Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Why Would They Do This?

Cops conducted an illegal search of a house. So far, nothing new here. Cops found nothing. Still, nothing new. Cops decide to plant meth in the house. Interesting, but nearly impossible to prove. Cops get caught on their own dashcam talking about it. Bingo!

From Courthouse News:

A police car dash cam captured Santa Clara deputies plotting to plant drugs in a woman’s home after their first illegal search turned up nothing, the woman claims in court.

Allison Ross, who was arrested after the second search of her home, sued the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Department, its crime lab, Sheriff Laurie Smith, and 12 of her officers, in Federal Court.

Someone always asks, can the cops be so stupid that they would forget there is video and audio running, and talk about it openly?  Well, apparently so, though the question isn’t necessarily about the degree of stupid as opposed to the degree of brazen.  Force of habit dies hard.

So first, they conduct a “security sweep,” one of those fascinating excuses that judges are always reluctant to second guess, as they never want to appear on the front page of the local paper as the judge who cost a cop his life.  And then, well, they just “ransacked” the place and came up empty.

How much does that suck?  So, if the perps won’t cooperate by leaving their meth around to be found, why not just “fix” the problem?

 “The Incident Report states that two bags of white powder were found and confiscated. However, pursuant to the vehicle dash camera video and transcript, the officers are heard on the recording saying: ‘the house is clean, there is no meth in the house’, ‘we’re gonna spike that and we’re gonna spike him.’ ‘I got the meth in the ——- car,'” the complaint states. (Epithet deleted in complaint.)

But for video, you know which way this would have gone. The reason is twofold, because judges believe cops in the absence of incontrovertible evidence to the contrary, and because the stock argument gets pulled out for the jury.

Why would the officer lie?  The officer has no personal animosity toward the defendant. There is no reason why he would lie or plant evidence to “get” this person. There is no reason why he would risk his career over this individual.  Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, there is absolutely no reason in the world for this officer to lie about this.  The defendant, on the other hand, has every reason to lie.  The officer has none.

And this argument, repeated in some variation about a million times over, is a proven winner.  The prisons are filled with people against whom this argument was made, each of whom can attest to its effectiveness with a jury.

And why would a cop lie?

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.

And with the advent of pervasive video, combined with the similarly inexplicable stupidity to get caught on video, we learn that they lie. They plant evidence. They beat people for no reason. They just do.

If you want to know why a cop lies, ask the cop.  How in the world should the defense know why the cop lied?  We just know they did. Whether we can prove it is another matter, but as proof emerges, is there anyone on the prosecution side figuring this out?  Is there anyone who wants to know the answer?

I suspect not, and the reason I suspect not is that if there is some empirical study as to why cops lie (and note here, this is not about process lies, like where the police falsely claim a person gave consent to search, but outcome lies, that they are guilty of the ultimate crime), the prosecutors wouldn’t be able to make the argument with a straight face.  Well, maybe some would, but not all.

What is often lost among jurors is that the arguments made in closing aren’t brand spanking new notions, popping into some prosecutor’s head the night before he stepped up to the podium.  These are arguments that have been drilled into their heads in training sessions, stock answers to stock questions, carefully prepared and presented in exactly the way they’ve been taught to do.

The defense argues X, so the prosecution responds with Y. Been there. Done that. Guilty.  The effectiveness of the argument is so well proven that it could be played out in our sleep.  It may be new to the defendant. It may be new to the jury. But it’s old, old news to the lawyers.

But video proves it false. It puts the lie to the “why would they lie” argument.  Sometimes, cops lie.  It doesn’t matter why. It matters that they do. And if it were not for video, no one would ever believe it.


28 thoughts on “Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury, Why Would They Do This?

  1. ExCop-LawStudent

    And people wonder why police are camera shy?

    This is a perfect example of the failed war on drugs and the cancer it introduced to our police. They now think as warriors, and all is fair in war, including planting evidence.

    You’ll note that it does not appear that any criminal charges have been filed against the officers.

    1. SHG Post author

      You’ll note that it does not appear that any criminal charges have been filed against the officers.

      Of course not. But I’m sure they got their butts reamed for being so stupid as to get caught on video.

      1. UltravioletAdmin

        The Santa Clara DA is very shy about going after officers. I know folks who’ve been straight up told you have a valid claim against the county for brutality, and the deputies stories are bullcrap, but if you don’t settle for time served and a misdemeanor, we’re going to go for felony conviction worth 5+ years.

        I’m hoping the election this fall can bring in some cleaning of the county criminal justice, but its only a faint hope.

    2. Brett Middleton

      I would be a little camera shy myself if I knew that every little thing I did would be scrutinized to the hilt and subject to armchair analysis by people expecting an inhuman, unattainable degree of perfection in my actions. A cynic, of course, might suspect that the shyness stems from a police culture that believes the correct response to a situation that goes south is to come up with a spur-of-the-moment lie.

      This particular case seems worse, though, since they had to prepare that particular lie in advance. The frame was ready to apply before they ever left the station. Why else was one of them carrying meth around in his car? Do they make a habit of taking drugs along on every drug bust, just in case? Where did they get this meth? There seem to be things going on that are much worse than a simple lie, but nobody is asking the questions.

      1. SHG Post author

        Maybe, but not necessarily. Just as I admonish others not to speculate, that goes for you too. It may be that they had just made a meth seizure, and that’s why it was there. Or they carry around some spare meth all the time, in case something like this comes up. Or, maybe this was from their personal meth stash, because, you know, meth. Or they asked the guy at the bodega for Crystal Pepsi and he gave them the wrong thing. You never know.

        1. Wrongway

          Or, maybe this was from their personal meth stash, because, you know, meth.

          now that was funny..

          oh wait, this is lawyer speak..
          umm… I got nuthin..
          (Wrongway:<– Scarred for life by the Ga. Publik Skool Sistum..)

      2. dancapo

        I think it’s just human nature. If you’re on camera long enough, your guard goes down and you just basically forget that it’s even there.

        1. SHG Post author

          I tend to agree with you, but you would think that if a cop is going to plant evidence, an alarm would go off about whether it’s captured on video. Unless, of course, they plant evidence that often that it doesn’t stand out in their mind.

          1. LDW

            I think maybe you are correct in that they do it so often they have just accepted it as the regular thing to do.

  2. Richard G. Kopf

    SHG and Ex-Cop Law Student,

    If those cops aren’t charged with a felony, then the judge involved, and those who share the bench with him or her, should go ape shit and publicly so. I mean throw a real shit storm. Not just some stupid little contempt citation, but a significant felony charge or even a felony conspiracy charge in federal court about violating the civil rights of the accused. And, when convicted, the cops should go to prison. Not probation. Hard time.

    But what the hell do I know.

    All the best.


    1. SHG Post author

      Welcome to our side the world, Judge. And people wonder why defense counsel and defendants grow cynical. As it’s reached the stage where the defendant prevailed at trial and has now instituted a 1983 suit, the likelihood of a prosecution has come and gone. A search for the names of the deputies involved shows nothing. Absolutely nothing.

      1. Wrongway

        is that a fact ??
        if so, although I’m amazed by it..
        I’m really not surprised at all..

      2. Richard G. Kopf


        If the judges in that jurisdiction have any cojones they will not let this go away. Give the cops due process sure, call in judges from outside the jurisdiction to handle the prosecutions, but for Christ’s sake protect the integrity of the judicial system that these judges serve. It is really as simple as that.

        All the best.


      3. Ed

        “A search for the names of the deputies involved shows nothing. Absolutely nothing.”
        Shoot, I was hoping to find out who the parents of the scum were.

    2. ExCop-LawStudent

      Judge, I agree with your sentiments, but it isn’t likely.

      As far as I’m concerned the officers should be charged under both state and federal law and serve any sentences consecutively.

      It’s not going to happen. The police are investigated by their own, and very rarely recommend criminal charges.

      The DA isn’t going to prosecute, and if they present it to the grand jury, will make sure that it is no billed by the information they present.

      The FBI has more important things to do, like fight the war on terrorism, and the US Attorney has bigger fish to fry. There’s not a lot of glory in prosecuting dirty cops.

      And when none of the above happen, it will be almost impossible to prevail in a 1983 case.

      There need to be major changes in the investigation and prosecution of bad officers, and until that happens, this will be a recurring problem.

  3. Rob Robertson

    Anybody check on the prosecutor? Why did it take a prosecutor’s supervisor to notice this?

    “Four days into Ross’s criminal jury trial, the District Attorney’s Office dismissed the charges after the supervisor of the D.A.’s Misdemeanor Team became aware that false statements had been presented to the jury, according to the complaint.”

    1. SHG Post author

      Anybody check on the prosecutor?

      It’s ripe for your investigation. Go for it, and we look forward to your report.

      1. Fubar

        Anybody check on the prosecutor?

        I expect the ADA(s) can be identified by perusing the public case file for case #C1067547, filed 1/28/2010, likely titled People v. Allison Merrie Ross. That name and date are consistent with the name and date of the event reported in the linked Courthouse News Service article.

  4. Wrongway

    SHG, great piece on this particular case..

    this is exactly why I keep coming back here.. I’m not a lawyer (tho I do play one in my bathroom mirror..)..
    but I’m interested & curious & at times fascinated by the process .. & I’m learning.. (that defense lawyers are getting.. well, pretty jaded with the system..)..

    Thanx for your Site.. & the time you put into it..

        1. Wrongway

          screw the rules & your doughnuts.. (with bacon..)..

          I’m just gonna read your blog anyways..

          Neener neener neener..

  5. Pingback: Why Would A Policeman Lie In Court? |

  6. ElynnKy

    Just a thought here about lying in front of a camera. Perhaps we have grown so used to cameras that we forget they are there and act accordingly.

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