Television has now long been used by law enforcement to try to clear up so-called “Cold Cases”.
The aim of putting such programs on the air is, from the Network point of view, I suppose to make money because folks are interested in these programs. For law enforcement, however, the aim is to solve outstanding mysteries. These mysteries usually involve homicide cases because there is no statute of limitations that would terminate the ability to bring charges in murder cases.
According to the Boston Herald, the Boston Police Department has now launched a multimedia campaign highlighting unsolved murders, hoping to generate tips to help finally solve them.
As with most police projects, this one has a catchy name. It is called the “Search for Justice”.
“BPD has a well-established track record when it comes to adapting technology and implementing innovative communication strategies to enhance its community policing efforts,” police Commissioner William B. Evans said in a statement. “The Search for Justice Video Series is another example of an initiative developed to encourage open dialogue with our community, and … will also assist with BPD’s dogged investigative efforts to secure justice for the families of homicide victims.”
In a 2014 special report, the Herald reported there was a backlog of 336 unsolved homicides in the city between 2004 and 2013. Unsolved murder activist Mary Franklin filed a Freedom of Information Act request that revealed 925 unsolved killings in the hardest-hit neighborhoods of Roxbury, Dorchester and Mattapan dating back 40 years.
The new videos will focus on one unsolved murder case per month in a BPD-produced video, according to law enforcement.
The first video in the series highlights the unsolved murder of Eric Smith-Johnson, 18, who was fatally shot in September 2010 on Blue Hill Avenue.
In the video, his mother, Angelique Smith, says, “This is my plea. Just give my son justice and hold someone accountable for their actions.”
Boston NAACP President Michael Curry said, “It’s an excellent tool to really personalize the lives of these unsolved murder victims…“the hope will be that we can make these stories viral.”
Attorney Sam’s Take On Professional Guidance In Criminal Cases
Clearly, it is a good thing that law enforcement takes advantage of new and growing technology in an attempt to solve cold cases. You don’t need me to tell you that. However, there are some caveats here which should be considered by the producers of these videos lest the efforts be doomed from the start.
I do hope that they have someone well-versed in the criminal justice system, particularly the defense side , to advise.
For example, when there are high profile criminal matters, law enforcement is often inundated by “leads” submitted. Often these leads are unreliable. False leads help produce a stronger defense, should there be an arrest as it is commonplace for defense counsel to question the investigation itself.
Sometimes, in fact, there are folks who come in and untruthfully claim that they committed the crime at issue…for reasons I have yet to truly understand. What I clearly understand are the folks who come up with “new information” to give to law enforcement in an attempt to get a better deal for themselves. As these will be cold cases, the possibilities for such lies to come to light as untrue are less likely than if evidence was fresh.
Finally, search and seizure rules exist in the rules governing criminal procedure. There is a difference between what a police officer can do and what a civilian can do in the furthering of an investigation. However, when a civilian is being controlled or instructed by law enforcement, lines can become blurred that might result in suppression of evidence or even the dismissal of a case.
The bottom line here is that the folks producing these videos and conducting resulting investigations had best be careful. Sometimes having an overseeing eye which otherwise might be that of an adversary is the strongest of allies.
Again in this instance, that of an experienced criminal defense attorney.