Derek isn’t the only Jeter making news around these parts, even if these parts are extended to reach Bloomfield, New Jersey. Marcus Jeter was looking at five years, facing charges of “trying to elude [police], resisting arrest, [and] assaulting a police officer.”
What makes this remarkable is its unremarkability. No one, but no one except his lawyer and those who cared about him, would have blinked an eye had Marcus Jeter gone down on the charges.
It all began when police were called to Jeter’s home in Bloomfield, New Jersey. After a brief conversation, Jeter left his residence as no charges were filed.
Jeter was driving down the Garden State Highway when everything suddenly changed.
All it takes is the word of a cop, and the entire system responds, “well, okay then,” and poof, five years of his life could magically disappear without a prosecutor or judge doubting for a second that it happened. Why would the police lie about such a thing? That’s been the mantra forever.
Somehow, a mistake was made. Somehow, a dashcam video that no one had ever seen before, that appears to have been meant for no defendant’s and defense lawyer’s eyes, emerged.
The dashcam tape was not initially turned over to Jeter’s attorney by Bloomfield police. Only after a request for records was filed did the tape surface.
Prosecutors claim they never saw the video before pursuing criminal charges against Jeter.
There is an obligation on the part of prosecutors to use due diligence to ascertain the evidence in a case before demanding five years of a person’s life. It’s really not unfair to expect them to do their job before prosecuting a person. Whether this video should have been turned over as Brady or ordinary discovery doesn’t matter. The fact remained that it existed, and it’s impossible to imagine that prosecutors wouldn’t know, or at the very least ascertain, of its existence.
When they claim they never saw it, that may be true, but what it points to is their failure to do their job. It also points to their mindset, that they really felt no particular compulsion to do their job, to spend the extra five minutes it might take to find out that the second cruiser at the scene had a dash cam, and that the dash cam would have captured what occurred. After all, they already knew all they needed to know. The cops said so. Why bother to put their hands on evidence proving what they already knew?
Except the video proved the opposite:
It’s not a flashy video, as these things go. No gunshots, no body count. Just plain, vanilla lies on tape.
The tendency is to take notice of the most outrageous abuse, the worst outcome that offers sensational reasons to be critical of the police. But what almost happened to Marcus Jeter is far more of a problem, as it’s the Ordinary Injustice, as Amy Bach termed it, that affects the most people and evades detection without much thought.
In the well, these cases are often referred to by the players as “garden variety,” meaning that they are just another instance of typical cases, running their routine course, ending in routine pleas and the usual sentence. Move along, nothing to see here.
Sure, the defendant explains that none of it happened, at least not the way the cops tell the story. The prosecutor doesn’t want to hear about it. The judge’s eyes roll back in his head. The defense lawyer is left to explain that it’s not that he doesn’t believe his client, but that the likelihood of convincing a jury that the cops have fabricated a story about him, cops who have no apparent reason to do so, when he says he did nothing wrong at all, is tantamount to begging the judge to give him an extra five years for wasting everyone’s time.
Is this possible? Is this true? Ask the thousands of people sitting in cells whether cops might exaggerate a bit. Gild the lily, they say, just to make the story more banal and conclusive. While Marcus Jeter did nothing, absolutely nothing, to justify charges against him of any sort, others may have done a little something, but it turned into enough of a something after the cops’ recitation of their crimes to make sure they would spend the rest of their lives regretting their moment of noncompliance.
But when this video appeared, the world shifted on its axis.
Prosecutors dismissed all the criminal charges against Marcus Jeter, 30, of Bloomfield, N.J. and instead indicted two Bloomfield police officers for falsifying reports and one of them for assault after the recording surfaced showing police officers beating Jeter during a traffic stop, according to WABC of New York. A third has pleaded guilty to tampering.
All that stood between Marcus Jeter and five years in prison for a crime that never happened was a video. And next time, will the prosecutors think it worth their time to look? After all, what are the chances it could happen again?