As promised, I went to the Chesapeake General District Court to attend the preliminary hearing for Ryan Frederick. Along with Rick Caldwell, starting at 9 AM, I sat in Courtroom A, as directed by the posted docket for the court. We waited through many minor cases but when the scheduled 10 AM passed, I went back to the posted docket to check for a change. Seeing none, I returned to Courtroom A and waited till the end of business, with no reference to Ryan Frederick. Only as I left did I learn the case had been heard in the Appeals Court Courtroom. No announcement had been made, nor was the posted docket updated at any time. So much for public notice of public hearings.
So, I must rely on the mainstream media’s (who were notified of the change) reports to comment on today’s proceedings.
Only one witness was called, Det. Kiley Roberts, who was the Det. who obtained the warrant based on the testimony of a single confidential informant who is now a fugitive. The gist of the testimony is available on the Pilot’s website, so I won’t repeat it all here, but I will make some comments.
Roberts testified that police knocked and announced four or five times in about 12 to 15 seconds. Then, when motion or lights coming on were seen, an unnamed policeman shouted “8 ball,” a code word to alert the other police that the person inside the house was aware they were there and the door was immediately struck with the battering ram.
I find this astounding. No opportunity was ever given for Frederick to open the door and be served the warrant peaceably. They were going to break down that door from the beginning no matter what.
A sleeping man awakens to his dogs (who no doubt did hear the police knocking and announcing and reacted as dogs do) barking furiously and only seconds later, while he is still half asleep, his door comes crashing in. Under those circumstances, premeditating anything is not even a possibility. Having been burglarized only three days before, I can’t imagine anyone awakening to that and not being in fear for his life. In order to prove first degree murder, premeditation must be proved. It is not enough to prove the police announced their presence, they must prove Frederick heard and believed that to be true. Under these circumstances, with no overt acts of Frederick’s part to create the circumstances of the shooting, I do not see that proof being possible without the aide of a psychic.
None-the-less, the judge certified the case to go to the Grand Jury. But what does that mean?
It does not mean the judge found the evidence convincing. In a preliminary hearing, the judge evaluates the evidence presented in the light most favorable to the prosecution. In this case, I find even that to be stretching things a bit. Even seen in the best light for the prosecution, I can see no evidence of premeditation, and at most a case for involuntary manslaughter. But the judge has allowed the first degree murder charge to go forward. We shall see what the Grand Jury, which is composed of citizens, will do with that.
Interestingly, the one charge that would seem to be provable without the use of mind reading, the misdemeanor marijuana possession charge was dropped, with the prosecutor making some vague statement about possibly refiling a felony drug charge at some later time. Of course, there is no real need to drop the possession charge if evidence for a dealing charge becomes available later, so that does not ring true. An alternate reason for dropping that easily proven charge would be that there is a problem, possibly perjury or misrepresentation, in the obtaining of the original warrant and the prosecution does not want that to come out and poison the jury’s view of his murder case. (Hint to CPD Internal Affairs, you should be examining the affidavit used ot obtain the warrant closely.)
So, what happens when the case get to the Grand Jury? That’s another post, to follow.