Defendant Wins Appeal on Grounds of Failure to Properly ID
An appeals court granted a petition to appeal a case on the grounds that a police officer failed to properly identify a suspect who fired his weapon at a vehicle. The defendant was charged with being an armed habitual criminal in possession of a firearm after he was followed into a nearby home. The police officer identified the suspect by a blue hooded sweatshirt from 150 feet away. 150 feet is about half the length of a football field.
The officer saw the defendant reach into a parked vehicle and later recovered keys from the defendant that fit into that vehicle. The officer also saw the blue sweatshirt positioned in front of the defendant. The defendant was convicted but appealed the case on the grounds that the officer did not have sufficient reason to believe the defendant was the same person who reached into the car and fired the shots.
In this case, the appellate court remanded the decision back to the trial court because of over-reliance on police testimony.
Analyzing the evidence
In this case, the officer had three ways to ID the suspect. The first was the blue sweatshirt, the second was the keys to the parked vehicle, and the third was a handgun which matched the description of the handgun used to fire at the moving vehicle. The defendant was not wearing the sweatshirt at the time he was ID’d by the police officer. The keys did allegedly match the vehicle into which the defendant was said to have reached inside. The last bit of evidence was the 40-caliber handgun which matched the description of the gun used to fire into the moving vehicle.
The appeal was successful because the trial court over-relied on the police officer’s testimony to gain a conviction. It’s worth noting that the case was a bench trial. The defendant successfully argued that the judge had a pronounced bias in favor of police testimony. However, it also stated that the evidence was sufficient to charge the defendant with being an armed habitual criminal.
After conviction, the defendant was sentenced to 14 years imprisonment. He appealed the decision from prison.
IDing suspect at the heart of this conviction
The entire conviction for this case boiled down to the police officer’s ability to correctly identify the suspect from a distance of 50 yards. The trial court assumed that the police officer had a superior ability to ID suspects from that distance than your average citizen. In that sense, the case was mishandled and the defendant’s conviction was reversed. Further, the defendant was never found in direct possession of the handgun. The handgun was recovered from a purse underneath a mattress. Hence, while other factors related to the case may have been enough to convict the defendant, the ID of the handgun was not sufficiently explicit to warrant a conviction.
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