If You’re Not Doing Anything Wrong…

If you’re not doing anything wrong, then you’ve got nothing to worry about…

I can’t tell you how angry and sad this makes me every time I hear someone say it. I’ve come to believe that many people in our country want to live in a police state. They don’t appreciate or want the protections that we have under our Constitution, and they will not change their minds until they, personally, are beaten or wrongfully arrested by police. Maybe not even then.

An Horry County police detective was fired last month for lying to obtain an invalid search warrant that resulted in the defendant’s conviction and nearly six years in prison before the conviction was overturned. I was reading the comments to an article about the case in The State newspaper and came across the obligatory police apologists who insist, even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, that police officers cannot do anything wrong and that no one is ever arrested unless they were doing something wrong in the first place…

What Happened in State v. Robinson?

In March of 2016, the S.C. Supreme Court affirmed the Court of Appeal’s decision to overturn Alex Robinson’s conviction for trafficking cocaine in Horry County, SC. Donald Kent, a narcotics officer at the time, stated in a search warrant affidavit that a confidential informant had bought drugs from the occupants of the house on multiple occasions. The search warrant was issued and the home was searched. Robinson was not present at the house when it was searched, but there was mail addressed to him inside the home and a car registered to him was parked outside. Although Robinson claimed that he had moved out of the house long before the raid occurred, he was convicted at trial of trafficking cocaine.

Robinson asked for a Franks v. Delaware hearing at the start of his trial, to challenge the truthfulness of the detective’s statements in the search warrant affidavit. Although the trial court (Judge Cottingham) determined that there were no false statements in the affidavit, the officer’s testimony at the hearing clearly showed that he did, in fact, lie in the affidavit.

The informant that Kent stated had made the numerous undercover buys did not actually make any of the purchases. Although the informant was wired to record the transactions, each time that the informant went to the house she actually sat in the car while a different person went into the house and made the purchases.

The other person was not wired, the transactions were not recorded, and Kent did not mention this other person in his search warrant affidavit. Because the magistrate was not told about the third person, there was no way for the magistrate to verify that person’s credibility, and, absent the false information that Kent put into the affidavit, there was not sufficient information for any magistrate to make a probable cause determination.

Courts like to say things like “false statement” or “untruthful statement.” Courts don’t like to offend police officers. What the court is really saying is that Kent lied in the warrant affidavit. His lies made the search warrant invalid and the case should never have gone to trial. As a consequence of Kent’s lies in the warrant affidavit, Alex Robinson spent almost six years in a South Carolina prison.

Back the Blue…

Kent was not fired or disciplined in any way when he admitted that he lied in the search warrant affidavit in 2008. When the Court of Appeals reversed the conviction based on his lies, he was not fired or disciplined. When the SC Supreme Court affirmed the reversal last year, he was not fired or disciplined. He faced no consequences for his part in Robinson’s wrongful conviction until last month, nearly ten years after he lied in Robinson’s case. How many other cases has he committed misconduct in since it first came to light in 2008?

The comments on the State article discussing Kent’s firing included this gem:

It wouldn’t be me, or my relatives, as we obey the law and don’t give any reason for them to look at us. Again, if you’re doing nothing wrong then you have nothing to worry about, this isn’t rocket science.

“Officers breaking the law”? That’s not possible, they are the law and you should honor them for their sacrifices not berate them for doing what they have to do to keep you safe…

You need to stop shaming or honorable officers, so what he lied? He was probably forced to by some pantywaist judge continually letting a criminal go! BACK THE BLUE!

Let me take this opportunity to say a few things, from the perspective of a criminal defense lawyer who sees police officers lie or stretch the truth on a regular basis:

  • If you are doing nothing wrong, you absolutely have something to worry about from a police officer who is unethical and dishonest. You also may have something to worry about from a police officer who is just making an honest mistake.
  • Officers can’t break the law because they are the law? One day, we may be forced to accept a justice system that looks like the world of Judge Dredd, but we are not there yet:

Did an Officer Lie in Your Case?

If the officer lied, we will have to prove it based on our own investigation of your case. Although this is an uphill battle, we may be able to prove misconduct on the part of the officer through audio or video evidence, independent witness interviews, or expert testimony. If you have been charged with trafficking cocaine or any criminal offense in Myrtle Beach or Columbia, SC, call the Thompson Defense Firm now at 843-444-6122 or fill out our online contact form to find out how we can help.

 

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