One of the unexpected items in the Ryan Frederick preliminary hearing was the dropping of the charge for possession of marijuana. The first reaction to that news might be relief that at least that is one thing Frederick doesn’t have to worry about. But since that was the one charge that appeared to be a slam dunk conviction, dropping it seems to be irrational, and prosecutors seldom do things without a reason.
So, what is different about that charge and the more serious murder and firearms charges? Well, for a start, the possession charge rests entirely on the results of the search warrant, while the others are supported by testimony from the police.
What if there is a serious problem with the warrant? Is it possible that the possession charge was dropped in order to keep those problems from the eyes of the jury when considering the more serious charges? And what if the problems with the warrant reflect on the other testimony from the police?
The last thing any citizen would want to believe is that a police officer would use deception to obtain a warrant, but there are some serious credibility problems here. Let’s look at the original affidavit used to obtain the search warrant. You can view it at http://tinyurl.com/4ld4bf
The affidavit requesting the warrant maintains that the confidential informant had a long history of providing reliable evidence to the officer requesting the warrant and that the officer had participated in controlled buys with the informant. But other events have called the reliability and history of this informant into question, and he is now believed to be a fugitive. What if it turns out that the reliability of the informant and depth of the investigation were exaggerated in the course of persuading the magistrate to issue the warrant? Might that not get the original warrant challenged and further call into question the credibility of the officer who obtained the warrant?
Well, the warrant was obtained by none other than Det. Kiley Roberts, the prime witness against Frederick in the murder charge. If the warrant were made relevant to the testimony by prosecuting the possession charge, the doubts about the warrant could cast doubt on all of his testimony under cross examination.
I would not accuse Det. Roberts of consciously lying to convict an innocent man, but a fellow police officer and friend died as a result of this mishandled investigation and raid, and it is only human, when things go so horribly wrong, to see things in a light that shifts responsibility to others. It is this human ability to refuse to see what we cannot bear, rather than malice toward Frederick, that I believe is driving this prosecution, which to those of us who see it from a distance, seems so irrational.
The Chesapeake Police Department must be more open with the public and accept its responsibilities in this tragedy if they are to win back the trust of the public which has been lost due to this disaster and the ensuing obfuscation. Trust does not come from never making a mistake, but from how we acknowledge and correct mistakes when they occur.