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FTR #230 L.A. Lies

Lis­ten:
MP3 One Seg­ment [1]

This broad­cast sup­ple­ments FTR-227. Ana­lyz­ing the legal and polit­i­cal impli­ca­tions of a grow­ing police scan­dal involv­ing the Los Ange­les Police Depart­men­t’s CRASH anti-gang units, the pro­gram high­lights the man­ner in which prac­tices engaged in by LAPD per­son­nel have fun­da­men­tal­ly com­pro­mised the legal sys­tem in Cal­i­for­nia. These prac­tices have involved the alleged sys­tem­at­ic fram­ing of minor­i­ty cit­i­zens for mur­der, drug deal­ing and oth­er crimes.

The alle­ga­tions have begun to bear sub­stance, and to result in the over­turn­ing of a great num­ber of cas­es.

Offi­cer Rafael Perez of the Ram­parts Divi­sion CRASH unit (the divi­sion’s anti-gang unit) began to reveal the pat­tern of abuse, fol­lowed by a grow­ing inves­ti­ga­tion and the arrests of more LAPD offi­cers for alleged crimes sim­i­lar to those report­ed by Perez. Perez dis­cussed the man­ner in which offi­cers inter­faced with each oth­er over the cov­er-up of police shoot­ings and the “rites of pas­sage,” through which new recruits to the CRASH units had to pass in order to be accept­ed by their peers.

This de-fac­to induc­tion process per­pet­u­at­ed and insti­tu­tion­al­ized the var­i­ous crimes the mem­bers of the units alleged­ly engaged in. The pro­gram explores the man­ner in which police lying, in com­bi­na­tion with oth­er fac­tors, has led inno­cent peo­ple to plead guilty to crimes they did not com­mit, in order to avoid con­vic­tion on more seri­ous charges. They have plead­ed guilty to these crimes on the advice of their defense attor­neys, who haven’t believed it pos­si­ble to prove their clients’ inno­cence. This despite the fact that their attor­neys knew their were inno­cent.

A series of anti-crime ini­tia­tives in Cal­i­for­nia have pro­duced this state of affairs. Most impor­tant­ly, wit­ness­es are no longer required to tes­ti­fy at pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings, enabling police offi­cers to stand in for them. Pre­lim­i­nary hear­ings are crit­i­cal to defense attor­neys, because they per­mit lawyers to gauge the chances of prov­ing their clients’ inno­cence.

With­out the oppor­tu­ni­ty to direct­ly ques­tion wit­ness­es, defense attor­neys are severe­ly lim­it­ed. Oth­er fac­tors have con­tributed to the ero­sion of the foun­da­tions of jurispru­dence in Cal­i­for­nia. Most judges are for­mer pros­e­cu­tors, inclin­ing them to favor the tes­ti­mo­ny of police over the tes­ti­mo­ny of defense wit­ness­es or of defen­dants them­selves. In addi­tion, judges who ques­tion police tes­ti­mo­ny are pro­fes­sion­al­ly ostra­cized and expe­ri­ence seri­ous neg­a­tive career imped­i­ments as a result. Pros­e­cu­tors who ques­tion the judge­ment of police are sim­i­lar­ly stig­ma­tized, and their careers also suf­fer as a result.

When offi­cers lie under oath, the entire judi­cial sys­tem is severe­ly com­pro­mised. On par­tic­u­lar­ly Orwellian aspect of Cal­i­for­nia jurispru­dence enables defen­dants who have plead­ed inno­cent on one charge to plead guilty to a less­er charge. Defense attor­neys in Los Ange­les courts do this under the rubric of a “Peo­ple vs. West” plea. The pro­gram details the cir­cum­stances of this type of plea.

Much of the broad­cast focus­es on cas­es in which appar­ent lying by LAPD CRASH unit mem­bers has led to the wrong­ful con­vic­tion of inno­cent sus­pects. (Record­ed on 5/14/2000.)