Sometimes as a defense attorney we need to do the police’s job for them. That is exactly what happened in a case in which one of our clients was accused of breaking into a parked car in front of his gym. By many standards this was not a huge case, but for an accountant with no criminal record, it was. We proved his innocence and the State dropped the charges.
The case started when a black male wearing a white baseball cap was seen by a witness breaking into a parked car near the entrance of a fitness center. The police were called to the scene and they quickly noted the description of the thief. The police then approached the gym, and asked for a printout of all the members who had been in the gym around the same time as the crime occurred. The gym – eager to help – turned over a list that included member names and photographs. This list was shown to the witness.
Sure enough, one of the photos provided by the gym showed a black man wearing a white baseball cap. The witness singled that person out, and the police issued an arrest warrant.
Of course, what the police (and presumably the witness) did not realize was that the gym photograph was not taken the evening of the car break-in. Rather, the photo was taken when the member – our unlucky client – first joined the gym. It just so happened that he was wearing a white cap that day.
Confident that our client was innocent, we sought out more information. We did the work the police officer should have done. After scouting the scene, we noticed that a nearby store had a security camera. We subpoenaed the video footage from the day in question, and reviewed it to see if it could help our case. It did. The video showed the break-in. It also showed our client entering the gym.
And – you guessed it – he was not wearing a white baseball cap.