Jury selection begins Tuesday in the trial of Ryan Frederick, the Chesapeake, Virginia man accused of killing a police officer during a drug raid on his home. Police didn't find the marijuana grow they claimed on the warrant they would find, and prosecutors now concede that two men—at least one of them police informant Steven Rene Wright—broke into Frederick's home three nights before the raid. It was during that illegal break-in that Wright claims to have found marijuana plants—the probable cause for the raid.
Frederick, who had no prior criminal record, says he had no idea the men breaking down his door were police, and that he fired because he thought he thought his home was being invaded—not an unreasonable thing to think, given that he'd been burglarized earlier that week. Both I and the Virginian-Pilot newspaper have since spoken to the second man who broke into Frederick's house, Renaldo Turnbull. Turnbull told the newspaper, and confirmed to me, that he too had worked as a police informant, and that the police regularly sent he and the other informant to illegally break into private homes to obtain probable cause for search warrants. He said the police consented to the break-in on Frederick's home.
Here are the latest developmetns, with some commentary:
• Local TV station WAVY has obtained copies of the proposed juror questions from the defense and prosecution. It's interesting that Special Prosecutor Paul Ebert feels the need to ask prospective jurors if they have read about or have ever posted about the case "on the Internet."
• The Virginian-Pilot reports Steven Wright was prepared to talk with the paper last week, but then backed down.
• If we are to believe the prosecution's theory of events leading up to the raid, Steven Wright and Renaldo Turnbull broke into Frederick's home without the knowledge or consent of the police. The police say they weren't aware that their probable cause was obtained by way of an illegal break-in until months later, which is why they didn't bother mentioning it on the warrant. They also apparently never tested or possessed the marijuana plants Wright and Turnbull allegedly found. Which puts the total number of actual marijuana plants found in Frederick's possession at zero.
But all of this also raises an interesting question: If the prosecution's story is accurate, why haven't Turnbull and Wright been criminally charged for breaking into Frederick's home?
• The Pilot also reports another new development that, when I read it, actually gave me a chill:
Also subpoenaed for the trial were five jail inmates who evidently had conversations with Frederick about the shooting. One of them is Marlon Reed, a Norfolk gang leader who already got one break on his sentence after testifying against co-defendants in his federal racketeering case.
Add "use of jailhouse snitches" to your list of injustices on display in this case
For months, now, we've had serious allegations of civil rights violations here, including the possibility of corrupt, even criminal acts by members of the Chesapeake Police Department. Moreover, Ryan Frederick's freedom could depend on whether Renaldo Turnbull and Steven Wright can testify truthfully, without feeling coerced by the other criminal charges on their respective records. If Turnbull's story at trial differs significantly than what he told me and the Virginian-Pilot, something's amiss, and I think you could make a pretty good case that he has more incentive to lie now than he did then.
Unfortunately, I've yet to hear anything about an outside investigation, either from the U.S. Department of Justice or from the office of Virginia Attorney General Bob McDonnell.