This article was originally published on TechDirt.
Reason.com alerts us to an LA Times article covering a recent trial in which a private citizen’s cellphone video proved officers lied about an arrest, resulting in the acquittal of a young man accused of carrying a concealed firearm.
According to police reports after the arrest:
Deputy Levi Belville testified that he saw Gipson in the side yard run and toss a loaded revolver onto the roof of a detached garage. The deputy said he ordered Gipson to stop and that the suspect walked back to Belville, who then detained him.
However, the cellphone video depicted a very different chain of events:
The footage did not show Gipson running, tossing a gun or walking back to the deputies to be detained. Instead, the grainy video showed deputies arriving and walking past Gipson, who was standing against a wall of the house near the rear of the yard. One of the deputies, Raul Ibarra, returned to Gipson and escorted him to the back of the yard.
This new footage led to a change in the way the officers describe the events. This inconsistency in the officer’s testimony led jurors to acquit Gipson of the charges.
Jurors said they did not find Belville’s trial testimony credible and believed he changed his account of the arrest after being confronted with the video. They also questioned why a deputy with more than 10 years’ experience would walk past a man who had just thrown a gun without immediately detaining him or warning colleagues.
Even as police and governments around the country are fighting the practice of the public recording the actions of the police, stories like this show the power that such recordings have in administering a fair justice system. Without this video, the trial would have been based entirely on the officer’s testimony of events rather than on hard evidence.
I will close with a few words from Gipson himself in response to these events, “I never thought an officer would lie.”