A former Philly police lieutenant was found not guilty of assault last week when Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan said the case wasn’t a “social media contest.” A video of the officer made its rounds after the incident took place at last year’s Puerto Rican Day parade. And though the video clearly shows the officer knocking the woman flat, the judge determined it didn’t tell the whole story.
The defense in the case argued that the officer was going for a bottle in the woman’s hand, to knock it to the ground. But instead of knocking a bottle to the ground, he knocked the woman to the ground.
Video analysis expert Grant Fredericks says that you can’t take videos at their word, that some crucial details are often eliminated in compressing the video, among other things.
“There’s an old adage, the video is a silent witness,” said Fredericks. “That’s an extremely dangerous idea today with digital video. Digital video is not what people think it is. In most cases, it’s an altered and compressed medium.”
Fredericks says that the footage gets further compressed as it is uploaded onto YouTube or sent through emails, making details more fuzzy and even eliminating frames.
He examined the footage of the incident and said the video could support the defense’s argument. But, not everyone was convinced.
The woman had some interesting allies in that both the mayor and police chief sided with her (and the video’s) version of events. The cop was fired soon after the footage blew up, in part because of the incident.
“It’s beyond my comprehension as to how that is not at least simple assault,” said Mayor Nutter.
The proof is in the pudding. If a video shows an assault, there was an assault. You could argue the officer’s aim was off, but the force at which he hit the woman was far more than someone would have used to knock a bottle down.
“If you have a video of what looks like someone getting punched in the face, and there are medical records showing they did, in fact, get punched in the face, whatever distortion is on the video doesn’t really matter,” said defense lawyer Evan Hughes.
Video footage can be pretty convincing evidence to a jury and could serve to exonerate you or damn you. If you are facing criminal charges, whether there is video footage or not, you need someone on your side who understands how this evidence can help or hurt your case. Contact our offices today to discuss your legal options and how we might be able to help.