The Ryan Frederick Trial, Days Four and Five


Ryan Frederick is 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). Prior coverage of his trial here.

(Note: My analysis of the trial is based on coverage by the Virginian-Pilot and by local blogger Don Tabor.)

On Friday, the jury heard more testimony police officers who were on the raid. It's notable that the testimony from the various officers varied about which and how many announcements individual officers heard. One officer who was with the second raid team that hit Frederick's garage, for example, says he only heard one announcement, from a female officer. This, even though he was outside with the other raid team, only a short distance away. Frederick, meanwhile, was sleeping, separated from the officers by walls, and distracted by barking dogs and likely his own paranoia from having just been burglarized.

The second raid team was also slowed down by a fence, and entered the garage after the other team began taking down Frederick's door.  That means the garage raid team's announcements wouldn't have been a factor in determining whether or no Frederick should have known the people invading his home were police.

One thing I neglected to mention from Thursday's proceedings that's worth rehashing: Just as they did at a preliminary hearing last March, the police again said they moved to break into Frederick's home after one officer peered through a window and saw a moving human figure. If the purpose of the knock-and-announce requirement is to give the home's occupant time to answer the door and avoid a violent confrontation, a figure moving toward the door shouldn't be a reason to commence with the battering ram. Doing so renders moot the whole point of knock-and-announce. If the cops see you move to answer the door, they invade because you've blown their cover.  Of course if you don't answer the door, they'll also be taking down your door.

The other two notable items from Friday involved more shenanigans from the prosecution. During opening statements, prosecutor James Willett told the jury Frederick was "stoned out of his mind," and "in a blind rage" when he shot Det. Jarrod Shivers the night of the raid.

During his own opening, Frederick attorney James Broccoletti showed video of an interview with CPD Det. Edward Winkelspecht, who said Frederick didn't appear high after his arrest. Despite the fact that his name was on the prosecution's witness list, when Broccoletti said in court Friday that he'd like to hear from Det. Winkelspecht, the Virginian-Pilot reports,

"…prosecutors told Judge Marjorie T. Arrington that the officer was unavailable to testify because he was in Georgia for training and was expected to be there for weeks, if not months."

Seems odd that the prosecution wouldn't have ensured that such an important witness would be around for questioning—or, if you're sufficiently cynical, it isn't odd at all.

At Broccoletti's request, the judge compelled the officer to come back. Det. Winkelspecht then testified today that Frederick was coherent and responsive the night of the raid, that his eyes weren't bloodshot, and that he had no concerns about Frederick not understanding or comprehending his rights. The police also apparently either didn't give Frederick a drug test, or they did and the results either weren't positive or weren't conclusive.

All of which means Willett had zero evidence for the "stoned out of his mind" and "blind rage" description of Frederick he made to jurors in his opening statement. I'm not sure what Broccoletti can do about that, other than to remind the jury during his closing, and to take note of it all for the appeal should Frederick be convicted

The other major detail from Friday involves a videotaped reenactment of the raid conducted by police and prosecutors that the state has fought vigorously to keep the defense from seeing. From Tabor's report:

Though the video was the product of a search warrant, the prosecution has maintained it was an internal 'work product' of the prosecution crafted to help them develop their theory of the case and not subject to discovery by the defense. They admitted that the defense was entitled to any measurements, drawings, photos or graphs resulting from the search, but not the video. But they also claimed they made no measurements, photos or drawings, only the video.

The problem is that the prosecution then entered a still from the video into evidence, which one of Frederick's attorneys noticed included a string used to measure the trajectory of the fatal bullet. That's pretty clearly a measurement, which means the prosecution wasn't telling the truth about what's in the video, and hasn't given the defense all of the evidence it's required to turn over. The judge ruled that the defense be allowed to view the video, and ordered the prosecution to look again to be sure it wasn't holding any evidence that could be relevant to Frederick's lawyers.

According to the Virginian-Pilot, the police also revealed today what they found in Frederick's home—lights, tubing, and some books about growing marijuana. None of those things are illegal, though they do indicate—as Broccoletti conceded in his opening statement—that Frederick was likely growing marijuana. Broccoletti told the jury Frederick grew solely for his own use, and so far the prosecution has provided no evidence of selling or distribution. The police found no plants in the house or garage on the night of the raid, but did find misdemeanor amount of dried marijuana. Still, it looks like this will all boil down to whether this jury can look at the holes in the state's case long enough to get beyond "growing pot + shot a cop." 

The jury was supposed to view Frederick's home this afternoon (over the objections of the prosecution), but that visit was cancelled. The reports I've seen don't say why.