What do you think when a defendant claims that the cops planted evidence, that he or she was framed.
Bull crap, right? We know, like Shawshank, everyone's innocent. And seriously, why would cops risk their careers and livelihood to put some low-level junkie in jail on an "under the influence" charge. Except they did, according to Allison Ross in her civil suit. And they were caught on tape.
The worst part is, even with the transcripts from the tape, her story still seems incredible.
'We're Gonna Spike That and We're Gonna Spike Him.'
On New Years' Eve, 2009, the police responded to a public disturbance call down the street from Ross' home. Her husband was arrested, then the police turned their attention on the couple's family home. Mrs. Ross was detained while the police did a "safety sweep" of the home. Instead of merely securing the premises, however, Ross alleges that the officers ransacked her home, dug through drawers, and came up empty.
According to Ross, she overheard the deputies mentioning that a search warrant had been denied.
The incident report mentions that two bags of white powder were found and confiscated. A dash camera confirms that there were two bags, but they weren't the couple's property.
"The house is clean, there is no meth in the house," the officers are heard saying. "We're gonna spike that and we're gonna spike him."
"I got the meth in the ------- car." (expletive redacted in the complaint).
Tampered Blood Test
Even with the transcript, and the officers' later admission during a preliminary hearing that no narcotics were actually found in the house, Allison Ross was charged with using methamphetamine, Cal. Health and Safety Code § 11550 (a). The charges were later dropped, on the fourth day of trial, "in the interest of justice because [the prosecutor] had become aware that false statements had been presented to the jury."
She claims that not only did the officers plant meth in her home, but they tampered with her blood test as well, either when they had possession of the samples, or in concert with the lab technicians, or when they handed her an "already open container of bottled water," which she drank.
So Many Questions
How much did you believe her story initially? How much do you believe the part about the tampered blood test? Are you still a bit hesitant to buy that part, even after the cops' conspiracy to plant meth was caught on tape?
How did this case make it to trial? Did the prosecutors withhold the tape or simply not know about it? And why haven't the police officers been charged? (Is it too late, since this happened in 2009?)
Finally, here's the big one: Why? Why would a cop lie? Scott Greenfield, a guy who knows a wee bit about criminal defense, notes that this is the argument made by prosecutors every time a defendant claims to be framed:
The question is asked in polite conversation all the time, as if there is an answer. Beats me. Sometimes, they do it because they are sure someone is dirty and just don't have the evidence. Sometimes, a person pisses them off, contempt of cop perhaps, and they feel the need to show them who's the boss. Sometimes, it's to cover up their own wrongdoing, by turning an innocent into a criminal, since a complaint of wrongdoing by a criminal is invariably dismissed. Sometimes, there is no explanation under the sun. But they lie.
For a judicial perspective on lying cops, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Kopf admits that he tends to believe cops, because of common sense (they have less incentive to lie, most defendants are guilty, most cops have corroborating evidence), but he does his best to keep an open (and impartial) mind.
His post, by the way, was in response to a different case of cops caught on tape lying. It's not as rare as one might hope.
- Ross v. Santa Clara County Sheriffs Department (Complaint)
- Rare 'Perry Mason' moment in court wins dismissal for defendant, desk duty for 5 police officers (ABA Journal)
- Something is Rotten in the Orange County D.A.'s Office (FindLaw's California Case Law Blog)