What A Difference A Dash Cam Video Makes. Remember Marcus Jeter?
Under the post about the killing of Keith Scott, I mentioned a case where the commands of officers did not match with what the suspect was doing. I conducted searches here on the blog, as well as Google, because I thought I had written about the incident around late 2014 or early 2015.
I did find a comment posted in January 2015, so the case was discussed at some point on this blog, but it might have been in the comment section rather than an actual post.
So, here it is.
Before I go further, I want to say that this is not a general accusation that all members of law enforcement are dishonest. Rather, this case is one of many that causes citizens to question the honesty of what officers say was happening when giving commands. a
Or, as New Jersey Superior Court Judge Ronald Wigler stated when sentencing one of the officers in this case,
“The public has to have confidence in their police departments.”
It was June 7, 2012. Police responded to a domestic-related call at the Bloomfield, New Jersey home of Marcus Jeter. Marcus’ girlfriend lived in the house, and it was his girlfriend’s sister who called 911 alleging that Marcus threw his girlfriend’s cell phone down a staircase during a verbal dispute.
No one was arrested. No charges were filed.
Marcus left his house and was driving down Garden State Parkway while a cruiser with two officers followed him. They pulled Marcus over with guns drawn, and began shouting commands, including that he stop resisting and stop trying to take an officer’s gun.
Marcus was beaten, dragged from his car and assaulted. He was charged with eluding, attempting to disarm a police officer, resisting arrest and aggravated assault.
Another officer, Orlando Trinidad, arrived. He entered in a direction towards Marcus car, even hitting it. The dash cam video given to Marcus’ attorney shows the officers hitting and kicking Marcus to allegedly get Marcus to cooperate. The officers stood in a position so that Marcus is not seen, or barely seen. Trinidad beat Marcus about his head. He gave a statement that he only struck Marcus because he heard a fellow officer shout that Marcus had his gun, or was trying to take his gun.
In an internal investigation, the officers were cleared of all wrongdoing.
Based on the dash cam video from officer Sean Courter’s car, and Trinidad’s statement, Marcus was sure that he was going to jail. Marcus insisted that while Courter was shouting to stop reaching for his gun, to show his hands, and stop resisting, that he was sitting behind the steering wheel with his hands up. Even Marcus’ attorney didn’t believe Marcus. Indeed, the officers only used physical force because Marcus was disobeying their commands, and doing what they alleged, right?
Then Marcus remembered that Trinidad’s car was facing the windshield of his own car. If it had dash cam, it would show exactly what Marcus was doing while the officers were giving commands to stop going for an officer’s gun, show his hands, and stop resisting.
The police didn’t turn the dash cam video from Trinidad’s car over to Marcus’ attorney nor prosecutors. Marcus’ attorney only obtained it by filing a public request. After watching the dash cam video from Trinidad’s car, Marcus attorney believed him, and filed a lawsuit on his behalf. Upon showing the second dash cam video to prosecutors, they dropped all charges against Marcus – charges that could have sent Marcus to prison for 5 years.
The story doesn’t end with Marcus being cleared of charges. Prosecutors used the dash cam video from Trinidad’s car and filed charges against all three of the officers. They were charged with official misconduct, conspiracy, tampering with records, and false swearing. Trinidad was also charged with aggravated assault for striking Marcus.
Courter and Trinidad had jury trials. In November 2015, an Essex County jury convicted them.
Albert Sutterlin, the third officer, retired. In October 2013, he plead guilty to falsifying or tampering with records. Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Sutterlin testified at the trial of Courter and Trinidad, and was sentenced to two years of probation.
In January 2016, Trinidad was sentenced to 5-years in prison. In February 2016, Courter was sentenced to 5-years in state prison with a 5-year period of parole ineligibility. He received 110 days of credit for time served.
Courter’s Sentencing, (he did not apologize for his actions);
Ultimately, what this case shows is that Marcus could have been killed, and the officers would have gotten away with it because with Marcus dead, no one would have known of the existence of the other dash cam video other than the offending officers.
From June 7, 2012 until February 2016, there is lots of news about this incident, the trials, and sentence hearings. I’ve listed just several sources below.
As a side-note (because I remembered this case when discussing videos of the killing of Keith Scott), it caused me to think of Keith’s wife’s statement that he doesn’t have a gun. There’s something about the English language that is mysterious yet wonderful. For example, people hear, “He doesn’t have a gun” and interpret it to mean “He doesn’t own a gun” and they paint the wife’s statement as a blatant lie with the production of a gun. Going by her actual words, it is reasonable to believe that Keith’s wife did not see him with a gun in his hands.
About the videos — where is the video that shows a sequence of removing the gun from Keith’s person?
If there is body cam video that shows that, it needs to be released. If not, controversy, distrust, and theories of a gun being planted will continue. I’ll conclude this with a statement by Michael Curry, president of the NAACP’s Boston branch;
“If you don’t have public trust, then we don’t believe your version of the story,”
Posted on 09/26/2016, in Cases, Cops Gone Wild and tagged Albert Sutterlin, dash cam, distrust, honesty, Keith Scott, Marcus Jeter, New Jersey, Orlando Trinidad, Sean Courter, videos. Bookmark the permalink. 78 Comments.