputation in a public trial and prove to us that he never took performance enhancing drugs. He owes that to the game and the fans that have supported him through his career.
Bridgeport attorney Richard Meehan Jr. was the lead defense counsel for former Bridgeport Mayor Joseph Ganim's corruption trial. Meehan is certified as a criminal trial specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1994 and serves on the organizations Board of Examiners. He is a Charter Fellow, Litigation Counsel of America -- Trial Lawyer Honorary Society. Meehan has also obtained multi-million dollar verdicts and settlements in complex medical and dental malpractice and personal injury litigation. He is a past president of the Greater Bridgeport Bar Association and appears regularly on Court TV. Website, www.meehanlaw.com