Thursday, May 2, 2013

Will Juries Continue to Trust the Police

In almost every jury trial I've been involved in, one of the questions asked during jury selection involves whether the perspective juror would give police officer testimony greater weight and credibility than a civilian witness.  On many occasions, perspective jurors would honestly report that they would trust police officer testimony more due to their extensive training and their sworn duty to uphold the law.  That perspective is beginning to change.

In the wake of the West Valley Police Department scandal, that resulted in over 100 cases being dismissed, Officers being put on leave pending investigation and the entire drug unit being disbanded, and the Utah Highway Patrol scandal involving Officer Lisa Steed falsifying evidence to get convictions, resulting in the review of over 1000 cases, people are beginning to distrust the police.  A recent KSL News poll revealed that after these events, 66% of those polled indicated that they now trust the police less, while 26% said the recent news did not change their opinion, and 3% said that they were not sure if these events effected their perception of police.  The poll also reported that 6% stated that they now trust the police more . . . I wonder who they work for.

The results of this public perception of police poll may have a positive effect on those charged with crimes, who take their cases to trial.  I believe that juries are going to evaluate police investigations and evidence presented by law enforcement more critically than ever, rather than blindly accepting propositions proposed by the prosecution.  In the end, more innocent defendants should be acquitted, and those who are guilty will have received a fair trial.
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