But For Video: Just Another Resisting Edition

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?

26 thoughts on “But For Video: Just Another Resisting Edition

  1. peck2

    This episode pretty well proves that “dash cams” in police cars have no effect on how the [police] act and react toward citizens. Sure, Jeter was exonerated, lucky for him, but how many hundreds, maybe thousands, of other innocent people were not because the [police] destroyed the evidence? [Ed. Note: Balance of comment deleted.]

    1. SHG Post author

      Normally, I would have just trashed your comment, but I edited it and posted it to discuss one point: This episode does not prove that dash cams have no effect, by any means. It proves that they are not a cure-all, as many want to believe, and dash cams will not end police misconduct. They are a tool that can, and obviously did for Jeter, help, but there is no magic bullet solution that will make everything suddenly wonderful and all the bad things go away forever.

  2. pml

    Leaves one to wonder why they didn’t make the vidoe disappear. “Oh there is no video, the camera was broken in the second car”

    1. Turk

      Leaves one to wonder why they didn’t make the vidoe disappear.

      The only logical explanation is that they don’t have the tech tools to make it vanish. Perhaps it is automatically backed up someplace beyond the reach of the folks involved.

        1. Turk

          You assume logic when it comes to police conduct.

          Correction: The subject was not conduct, but misconduct.

          And the logic doesn’t go to the misconduct, but to Occam’s razor providing the simplest possible explanation:

          They wanted it to vanish.
          It didn’t vanish.
          Ergo, they couldn’t make it vanish.

          1. Patrick Maupin

            I think in this instance, Occam’s Razor says to me that (a) it never occurred to the perps that the second car was getting a full record of events, and (b) not every LEO is hopelessly corrupt.

            But what Occam’s Razor says about this to those who think that the police are a monolithic, omniscient conspiracy, I couldn’t say.

  3. Canvasback

    They seem well-trained to shout, “Stop resisting.” and “Stop trying to take my gun.” when they’re putting a beat-down on someone. You might call that the First Lie of Defense.

    1. bill

      You learn something new every day. I thought “Stop Resisting” was CopSpeak for “I’m beating the dog sh*t out of this dude”

  4. GeorgeB

    In a discussion elsewhere, a corespondent mentioned his law student offspring is clerking/interning {my term} for a criminal defense attorney; and has noted that the cops are now carefully parking at an angle so their dashcams don’t cover the pertinent field of view. I’m sure this is just coincidence…..

  5. fiver

    Prosecutors did their job in one respect: indictments after the fact. It sure doesn’t justify trying to ruin an innocent man’s life as a matter of routine. But it’s still not nothing.

    Hey, we’re fighting for scraps here. If those cops get five years (yeah, right), maybe some justice will be done.

    “Funny” how neither the cops nor the prosecutors are identified in either article.

  6. Mirriam Seddiq

    All we can do is continue to educate the walk between the raindrops crowd. The problem here is that Marcus Jeter is black. So even though he is a ‘well spoken black man’ there are many who will assume it’s all ok because of his skin color.

  7. Thomas R. Griffith

    Sir, one of my dogs hacked our channel block and watched CNN all day long and coincidentally the topic of discussion before I ripped the cord out of the wall was cops caught on video.

    And I believe you meant to type Amy Bach. Thanks.

  8. Thomas R. Griffith

    Naah no dumb mistake made, we know your fingers must be frozen. The only reason I noticed it was due to the O.I. book being front & center in our office for almost 5 years now. Throw in the fact that she’s gotta be one of the foxiest CDLs on the planet (in which I just happen to be on a first name basis with) and… Hubba bubba, And, a few lawyers in Big-D keep asking me when O.I. the movie, is due out? All I can say is – I’m trying to get Johnny Depp and others to assist in making it so.

    Speaking of, last time we spoke about the much anticipated release of your Re-View of O.I., you were in stand by mode. In case I missed it, please point me in the SJ post’s direction. Thanks.

    1. SHG Post author

      That’s right, I did a preview but not a review. Then again, given how many times I’ve referred to Amy’s little piece of seminal genius, the only thing left to say is everyone must buy and read Ordinary Injustice.

      1. Thomas R. Griffith

        Yes Sir indeed, one for yourself & one as a gift for the teenager or client in need of the ‘Talk’. A while back, I was able to get one copy placed in an Adult Probation alcohol & substance abuse rehab’s library. When I get rich, I’ll have a trunk full of ’em to pass out to every probationer. And, don’t forget the bad guys folks, they also read books. *I have three copies in Will Call reserved for Mr. Casey J. O’Brien, Mr. John W. Clinton & Dan R. Jackson.

        Re: The post. There seems to be a national theme (loophole) in place allowing bad cops to simply commit violent crimes, (if & when caught), be investigated & cleared by brothers or a rigged G.J., plead down to Tampering, or Falsifying Incident Reports, get spanked, or retire & walk away with a pension, plus, plus. When ‘youts’ of any shade observe this lopsided injustice, it goes without saying that it definitely has an effect on the level of respect and trust in law enforcement. Anyone asking Why do they run from cops even though no crime was committed, hasn’t been Jetered yet. With that, while we are told this isn’t Russia, (where almost everyone has a live dash-cam) do you believe it’s time to consider CYA with one or two? Thanks again & have good one.

        1. SHG Post author

          If we step back from the stuff that gets highlighted by criminal law blogs and such, the majority of Americans still don’t feel any threat or recognize much of a problem, and so they wouldn’t see any reason to walk around wearing a camera. Most will make it through their lives without needing one. If they are have the misfortune to need one and they don’t, well, bummer.

          In some neighborhoods, I would think it very wise to wear a body cam given the likelihood of having an interaction with the cops. Better safe than sorry.

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