The answer to that shouldn’t be too hard. And it shouldn’t hinge on what jurisdiction we’re in. If we’re living in the physical world, and “I” am anybody at all, you’re asking for trouble to believe my words over the evidence of direct observation. But if we’re in Indiana, and I’m a cop, my false testimony literally has more weight than video evidence that contradicts it.
This is the consequence of the Indiana Supreme Court going Full Retard in the case of Robinson v. Indiana (or is it Indiana v. Robinson?). TechDirt has the, well, dirt (although if there’s any tech here, we don’t see it):
Seeing how often official reports by law enforcement are contradicted by video recordings, you’d think judges would have become a bit more skeptical about the supposed “superiority” of officers’ recall powers. But that’s apparently not the case, at least not in Indiana, where the state’s Supreme Court has ruled that officer memory trumps video recordings.
In the case being discussed, the officer following Robinson’s car observed it veering over the fog line twice, which gave him the reasonable suspicion he needed to pull her over. Once pulled over, Robinson blew a .09 BAC (.01 over the legal limit) and volunteered to the officer that she was also in possession of a small amount of marijuana. During her trial, she attempted to have the evidence suppressed on the basis that the officer did not have the reasonable suspicion needed to pull her over.
The Supreme Court reviewed the dashboard cam recording, concluding that while it may have not showed exactly what the officer claimed (or indeed, any solid evidence that Robinson’s driving was impaired), it was clearly inferior to the officer’s observational skills and experience.
Deputy Claeys, as he drove down County Road 4 on that October night, was observing Robinson’s vehicle through the lens of his experience and expertise. And when Deputy Claeys testified at the suppression hearing, the trial judge heard his testimony—along with the other witness testimony and evidence, including the video—through the lens of his experience and expertise. Ultimately, that experience and expertise led the trial judge to weigh Deputy Claeys’s testimony more heavily than the video evidence, and we decline Robinson’s invitation to substitute our own judgment for that of the trial court and rebalance the scales in her favor.
This conclusion was reached despite Claeys’ “superior” observational skills observing things that didn’t actually happen.
Deputy Claeys testified “both passenger side tires were over the fog line” and “completely off the roadway” “twice.”
As the single dissenting opinion notes, the previous court found Claeys’ recall of the events suspect.
The TechDirt story links to a motoring-law blog story and presents the opinion (pdf here at the blog, or in Scribd at TechDirt). TechDirt is not playing “telephone” here as often seems to be the case in outraged articles: the Indiana courts have decided that “perjury doth prosper,” as long as it’s in a blue (well, these days, black, usually and in some cases appropriately) uniform.
The War on Drunks is a fine thing, but when we enable an officer’s hunch to override physical evidence, we’ve departed from the rule of law and stumbled down an alley than ends in the whole society getting rolled by a gang — a gang that were once police.
It happens. The founders of Mexico’s monstrous Los Zetas were once law enforcers, who found the pool more fun to swim in the deep end, on the other side of the of float rope. The two biggest gangs in Jamaica were both started by politicians and recruited from the police, which they have thoroughly infiltrated. The FBI in Boston found itself working for the local Irish associates of La Cosa Nostra. (And only two of those crooked FBI agents ever saw consequences, L. Paul Rico and Zip Connolly, who participated in mob murders).
But hey, we tried the “government of laws” thing for a couple hundred years, and we still Didn’t Get To Utopia. Sad clown. So hey, let’s revert to the tried-and-true “government of largely hereditary social classes” that’s been the global norm at least since Hammurabi’s Code.
What could possibly go wrong?