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Criminal Justice

Another Perry Mason Moment in LA, as Police Testimony is Contradicted

Posted Aug 19, 2008 1:08 PM CDT
By Martha Neil

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For the second time in little over a month, contradicted testimony by a Los Angeles police officer has given a criminal defense lawyer the opportunity to take a dramatic Perry Mason approach at trial.

Detective David Friedrich was a key prosecution witness in the attempted murder trial of Saul Eady, who is accused of having fired shots from a van at a suspected gang member. On the stand, Friedrich told jurors he had seen Eady in the van, and watched a man who looked like Eady flee the vehicle on foot after the shooting. But on Thursday, when defense attorney Greg Apt asked Friedrich during cross-examination whether police radio tapes would support his account of the incident, prosecutor Hilary Williams requested a recess, reports the Los Angeles Times.

On Monday, she asked Los Angeles Superior Court Judge William Sterling to dismiss the case, after listening to the tapes and discussing the case with a supervisor over the weekend. He agreed and released Eady, who has spent three years in custody.

"I believe this officer did the best he could, but unfortunately mistakes were made, and we lacked confidence in the persuasiveness of our case," says Michael Yglecias, the head deputy district attorney with whom Williams consulted over the weekend. "We still have a belief in Eady's guilt, which made for an agonizing decision."

Apt, however, had a different perspective: "I expect that there will be shades of the truth told in a trial," he tells the Times. "But we rely on certain foundational things—that someone is not going to tell a straight-out lie. This is very frustrating and disturbing."

A lawyer for a co-defendant convicted in an earlier trial says he intends to seek his client's release from prison based on the police testimony in Eady's case.

In late June, another defense lawyer had a similar Perry Mason moment in a narcotics possession case involving two other Los Angeles police officers as witnesses. When he played in court on Friday, June 27 a video surveillance tape of his client's arrest, it contradicted the officers' sworn testimony, as detailed in an earlier ABAJournal.com post. The video was from a surveillance camera mounted on a nearby building.

That case also was dismissed the following Monday at the request of the prosecution.

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