Friday, November 20, 2009

The Wait of Evidence in Pensacola

A man with a criminal record who is a serial liar is arrested for a bar heist that went so bad a patron was shot and killed. The man then tells Escambia County sheriff's deputies the trigger man actually was a black man with the supposed nickname "Black By Day." He claims he doesn't know his supposed accomplice's real name.

So, Escambia County deputies arrest a black man, now known to be entirely innocent of any crime --
on the word of Brandon Davis, 20, who admitted robbing the bar in the 3900 block of Fairfiield Drive on Oct. 23. Davis also told officers that Gilchrist was with him and fired the fatal shot that knocked Jared Ortiz, 25, from a bar stool.
The innocent man arrested happens to have a similar-sounding nickname, "Day Day." That's the only so-called evidence linking him to the crime. A bar full of employees and patrons, and no one else could corroborate the innocent black man's involvement. Yet, he is charged with murder and sits in jail awaiting trial. In the meantime, what does the sheriff's investigators do? Nothing. Nothing!

Why? Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Ted Roy explains: "I don't know if you watch a lot of TV, but in real life, other evidence does come forward all the time."

Arrest first, wait for the evidence to walk in your door later? Wasn't there a revolution fought over that kind of conduct?

The only evidence that finally came forward? The original crook recanted his "his allegation that Gilchrist was involved... ." There being no other evidence against him, Gilcrist was finally released.

Think about that for a moment. The cops rely on one man's word and arrest someone, then sit around wolfing down donuts and waiting while drawing their salaries as 'homicide detectives.' But for the rare happenstance that the crook finally 'fessed up, an innocent man almost assuredly would have been tried, convicted, and executed in Florida.

We don't watch much TV, so we can't be sure what Sgt. Ted Roy is referring to. Does he mean to imply that in Pensacola, the sheriff's deputies don't look for fingerprints from the gun or gunpowder residue on the suspect? They can't bother to interview victims in the bar?

Now, in all fairness the PNJ may not have the whole story. After all, the absence of evidence in itself is evidence. And, it may be the product of some kind of investigation, even if after-the-fact. Nor are we persuaded by some of the boo-birds who infect the PNJ message boards that this is all the fault of the current sheriff. After all, he inherited a deputy force that doubtless has some lousy, hard-to-fire detectives along with some good ones.

But, doesn't the law require probable cause before arrest? Or, in Escambia County is it the case that to know his race is to know enough?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I think that deserves a grand jury investigation