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Update on the Ryan Frederick Trial

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Today is the third day in the trial of Ryan Frederick, the 28-year-old Chesapeake, Virginia man facing murder charges for killing a police officer during a drug raid (see this wiki for more on Frederick's case). Tuesday primarily consisted of jury selection. Yesterday featured the opening statements.

I'm really in awe of the prosecution's brazen strategy. According to the Virginian-Pilot, prosecutor James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was "stoned out of his mind," and "in a blind rage" at the time of the raid. "Blind rage" caused by pot? Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana.

Frederic attorney James Broccoletti then asked the judge to admit into evidence a video in which a police detective flat-out says that Frederick didn't appear high at the time of the raid. Moreover, in a recorded conversation taken shortly after the raid, Frederick says he didn't know the men breaking into his home were the police. And he's weeping.

As I suspected, the prosecution's case is going to rely not just on the word of criminal informants, but of jailhouse snitches, too. Again from the Virginian-Pilot:

[Frederick] later told a jail inmate that if he had more ammunition, "he would have taken them all down," a prosecutor told jurors Wednesday.

"He's over there" in jail "bragging about it. He thinks he's going to beat this charge," James Willett, one of three prosecutors, told the jury during opening statements.

This is just absurd. Frederick was on suicide watch shortly after the raid. He surrendered after discovering the men breaking into his home were the police. Everyone I've spoken to who knows Frederick describes him as meek, shy, and introverted. It isn't surprising that the prosecution could find a felon willing to say Frederick confessed to him in exchange for help with his own sentence. What will be surprising is if the jury is made aware of the deal he cut with prosecutors.

One other huge inconsistency in the state's case came out in opening arguments. From the Tidewater Liberty blog:

[Willett] went on to describe how the police carefully planned how to serve the warrant and of the necessity of serving it with overwhelming force because they knew Frederick's home had been burglarized and he would be wary.

Let's set aside for a moment the incredibly dumb calculation that it would be a good idea to launch an aggressive, forced-entry, after-dark raid on a man the police knew would be "wary" because his home had just been burglarized. (A man who had no prior record and no history of violent behavior, by the way.)

We now know that the police informants were the ones who broke into Frederick's home, and that this is how they obtained probable cause for the raid. Yet the police didn't explain on their affidavit for the warrant that their probable cause had been obtained illegally, as is required by law. The state says this is because the police weren't aware of that fact until months later. Yet they're now arguing that the police knew on the night of the raid that Frederick's house had been broken into three nights earlier, even though Frederick never reported the break-in.

So the state is arguing the following:

• The police knew on the night of the raid that Frederick's home had been burglarized three nights before the raid.

• The police learned of the break-in through their informant, Steven Wright. Frederick never reported the break-in.

• The police mention on the warrant that Wright was in Frederick's home "72 hours" prior to the raid.

• Despite all of this, the police never made the connection that, despite his criminal record, and that he was desperate to get help on the felony charges he was facing at the time, their informant could possibly have been the one who committed the burglary.

The Chesapeake police involved in this raid were either corrupt or stupid. They either lied on the warrant, or they were incredibly ignorant of what their informants were doing. The prosecution has apparently calculated that their case against Frederick is better served by "stupid."

Frederick's defense is moving for a mistrial given these inconsistencies in police and prosecution statements regarding the informants. 

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  1. The prosecution has apparently calculated that their case against Frederick is better served by “stupid.”

    All that is required is a story people will believe. That serves.

    Frederick’s defense is moving for a mistrial given these inconsistencies in police and prosecution statements regarding the informants.

    Good luck. Sincerely.

  2. unfortunately, he will hang.

  3. These posts make me want to thow stuff.

  4. I used to live in Chesapeake, and it was a nice community while I lived there. This makes me ashamed I ever lived there.

  5. OK, thanks. I’ve had my dose of frustrated rage for today. Try to keep it fresh, though. I’ll need another one tomorrow.

  6. argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid.

    It seems likely that if he was on drugs that it could have caused violence.

  7. I have a sick feeling how this is going to end.

  8. James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid.

    Ah, that well-known legal tactic known as the Baldfaced Lie.

    Pity the prosecutor isn’t under oath when pontificating.

    -jcr

  9. joe sez These posts make me want to thow stuff.

    Stuff like bricks. Thrown at the state’s most fucking incompetent assholes. In this case the prosecutorial team attempting to cover up the gross misconduct of the cops – “look, over there! A dope fiend!!!”

    All done with immunity and impunity.

    Meh, too damned early to drink.

  10. As a citizen of the Commonwealth, and a generally decent human being, I am dismayed and appalled by the whole thing.

  11. Choo-choo. Railroaded 🙁

  12. “stoned out of his mind,” ….. Umm usually this would lead to him sitting on the sofa as the cops raided the place, not moving and lethargic. But seriously. The cops F-ed up. and anytime you raid a house innocent or not, in the dark at night, you can ALWAYS EXCPECT GUNFIRE, from the homeowner, and usually before you are in full sight. it is thier right and duty to protect thier property and famileies from intruders. For the most part theese raids are mitlitaristic BS, not helping, and raising the level of danger cops face. it would be MUCH MORE USEFULL to do raids in the DAYTIME, when drug dealers are sleeping, or not home, there is less risk of a violent encounter, being it is daylight and everyone can see. It was a sasd day for the officers family, but the homeowner is not to blame, shoddy and dangerous police tactics are. they should be charging the police cheif with manslaughter!

  13. The Chesapeake police involved in this raid were either corrupt or stupid.

    I’m going with corrupt and stupid, Radley.

    And that prosecutor probably over-reached in his opening. Bad move, that; once the jury stops trusting you, its very hard to win.

  14. God I hope that the mistrial succeeds.

  15. It’s times like this that make me wish I was actually summoned for Jury Duty.

  16. “Blind rage” caused by pot? Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana.

    Sweeeeeeeeeet. I want to have Radley Balko’s children.

    Does that make me gay?

  17. To be honest, my outrage well is starting to run dry.

    Montana is starting to sound nice, even in the dead of winter.

  18. “Blind rage” caused by pot?

    Frederick was madly playing the piano when the police came…

  19. Actually, I hope the mistrial doesn’t succeed. Mistrial = opportunity to reopen the case in the future. Much better if he is found not guilty, and thus protected by double-jeopardy…

  20. James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid.

    Surely, a suspect who was arrested immediately after killing a police officer, and who appeared to be stoned out of his mind, would have been given a toxicology screen. So…what’s up with that?

  21. Frederick was madly playing the piano when the police came…

    No, silly. It was a pipe organ, and he was wearing a mask! Why would any sane man wear a mask in their own house?!

  22. Gac, IANAL, but if a judge declared a mistrial at this point, I’d have to assume it would be very prejudicial to the prosecution’s case.

    Also, good point, joe.

  23. maybe they forgot to do a tox screen? because…because…because…because…um…because…

  24. maybe they forgot to do a tox screen? because…because…because…because…um…because…

    Because that blind rage you get from steroids and cro-magnon chest-thumping makes you forget tuff?

  25. That would be “stuff”.

  26. Actually, I hope the mistrial doesn’t succeed. Mistrial = opportunity to reopen the case in the future. Much better if he is found not guilty, and thus protected by double-jeopardy…

    Yeah, what good is a mistrial? They’ll just select another jury and go again, right?

    I cannot believe that the judge lets the prosecution get away with this shit. It is beyond belief. Can’t he do something about contradictory statements?

    No, silly. It was a pipe organ, and he was wearing a mask! Why would any sane man wear a mask in their own house?!

    Frederick is the abominable Dr. Phibes? In that case, he really is a monster.

  27. Is it common for trials to be this brazenly fraudulent?

  28. That would be “stuff”.

    I liked the original better. It was poignant.

  29. Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana.

    Or watched a Cheech and Chong movie.

  30. Has Radley Balko been in contact with the Defense attourney on this? It seems these ridiculous claims can be shown in contradiction to the facts.

    Did Mr. Frederick get a good defense attourney and not a PD asleep at the wheel (or juggling 60 other cases this week)?

  31. because…because…because…because…

    …because of the wonderful things SWAT does?

  32. I cannot believe that the judge lets the prosecution get away with this shit.

    You’re kidding right? Most judges are former prosecutors and function as little more than rubber stamps in a system that destroys people’s lives for the crime of not paying protection money to the organized crime syndicate known as “the legal profession”.

  33. Fuck fuck fuck fuck those lying fuckers.

  34. Is it common for trials to be this brazenly fraudulent?

    When illegal and incompetent activities of cops occurs, yes. That Jerrod Shivers was killed makes it all the worse.

    I don’t ask for much in life, but once, just one goddam time, I’d like to see a prosecutor using jailhouse snitches go to fucking prison for suborning perjury.

    I’d get snot slinging drunk in celebration.

    As long as I’m dreaming, let’s convict some cops of perjury while we’re at it.

  35. James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid.

    Arresting officer: “And t-there were Doritos bags t-t-torn all wrong d-down the length of the bag. And the crumbs [eyes widen] OH GOD THE CRUMBS!” [begins to sob uncontrollably]

  36. Perjury would be a nice start, J sub.

  37. prosecutor James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid.

    I have the notion that attorneys are not permitted to make claims in opening statements that are not later supported by evidence they introduce, but I’m not sure if this is actually the case. Can anyone more educated in rules of court procedure comment on this. I’m not saying that the prosecution would have to prove that Ryan was stoned out of his mind–but they would have to have witness offer evidence that would lead to that conclusion. Is this just something I’ve learned from lawyers on TV?

  38. thanks again to mr. balko for blogging this case which i will continue to follow.

    for those unhappy with the unpleasant courtroom goings-on, i suggest focusing on the bright silver lining in this dark cloud:

    detective shivers is still dead. he ain’t comin’ back. he’s splintered his last front door, terrorized his last innocent homeowner, told his very last lie to get a search warrant. a small piece of flying lead stilled his fascist heart. put your hands together for element #82, the second-heaviest atom which has a nonradioactive nuclide. fun lead fact: its ancient name was plumbum, from which the word “plumber” derives.

  39. @parse:

    they can make claims up the ying-yang in opening statements, at the risk that their opponents will remind the jury of these claims and their failure to produce evidence backing them in the closing statements.

  40. I’d like to see a prosecutor using jailhouse snitches go to fucking prison for suborning perjury.

    That won’t happen unless we have another revolution. Even that asshole Nifong is walking around free.

    -jcr

  41. Frederick’s defense is moving for a mistrial given these inconsistencies in police and prosecution statements regarding the informants.

    If the members of the jury had laughed out loud when prosecutor James Willett argued in his opening that Frederick was “stoned out of his mind,” and “in a blind rage” at the time of the raid, the judge would have declared a mistrial.

  42. The prosecution’s first witness, the officer’s widow. She’s explaining how they met, yadda, yadda.

    They are definitely trying to sway the jury with emotion instead of presenting any facts.

  43. Radley, please advise us of your assessment of the competency of the defense attorney.

    Can you also remind me of Frederick’s gun license or permit status? And how the joint they eventually found will hurt his chances?

    Have any plant experts been called in to argue that yes, Japanese Maples look like cannabis? I have the feeling this poor kid needs everything to go his way or he’s so screwed.

  44. Can you also remind me of Frederick’s gun license or permit status?

    I’m pretty sure you don’t need a license or permit in Virginia to have a pistol in your house. Merely to carry concealed. The gun was 100% legal.

  45. What evidence does the widow have to present? Why would the judge even allow that? Am I too logical?

  46. As an aside, related to juries, my mother recently participated in one of those hired mock juries that attorneys will use to get an idea how a case will go. It was a product liability kind of thing.

    Jury was filmed, but no one else was in room with them. Anyway, they quickly decided that the injured person was totally at fault, no fault of the corporate behemoth. Then (except for my mother and 1 other person) they awarded the person a few million dollars anyway.

    Apply as necessary.

  47. Have any plant experts been called in to argue that yes, Japanese Maples look like cannabis? I have the feeling this poor kid needs everything to go his way or he’s so screwed.

    Wouldn’t a picture suffice?

  48. I agree, robc. What can the widow say that could possibly be relevant?

    How did she even get on the witness list?

  49. Isaac,

    Exactly. Having her testify during the sentencing phase probably makes sense, but not during the determination of guilt phase.


  50. Wouldn’t a picture suffice?

    Japanese Maple Leaves

  51. Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana.

    Was it one of his voir dire questions?

  52. The prosecution’s first witness, the officer’s widow. She’s explaining how they met, yadda, yadda.

    Bad sign. No competent, impartial judge would allow that testimony (at least at this phase), as it is in no way relevant to the issues to be decided by the jury.

    I’m not even sure why it should be allowed during sentencing.

  53. “Blind rage” caused by pot? Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana.

    And Radley is apparently confident none of his readers have ever been a bag of Doritos.

  54. No competent, impartial judge would allow that testimony…

    Maybe it’s unfair of me, but I’m starting to wonder how good a defense he’s getting.

    Now, if his counsel objected and the judge still allowed it, how will an appeals court view it?

  55. I’m not even sure why it should be allowed during sentencing.

    If there was ever anything that needed to be decided coldly and dispassionately (absent distracting images of weeping women and cute children and puppies) it’s a death sentence.

    But that’s probably just my take.

  56. “Blind rage” caused by pot? Willett is apparently confident that no one on the jury has ever smoked marijuana. ”

    well if 1:4 americans have openly admited to smoking…at least 3 on that jury most have, or are smoking MJ.

    I love the “blind rage”- maybe if they had snatched his oreos.

    Damn it all

  57. It’s almost beyond belief. Our own H&R trolls are better at reasoning than this prosecutor.

  58. Now, if his counsel objected and the judge still allowed it, how will an appeals court view it?

    As being within the trial court’s discretion, that’s how.

    The appellate judges all used to be trial judges, who used to be prosecutors. See how this works?

  59. I’ve seen the PSA’s on pot. If you smoke it you can’t get off the couch!!!

    Is appeal to personal attack and prisoner testimony all this prosecutor have? Well that and a dead cop, I guess he thinks a dead cop is all he really needs to win. This should be the last case this prosecutor ever gets to handle.

    Keep us updated Radley.

  60. Go to the Tidewater Liberty Thread. The last sentence or two in the first paragraph is priceless. The guy doesn’t think he needs to prove anything. There’s a dead cop, and that should be enough.

  61. I guess he thinks a dead cop is all he really needs to win

    The guy’s a prosecutor. He knows that all he needs to win is a charge — any charge, dead cop or no. “Not guilty” only happens on TV (or to people who are on TV).

  62. I’m sure you’re right R C, but it still strikes me as highly improper to admit testimony whose only value is to stoke up fires of emotionalism and prejudice.

    Incidentally, there was a case in Florida, early 90s, where a homeowner shot a cop in a no-knock raid. He was aquitted.

    A lot of people helped out with raising money for his defense. Those who had been publicly active found themselves harassed by cops from every agency in the county. Arrests for “unpaid” tickets and such things.

    The raid was based on a “tip” from a neighbor that the guy was dealing. The neighbor had a grudge. To the best of my knowledge he never faced any consequences for actions that basically led to the death of someone.

    Neither, I suspect, will the lying snitches from this case.

  63. TrickyVic | January 22, 2009, 3:42pm | #
    It’s almost beyond belief. Our own H&R trolls are better at reasoning than this prosecutor.

    … even Lefiti?

  64. I’ve often wondered what the effectiveness would be, in cases where witnesses are offered reduced sentences in exchange for shoddy testimony, for the defense counsel to just blurt out at some random time during the cross examination:

    “This witness is a crook who was offered a reduced sentence in exchange for ratting out my client.”

    Of course there’ll be objections up the wazoo, and the judge will bang his gavel and do his usual “ordering” of the jurors to “disregard” that last remark, and maybe administer a tongue-lashing in private. But even if the jurors are “ordered” to “disregard” that statement, it’s still going to be in their mind, and it’s going to serve as a seed of doubt.

    Or have courts come up with some draconian way (draconian enough to dissuade a lawyer whose client is facing The Chair) to prevent that?

  65. Is it a sad comment to make that if the raid had gone according to plan and no one had been hurt, (and I guess by no one, I mean a cop) that Frederick would be in a cell, the key would be long thrown away, and no one on this board or many others would have ever heard of him?

  66. Bonus Material:

    “CHESAPEAKE, Va. – Testimony began Thursday in the case against Ryan Frederick, accused of killing a Chesapeake police officer last year.

    The widow of Detective Jarrod Shivers, Nicole Shivers, was the first to take the stand for the prosecution and spoke about the day she learned her husband was killed.”

    http://www.wavy.com/dpp/news/Copy_Frederick_trial_continues_in_Chesapeake_Wavy_20090120

    It must be an incredible mound of evidence if the first witness is the wife of the slain cop telling everyone how horrible it was to learn her husband was dead.

    Stay Classy.

  67. I smoked pot once. It made me want to rape and kill. The only thing that stopped me from doing that was the munchies.

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  69. Interesting case…similar shooting happened here just recently in Australia.
    Party Catering Brisbane

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