The video of Marlene Pinnock being pummeled about the head on the side of a highway by the unidentified California Highway Patrol Officer (because confidentiality matters, sometimes) was outrageous enough. But in contrast to the experience of anyone who has ever watched a cop show on television, the shock when they learn that the police don’t actually investigate most crimes, but rather arrest someone if they’re lucky enough to trip over them, this time an investigation will be done. Oh yes, this time, the CHP will show its mad investigative skillz.
Except not with regard to the cop who beat Pinnock, but Pinnock, the victim of the beating, who was arrested for viciously attacking the cop’s fists with her face.
But so many questions remain unanswered, and no investigative agency worth its salt would let that happen, so the CHP obtained a search warrant for Pinnock’s medical records;
Chris Arevalo, executive administrator for psychiatric services at Los Angeles County-USC Medical Center, confirmed that the CHP served the search warrant Tuesday for Marlene Pinnock’s records.
Pinnock’s attorney, Caree Harper, said she was notified by Arevalo on Wednesday and told the search warrant was for “property or things that are evidence that tend to show that a felony has been committed or tends to show that a particular person has committed a felony.”
While one might question what part of the particularity requirement ran through the judge’s mind when signing off on this warrant, the problem runs far deeper. The CHP seized privileged medical records, the very stuff that they are prohibited from searching. But hey, they must certainly have had such an incredibly important need that no judge could refuse, right?
CHP Commissioner Joe Farrow explains:
“I think what they’re trying to do is, they don’t have a statement from her, and they’re trying to find that out,” Farrow said. “I don’t think the CHP is trying to put her on trial or make it an issue about her. What I’m looking at is entirely about the circumstances, we all saw what happened. Our job is to find out the why and the how.”
Eh, Joe, why not ask your unidentified officer to explain what compelling need prompted him to jump a woman from behind and beat the crap out of her? After all, he’s under your command, doing your job, right?
This quote from Farrow is so utterly nonsensical as to evoke uncontrolled guffaws. Aside from the fact that their purpose is to manufacture some excuse for this outrageous abuse so the fine guys who follow in smiling Ponch’s footsteps aren’t tarred as vicious animals, they are clearly seeking her psychiatric medical records to find some bit of nastiness with which to smear the victim.
But then, since Pinnock’s been charged for using her face to harm the cop’s fists, his dismay at her not giving a statement comes off just a wee bit disingenuous, even to those likely disinclined to believe that this is some benign and grossly misdirected search for the “why.”
The legal question that weighs most heavily here, however, is how a judge could have conceivably signed off on a warrant for Pinnock’s medical records. There’s HIPAA. There’s physician/psychotherapist-patient privilege. There is a fundamental prohibition against the forced disclosure of confidential medical information in the absence of a showing that it’s part of the crime itself.
While the privilege is not absolute. it’s also not ripe for the plucking because the cops just wanna know.
1018. There is no privilege under this article if the services of the psychotherapist were sought or obtained to enable or aid anyone to commit or plan to commit a crime or a tort or to escape detection or apprehension after the commission of a crime or a tort.
Clearly, there is nothing that could have been done in the course of a post-beating treatment that would give rise to an exception, unless of course the CHP feared that Pinnock was a serial cop fist assaulter who planned to go back to a highway to beat another cop’s fists with her face.
As disgraceful as this charade on the part of CHP may be in their effort to manufacture some excuse for the beating of Marlene Pinnock, the fact that they were able to obtain a search warrant to further their efforts reduces this scenario to the absurd.
Perhaps the judge couldn’t be bothered to read the warrant before signing. Perhaps the judge was on psychotropic medication and believed a dog told him to do so. Perhaps the judge does not read or write in the English language, and was confused by all the squiggly black marks on the paper. Whatever happened here, it reduces the law to a joke.
That the CHP’s reaction to this outrageous beating of a woman on the side of the road was not to arrest its officer for his violence is bad enough. That they sought a warrant in clear violation of Pinnock’s right to confidentiality is worse. But that they accomplished these feats with the apparent cooperation and approval of a judge is utterly inexcusable.
Like the cop whose fists were harmed, the name of the judge who signed off on this warrant is unknown. This is unfortunate, as it’s important that the names of judges who rubber stamp warrant, or who think so poorly of their duty, or who are so monumentally incompetent, ought to become very well known.
Just like Judge Cunningham, who was outraged at being treated like an ordinary person. I wonder how he would have taken a good beating from this CHP officer. and then have one of his fellow judges sign off on the seizure of his medical records without any cognizable legitimate justification except to smear him and excuse the beating.