I first ready this story on Raswstory.com. It was so unbelievable that I had to look a little further and yes, this story is true. Judge Elizabeth E. Coker engaged in inappropriate, unethical ex-parte communication with the prosecution during a criminal trial. Ex-parte means literally "from one party." In other words, the judge communicated only to the prosecution, and not to the defense attorneys. The judge offered to the prosecution, via text message, suggestions on questions to ask witnesses and and provided other information to "assist" the prosecution in obtaining a guilty verdict. This sounds pretty bad, and really undermines the credibility of the courts, but the judge was not subject to any disciplinary action; she was simply asked to voluntarily resign and has not acknowledged any wrongdoing. As of yet she has not been disbarred.
This is a great hour-long video by phoenix attorney Marc Victor. It goes into some detail about how to conduct yourself during a traffic stop so that you end up alive and safe at the end. That's no joke - anytime you have an encounter with a police officer, you run the risk of being injured or killed. Below are some bullet points summarizing the highlights from the video, but you should really take the time to watch the video yourself. General advice:
Believe it or not, there are things you can do to improve the outcome of your next traffic stop. Put yourself in the place of the police officer who is pulling you over. The officer has no idea who you are. Are you drunk? Is the car stolen? Did you just kill someone? You will be well served by playing it cool and cooperative.
- There is no way it can help. In other words, you are not going to talk your way out of getting arrested; it just doesn't happen. Also, what you say is only admissible at trial if it is offered against you.
- If you are guilty -- and even if you are innocent -- you may admit your guilt with no benefit in return. By the time of the trial, your own statement to the agents may be the only admissible evidence, don't give it to them. According to The Innocence Project: "In more than 25% of DNA exoneration cases, innocent defendants made incriminating statements, delivered outright confessions or pled guilty."
- Even if you are innocent and deny your guilt and mostly tell the truth, you can easily get carried away and tell some little lie or make some little mistake that will hang you.
- Even if you are innocent and only tell the truth, you will always give the agents some information that can be used to help convict you.
- "[O]ne of the Fifth Amendment's basic functions is to protect innocent men who otherwise might be ensnared by ambiguous circumstances ... [T]ruthful responses of an innocent witness, as well as those of a wrongdoer, may provide the government with incriminating evidence from the speaker's own mouth." Ohio v. Reiner, 532 U.S. 17, 21 (2001) (internal punctuation and citations omitted).
- "Too many, even those who should be better advised, view this privilege as a shelter for wrongdoers. They too readily assume that those who invoke it are either guilty of crime or commit perjury in claiming the privilege. Such a view does scant honor to the patriots who sponsored the Bill of Rights as a condition to acceptance of the Constitution by the ratifying States." Ullman v. U.S., 350 U.S. 422, 426-427 (1956) (footnotes omitted).
- Even if you are innocent and only tell the truth and do not tell the agents anything incriminating, there is still a grave chance that your answers can be used to crucify you if the agents don't recall your testimony with 100% accuracy.
- Even if you are innocent and only tell the truth and do not tell the agents anything incriminating and your statement is videotaped, your answers can be used to crucify you if the agents don't recall the questions with 100% accuracy.
- Even if you are innocent and only tell the truth and do not tell the agents anything incriminating and the entire interview is videotaped, your answers can be used to crucify you if the agents have any evidence, even mistaken or unreliable evidence, that any of your statements are false.
Watch this video of Professor James Duane thoroughly explaining how your words will only hurt you.