There has been a great deal of animosity among the general public towards police officers of late. Some of it may be justified, and some of it is not. But when it comes to the most recent Michigan Supreme Court decision about the three lying police officers from Detroit, it is hard to believe that this one will go quietly into the night.
Three Detroit Police Officers Cover Up Assault
The incident that sparked this most recent ruling took place in 2009. A motorist claimed that one Detroit Police officer assaulted him at a gas station while two other Detroit officers watched. Then, during an internal investigation that took place after the motorist’s claims were made public, the three Detroit cops lied to cover up the assault.
At the time, there was no corroborating evidence to support the motorist’s claim. All three officers present at the scene denied that the assault had taken place and therefore there were no charges brought. However, a private investigator later discovered a video recording of the incident showing that the three officers had lied and the motorist had indeed been assaulted.
The result, unsurprisingly, was that the three officers were charged with Obstruction of Justice for not admitting to, or reporting, the incident. The officers claim was that they had no choice. If they had refused to speak up, they would have been fired. They claimed they were compelled to lie. All three Detroit officers argued that an involuntary statement could not be used against them in a criminal investigation, even if the statement in question was a lie.
The issue was finally brought before the Michigan Supreme Court, and the result was “unpalatable,” to use one judge’s term. Although the Supreme Court Judges agreed with the officers in a 5 to 2 vote, they were acutely aware of the fact that the general public would not find favor with their decision.
Michigan Supreme Court Justice Brian Zahra wrote the decision for the majority. He said that the justices understand that their decision may be viewed as “unpalatable,” but “as this court has long made clear, our statutory analysis is controlled by principles of interpretation, not palatability of outcomes.” In other words, they were trying to follow the letter of the law to it’s most accurate outcome, without being swayed by what they felt people may or may not like.
According to the majority of Supreme Court justices, Michigan law says that an officer who makes a statement under threat of possible firing is protected from criminal prosecution. Nowhere in the law is it specified that the statement must be true or false in order to count. The two justices who dissented from the majority opinion were very clear about why they didn’t agree.
Justice Stephen Markman says that the law protects an officer who is providing information, not lies and untruths, when compelled. For this reason, he and Justice David Viviano believe that the three officers should not be protected from prosecution. In his written dissent, Justice Markman said that “Allowing an officer to provide false statements and yet receive full immunity utterly defeats the obvious purpose of the statute and serves no comprehensible alternative purpose.”
When asked for comment about this new Supreme Court ruling, the The Kronzek Firm criminal defense attorneys remind everyone that lying to the police is a crime. However the new Michigan Supreme Court ruling permits the cops to lie to us. If you don’t like the law, ask your state legislator to change it. Until then, you can’t trust that the police are telling you the truth.