When Innocence is Inconvenient (Part 2)

The Testimony of Spooky Brown, Esq. (Third Series)

For Part 1, click here.

Photo 156630756 © motortion | Dreamstime.com

(Part 2 of 4)*

Can We Talk for a Minute?

Right before the next court date, I listened to another batch of jail calls between Daniel and his mother. Once again, he was adamant about his innocence. To prove it, he asked her to obtain video from a check cashing location: his alibi for when the crime occurred. However, he didn’t say where this business was located.

At this point, I thought I’d offer to work with the defense attorney to get this evidence. It would be far easier for me to obtain it, since business owners tended to trust prosecutors more than defense attorneys.

On the next court date, I learned that Daniel got a new defense attorney: a white man who used to be a public defender. I approached him cautiously, bracing myself for a cold response.

“Hey there, I’m the prosecutor on your case. Do you have any thoughts about it? Because I do.”

“Yes!” he said. “I believe Daniel is innocent, and I’m looking to prove it.”

A huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I asked him to choose a new date — I didn’t care when; I wanted him to take the time that he needed. We settled on a date a couple of weeks out. We also set an interim date to meet in my office and discuss his findings.

During that meeting, the attorney presented me with footage from several businesses that Daniel went to before the crime occurred. We went over the timeline and concluded that it would’ve been almost impossible for him to have committed the crime.

I believed I had enough evidence to compel an immediate dismissal — I wasn’t going to accept anything less. I presented the facts to my boss, and, to my surprise, he quickly agreed. I made the call to have Daniel in court the following day. The court granted our motion to dismiss the case.

When I spoke with the homeowner about the situation, she was relieved. To make her feel safer in her home, I arranged for our office to pay for cameras to be installed there. It was the least I could do.

When I wrote my closing memorandum on the case, I was highly upset, believing that we didn’t have enough evidence to file it in the first place.

My boss, who had to approve these memos, ordered me to change it. He said it wasn’t “good practice” to throw my colleagues under the bus; someone from the public (e.g. the media) could easily review the case file through a public records request. I was going to refuse the order, but acquiesced because I was content with Daniel’s exoneration and I didn’t want to suffer any retaliation from my boss or anyone else.

Once again, I seriously considered quitting. However, I thought about what would’ve happened if I wasn’t the one who handled this case. Daniel would’ve probably been wrongfully convicted, just like in another recent case handled by my office.

Was this a clear win? I didn’t think so; a man had to spend time in jail for a case that should never have been filed in the first place. But, as always, I was going to take the small victory because Daniel ultimately got to go home.

Little did I know that I would later be confronted with a similar case…and a different outcome.

For Part 3, click here.

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The opinions here do not reflect the official views of the L.A. District Attorney’s Office, my current employer. To avoid fierce harassment and oppressive retaliation, I’ve decided to conceal my identity, for now.

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Spooky Brown, Esq.

*Former* progressive prosecutor with the L.A. District Attorney’s Office. Still progressive though. Fairness by any means. sbesquire@pm.me.