The only possible way this could have happened is if some cop in the Cornelius, Oregon, police department had whispered in someone’s ear. That, or it was the most mind-bogglingly lucky screw-up imaginable when volunteer certified law student, Stacy Du Clos, decided to subpoena some officers of the department to testify at trial on behalf of the defense.
Via The Oregonian:
In a rare move, defense attorney Stacy Du Clos, who is a certified law student, had summoned Officer Dustin DeHaven’s colleagues as character witnesses. It was DeHaven’s arrest of her client that led to the trial.
One after the other, the two officers called as defense witnesses stood before a six-person jury. Each one raised his right hand and swore to tell the truth and nothing but.
The idea of putting a character witness on the stand without knowing what they would say is, well, crazy, and one has to assume that Du Clos knew what she was doing.
Officer Doug Schuetz went first.
Du Clos asked, have you formed an opinion about Officer DeHaven’s truthfulness?
“Yes,” he said. “That he lacks credibility.”
No further questions.
Granted, this was a police department with some, ahem, internal issues, and what better way to spill them across the floor than at trial and under oath. The “mitigated speech” used in the stories about this internal strife leaves much to the imagination about who’s doing what to whom, but clearly the four officers who were called as DeHaven’s “character” witnesses were not feeling particularly supportive of their fellow officer that day.
In the letter, the four officers also made multiple allegations against DeHaven. They worried about his integrity and truthfulness, stating they feared his actions would negatively impact the department’s cases.
DeHaven had lied to a supervisor, falsely attributed statements related to probable cause in a report and disregarded a call for service, writing false dispatch entries related to the incident, the officers alleged.
The State Police investigated the claims against DeHaven and found “no evidence of criminal wrongdoing.” Apparently, the four cops who testified weren’t thrilled with the outcome, and have since sued the city. Having obtained no validation from the State Police, it appears the officers took matters into their own hands and decided that this was the time and place to take a stand against DeHaven.
As the prosecutor explained in his post-trial statement:
“I can’t say for sure that it’s never happened before,” he said, “but I can’t remember it ever happening before.”
Ignoring the hyperbole obviously designed to grab national media attention, it would be fair to call it highly unusual. And indeed, it’s not the sort of thing one should anticipate happening again anywhere else, so think long and hard before you consider subpoenaing the arresting officer’s buds to testify. Just sayin’.
Unfortunately, this dramatic testimony may make for a rather amazing, if slightly snarky story, but to no avail for the defendant represented by this bold volunteer certified law student.
The unusual courtroom scene played out Thursday afternoon in Washington County Circuit Court. Tamera Mayta, 49, was on trial accused of a low-level misdemeanor.
Authorities alleged Mayta had refused DeHaven’s order to sit in a chair when he responded to a domestic disturbance at her home June 3. She was charged with one count of interfering with a peace officer.
Mayta’s 79-year-old mother had called police seeking help with Mayta’s older brother, who has mental health issues and was screaming uncontrollably that morning.
Mayta admitted to ignoring DeHaven’s order, but her defense attorney said it was a necessary measure to avoid the danger of moving closer to her brother.
And so with a witness list four cops deep, Du Clos went to trial. And Mayta was promptly convicted. As bizarre as it may be to have so many valuable witnesses available, there was a tactical issue at stake that may have been overshadowed by the glow of good fortune: Police Officer Dustin DeHaven’s credibility really wasn’t at issue in the case.
Liar, liar, pants on fire. So what? Had there been a factual dispute at the heart of the case, a he said, she said situation perhaps, the testimony of the fellow officers would have been critical and likely dispositive. But there was no dispute. Mayta admitted doing what she was accused of doing.
While the opportunity to put on a show like this is definitely alluring, and it has certainly created a record that will be available in the future to attack DeHaven’s credibility, it didn’t do Mayta much good. The sense that the opportunity to have the unthinkable play out in a courtroom was too much to withstand, even though it didn’t do anything to serve the defendant’s interest, is hard to shake.
On the bright side, the judge recognized both that this was a minor misdemeanor and, regardless of DeHaven’s credibility issues, Mayta’s refusal to comply with his commands wasn’t exactly the next worst thing to murder.
Circuit Judge Don Letourneau sentenced Mayta to one day in jail, with credit for time served. He waived her fees. He imposed no probation or community service. She was ordered to have no contact with DeHaven unless in an emergency.
Just a regular day in court in Cornelius, Oregon.