Fox’s new cop show, Backstrom, is a hilarious view of the cynical world of police life. It’s also an excellent place to study illegal police investigations. While the namesake of the show is an ingenious detective who has an impressive ability to always uncover the truth behind a case, he does so in a way that would make any San Diego criminal lawyer smirk with the knowledge that at least half of the evidence Backstrom uncovers cannot be used in trial.
One of the best examples of this is the episode “Takes One to Know One,” in which a youth pastor named Emma is found murdered in a church. From the start, Backstrom shows outright resentment towards all the persons involved with the church, which he repeatedly calls a cult, and towards religion in general. In fact, the two pieces of physical evidence are a security guard’s log book and the tape from a religious woman protesting the church outside -both of which are taken illegally, which isn’t a great start for an investigation.
When they confront the killer, Ryan, he tries to run, but when he is stopped, he confesses that he stopped Emma from leaving the church because he knew others would follow her. Perhaps the confession would be enough to ensure he is charged and convicted although he still may be able to avoid conviction if he recanted his confession and his San Diego criminal lawyer fights the illegally acquired evidence that points in Ryan’s direction.
But it’s Backstrom’s behavior after Ryan is arrested that would really result in a nullified conviction. He and Gravely confront the leader of the church, Mundy, with the accusation that he told Ryan to murder Emma. Backstrom lies about a piece of evidence having Mundy’s fingerprints on it and Mundy laughs and says “no you don’t.” While Gravely and Backstrom interpret this to mean that Mundy knew there were no fingerprints on the evidence because he wiped them off, any criminal defense attorney in San Diego would know this couldn’t be used as evidence because Mundy could just as easily laugh at the fact that he knows he didn’t commit the crime, and thus, didn’t put any prints on the evidence.
When Backstrom later recognizes that Emma and Mundy started a sexual relationship when Emma was only 15, he arrests Mundy in the middle of a sermon. While statutory rape charges can be used in these situations to convict someone of at least one crime when another charge cannot be proven, it’s unlikely this one would hold up in court. For starters, statutory rape can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony and the statute of limitations would mean that this crime could only be charged as a felony since misdemeanors generally only have a one year statute of limitations. But this charge would most likely not hold up as a felony because of the way Backstrom handled the case.
Any San Diego criminal attorney would be able to show that the only real evidence of statutory rape was the confession Mundy gave while cooperating with a murder investigation. Next, Backstrom’s outright hostility towards the church, which he repeatedly called a cult, would indicate that he had a personal reason to want to punish Mundy and was not acting solely based on a professional obligation. This would be further backed up by the fact that the police only brought up statutory rape charges after they realized they could not charge Mundy for anything related to Emma’s murder. The choice to arrest Mundy, who was not a flight risk, during a sermon also indicates that they actively were trying to discredit the preacher in front of his followers. All of this points to police harassment and a vendetta on the part of the hostile-towards-religion Backstrom. And there’s not much of a chance that a jury would convict someone of felony statutory rape when the defendant seems to be a victim of police harassment.
Of course, all this is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Backstrom’s more than questionable procedures, which is why he probably wouldn’t stay on the force too long. Even so, real police often do mishandle or illegally gather evidence, which is why anyone charged with a crime needs the help of a top San Diego criminal lawyer to help them fight the charges.
If you are accused of any crime, please call (760) 643-4050 or (858) 486-3024 to schedule a free consultation with Peter M. Liss.