legal lies

Facebook: Like it or Leave it, but make no mistake about it law enforcement uses it as tool to probe into your information. And I like that Facebook is telling them to stop using their service to lie! The DEA (drug enforcement agency) creates fake profiles as part of ongoing investigations. And Facebook’s chief security officer is telling them to stop: law enforcement needs to follow the same rules as civilians about being truthful. Facebook rules prohibit users from lying about who they are!

The Huffington Post: Facebook Tells DEA to Stop Operating Fake Profile Pages Facebook Unfriends DEA

One of the biggest mistakes Americans has made is to allow policeman/law enforcement to lie. They create fake online IDs and profiles, they lie about polygraph results, and they lie about evidence. Well, some do. Many law enforcement officers do not.

Let me start by letting you know my story:
My father was a police officer for 33 years, most of my life.  Now he practices law with me, and we have a criminal defense firm. My brother is a police officer. My brother’s wife is a police officer. Many of my friends and family friends are police officers. I grew up around them. Another lawyer in my firm was a police officer for just over 27 years. We love law enforcement – well the good ones! Growing up, my father taught me you didn’t have to lie to catch the bad guys. You didn’t have to cheat. And you didn’t have to worry if they got away because they’d be back and you’d get them next time.

It seems innocent enough when law enforcement officers (VICE COPS) enter a house of prostitution in plain clothes and pretend to be anyone other than a cop. They even deny being cops when specifically asked. Seems innocent enough, and they use this approach to catch the prostitutes offering services or dealers selling street drugs. But just how far can the lies go?

Can police polygraph a murder suspect and lie to him about the results? Ask Anthony Graves about this one. He is one of many who faced this lie. Being accused of capital murder, police interrogated him about his whereabouts and the crime. He maintained he was innocent, knew nothing about any of the facts or circumstances surrounding this crime, and requested a polygraph to show his truthfulness. The Texas Rangers polygraphed him and told him he failed! Ask any honest law enforcement officer and they will know at least one other officer who would lie to a suspect about their polygraph results to “encourage” the suspect to be more forthcoming!

My dad and I worked a capital murder case (as defense lawyers) where we were originally skeptical about our clients version of facts: he claimed to know nothing about the offense, yet he was charged with capital murder and his brother had given a confession saying both brothers were involved! Now, there was no polygraph in this case but it took over 18 months to prove the confession was false because it had been tainted by law enforcement and that both brothers were actually innocent. With no polygraph at play, we still had law enforcement “encouraging” a confession. When our client didn’t take the bait, law enforcement went after the mentally challenged brother and after hours of work had secured a confession. The “confession” and a “similar color truck” was the only evidence that linked these brothers to a capital murder. The brothers had a maroon truck and a witness to the capital murder identified a red truck. Red/maroon…close enough for government work! (To be fair, there was another aggravated robbery in the same area just prior to the capital murder in which the victims gave descriptions of the red truck and the suspects. Using a crimestopper’s tip pointing to the brothers, photospreads were compiled and shown to the victims – the victims picked our client and his brother and said they were “pretty sure” it was them. This was enough to get the boys charged and brought in for questioning which is when the brother “confessed.”)

Yet, our client and his brother maintained actual innocence and no knowledge of the incidents. Now you might ask, How does one prove innocence? Well, the only sure way is to find the truth: find the real killer! And that’s what we spent 18 months doing while our client and his brother sat in jail accused of both the aggravated robbery and the capital murder. Read more about this case here in Mary Flood’s column. Thankfully, once we found the real killers, we found two prosecutors willing to look at what we had. Granted, they were taking what we had and trying to disprove it, but when they went to visit Billy Joe Garza (one of the suspects we developed) in prison (now there for a different offense), they were surprised to hear Billy Joe say he was wondering when they’d figure this out! Turns out our two suspects where the real killers after all! Now back to the legal lies discussion…

Can law enforcement build an entire case out of lies? They do! I worked a federal conspiracy case where federal agents did just that! Federal agents, responding to the problem of rival drug dealers stealing drugs from competing drug stash houses, lied about wanting to set up a robbery of a stash house. Agents (undercover of course) made contact with an informant seeking information on associates who might help them “rob” a stash house. Telling the informant there would be at least 20 kilos of cocaine in the house, they needed 4 or 5 armed men to help go in and get the cocaine as well as any cash on site (claiming there would usually be about $25,000 in the stash house). The informant rounds up some contacts and pitches the idea. When the contact bites on the potential to score some cocaine and cash, a meeting is set between the contact and the undercover agents. The agents tell the contact what they want and how they will split up the proceeds (the cocaine and cash). The contact is told to arrive on a particular date, with a crew, at a particular location (usually a parking lot) to receive the address of the stash house. That day comes and the crew arrives. They are given the location of the “stash house” and the agents make sure they are armed. The crew is given the “stash house” address and they drive off.  As they arrive at the “stash house” they are all taken into custody by more federal agents waiting at the location. By the way, there is no stash: no cocaine, no money, nothing. Just an empty warehouse. All those from the contact to the crew are arrested and charged with conspiracy to possess at least 20 kilos of cocaine while carrying a firearm.  Why 20 kilos? Well (1) it has to be an attractive amount and (2) 20 kilos is the amount that bumps up the federal sentencing guideline. Why firearms? Well (1) because it’s supposed to be robbery and (2) possessing a firearm also bumps up the federal sentencing guideline. Long story, but what can law enforcement lie about? (1) a stash house that never existed, (2) cocaine, 20 kilos to be exact, that doesn’t exist, and (3) the informant’s participation. (You see, the informant got a reduced punishment for his crime by bringing in more criminals to prosecute on a fake stash house!) Essentially, we are left with a crew that agreed to rob a stash house that doesn’t exist – they are each arrested and charged with trying to possess cocaine.

Can police lie about evidence? You bet they can! (outside of court anyway) They might say you failed a polygraph; they might say they found your fingerprints or DNA at the scene; they might say your brother confessed. The point is they are legally permitted to lie to the public, lie to citizens, and stretch the truth to see if they can persuade you into committing a crime (i.e. prostitution or any other crime) or persuade you into giving up information against yourself or others. Police lie with impunity regularly. They are not supposed to lie in court though – another day, another topic.

We were once taught to respect the police and be honest: just tell the truth. Why don’t we expect the same from them?

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