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DO POLICE OFFICERS REALLY PLANT EVIDENCE?

March 21, 2024

In the United States, do law enforcement officers actually plant evidence to make suspects look guilty? Crime films and television dramas use the “planted evidence” gimmick frequently, but how frequently do the police plant evidence in real life cases? Is it the rare behavior of just a few bad cops, or is evidence-planting a widespread, ongoing police practice across the country? Many criminal defense attorneys and other observers of the criminal justice system believe that evidence-planting is rampant, and plenty of retired cops have admitted publicly to planting evidence throughout their law enforcement careers. However, since last December, one remarkable crime story has once again placed the issue of evidence-planting by police officers up for public discussion.

Making a Murderer is a ten-part true crime documentary series that was released by Netflix in December 2015. Making a Murderer instantly seized – and held – the nation’s attention at the end of an acrimonious year when the U.S. criminal justice system was already being severely criticized, scrutinized, and condemned by many for lacking integrity. Making a Murderer chronicles in detail the compelling story of Steven Avery, a Wisconsin man who was wrongly sentenced to eighteen years in prison for a sexual assault. Avery was vindicated and released in 2003 when DNA evidence proved that he was innocent. That wrongful sentence alone would make a compelling documentary, but it’s only the introduction to Making a Murderer.

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Upon his release from prison in 2003, Steven Avery brought a multi-million-dollar lawsuit against those Wisconsin law enforcement authorities responsible for his eighteen-year false imprisonment. As that lawsuit was pending in 2005, Steven Avery was accused by those same authorities of a young woman’s murder. He was arrested, tried, and in 2007, Avery was convicted of the murder of Teresa Halbach. He was sentenced to life without the possibility of parole. Thanks to Netflix, that trial and verdict is perhaps now the most controversial since the O.J. Simpson trial two decades ago. Making a Murderer offers a powerfully persuasive argument that the police in Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, planted evidence to strengthen their murder case against Steen Avery and to guarantee his conviction.

 

WHAT HAS BEEN THE REACTION?

Several famous attorneys and even some Hollywood icons are sounding off about the Avery case and are debating whether Avery and his nephew, Brendan Dassey, also convicted of the same murder, are genuinely guilty. Even Netflix viewers who think that Avery committed the murder agree that there was egregious police misconduct in the case. Letters, petitions, newspaper commentaries, and blog posts have strongly condemned the actions of Wisconsin law enforcement officers in the Avery case, and more than 200,000 people have signed petitions demanding retrials for Steven Avery and Brendan Dassey. Making a Murderer also explains why the filmmakers believe that evidence was planted to frame Steven Avery. The motives of the police officers would appear to have been money and vengeance.

After serving eighteen years behind bars for a crime he did not commit, Avery filed a $36-million-dollar lawsuit in federal court against Manitowoc County, its former district attorney, and its ex-sheriff. The key evidence linking Steven Avery to the murder of Teresa Halbach was found by Manitowoc County Sheriff’s detective Lt. James Lenk and Sheriff’s Sgt. Andrew Colborn. They found a key to Ms. Halbach’s vehicle – that several earlier searches purportedly “missed” – in Avery’s bedroom. Lenk also was present at Avery’s garage weeks later when a bullet fragment was discovered after several earlier searches. Lenk is retired. He now lives here in Arizona, and he refused to speak with USA Today regarding the Steven Avery case and Making a Murderer.

Most viewers of Making a Murderer would tell you that it is an understatement to say that the murder prosecution of Steven Avery was “mishandled.” Because Avery had filed a legal action against the Manitowoc County Sheriff’s Office, the Teresa Halbach murder was supposed to be investigated by deputies from adjacent Calumet County. Nevertheless, the items “found” by Manitowoc County officers were allowed as evidence at Avery’s murder trial, despite Manitowoc County’s conflict of interest. The controversial evidence does not even match with or confirm any of the theories that prosecutors offered to jurors regarding the crime. Steven Avery was nevertheless convicted of murder, and on June 1, 2007, he was ordered to serve the remainder of his life in a Wisconsin state prison. In 2011, Avery’s appeal for a new trial was rejected by a state appeals court, and the Wisconsin Supreme Court also has refused to hear Avery’s case. He has retained new attorneys and a new appeal has recently been filed on Avery’s behalf.

Christine Twomey
Christine Twomey
2024-03-21
Just had my Divorce case settled 2 months ago after having a horrible experience with another firm. I couldn’t be happier with Claire Banks and Elizabeth Garvey with their outstanding professionalism in doing so with Spodek Law Group. Any time I needed questions answered they were always prompt in doing so with all my uncertainties after 30 yrs of marriage.I feel from the bottom of my heart you will NOT be disappointed with either one. Thanks a million.
Brendan huisman
Brendan huisman
2024-03-18
Alex Zhik contacted me almost immediately when I reached out to Spodek for a consultation and was able to effectively communicate the path forward/consequences of my legal issue. I immediately agreed to hire Alex for his services and did not regret my choice. He was able to cover my case in court (with 1 day notice) and not only was he able to push my case down, he carefully negotiated a dismissal of the charge altogether. I highly recommend Spodek, and more specifically, Alex Zhik for all of your legal issues. Thanks guys!
Guerline Menard
Guerline Menard
2024-03-18
Thanks again Spodek law firm, particularly Esq Claire Banks who stood right there with us up to the finish line. Attached photos taken right outside of the court building and the smile on our faces represented victory, a breath of fresh air and satisfaction. We are very happy that this is over and we can move on with our lives. Thanks Spodek law 🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙏🏼🙌🏼❤️
Keisha Parris
Keisha Parris
2024-03-15
Believe every single review here about Alex Z!! From our initial consultation, it was evident that Alex possessed a profound understanding of criminal law and a fierce dedication to his clients rights. Throughout the entirety of my case, Alex exhibited unparalleled professionalism and unwavering commitment. What sets Alex apart is not only his legal expertise but also his genuine compassion for his clients. He took the time to thoroughly explain my case, alleviating any concerns I had along the way. His exact words were “I’m not worried about it”. His unwavering support and guidance were invaluable throughout the entire process. I am immensely grateful for Alex's exceptional legal representation and wholeheartedly recommend his services to anyone in need of a skilled criminal defense attorney. Alex Z is not just a lawyer; he is a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of the legal system. If you find yourself in need of a dedicated and competent legal advocate, look no further than Alex Z.
Taïko Beauty
Taïko Beauty
2024-03-15
I don’t know where to start, I can write a novel about this firm, but one thing I will say is that having my best interest was their main priority since the beginning of my case which was back in Winter 2019. Miss Claire Banks, one of the best Attorneys in the firm represented me very well and was very professional, respectful, and truthful. Not once did she leave me in the dark, in fact she presented all options and routes that could possibly be considered for my case and she reinsured me that no matter what I decided to do, her and the team will have my back and that’s exactly what happened. Not only will I be liberated from this case, also, I will enjoy my freedom and continue to be a mother to my first born son and will have no restrictions with accomplishing my goals in life. Now that’s what I call victory!! I thank the Lord, My mother, Claire, and the Spodek team for standing by me and fighting with me. Words can’t describe how grateful I am to have the opportunity to work with this team. I’m very satisfied, very pleased with their performance, their hard work, and their diligence. Thank you team!
Anthony Williams
Anthony Williams
2024-03-12
Hey, how you guys doing? Good afternoon my name is Anthony Williams I just want to give a great shout out to the team of. Spodek law group. It is such a honor to use them and to use their assistance through this whole case from start to finish. They did everything that they said they was gonna do and if it ever comes down to it, if I ever have to use them again, hands-down they will be the first law office at the top of my list, thank you guys so much. It was a pleasure having you guys by my side so if you guys ever need them, do not hesitate to pick up the phone and give them a call.
Loveth Okpedo
Loveth Okpedo
2024-03-12
Very professional, very transparent, over all a great experience
Bee L
Bee L
2024-02-28
Amazing experience with Spodek! Very professional lawyers who take your case seriously. They treated me with respect, were always available, and answered any and all questions. They were able to help me very successfully and removed a huge stress. Highly recommend.
divesh patel
divesh patel
2024-02-24
I can't recommend Alex Zhik and Spodek Law Firm highly enough for their exceptional legal representation and personal mentorship. From the moment I engaged their services in October 2022, Alex took the time to understand my case thoroughly and provided guidance every step of the way. Alex's dedication to my case went above and beyond my expectations. His expertise, attention to detail, and commitment to achieving the best possible outcome were evident throughout the entire process. He took the time to mentor me, ensuring I understood the legal complexities involved to make informed decisions. Alex is the kind of guy you would want to have a beer with and has made a meaningful impact on me. I also want to acknowledge Todd Spodek, the leader of the firm, who played a crucial role in my case. His leadership and support bolstered the efforts of Alex, and his involvement highlighted the firm's commitment to excellence. Thanks to Alex Zhik and Todd Spodek, I achieved the outcome I desired, and I am incredibly grateful for their professionalism, expertise, and genuine care. If you're in need of legal representation, look no further than this outstanding team.

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HOW WIDESPREAD IS THE PROBLEM?

Is evidence planted only by some police departments? Does it happen only in murder investigations? Or is evidence-planting common and maybe even out of control? It happens in all fifty states. We know that evidence-planting happens in all parts of the country – and not just in murder cases – because federal officers have apprehended a number of local police officers for planting evidence, and the courts have convicted them. Four officers in Camden, New Jersey, for example, were prosecuted for evidence-planting in 2013. The cops involved failed to report drug seizures from suspects and instead planted those drugs on other suspects. The officers were convicted.

In 2009, police officers in Tulsa who planted evidence and stole cash from drug dealers were investigated by the FBI. One New York City police officer confessed in 2008 that he had planted drugs on innocent New Yorkers to help another cop make an arrest quota. Phoenix residents may remember a police officer named Richard Chrisman. A videotape released in 2010 showed the officer planting drug paraphernalia – a drug pipe – on a homeless Phoenix woman. Thankfully, Chrisman is no longer a cop in Phoenix. He was convicted of several misconduct-related crimes and sentenced in 2013 to seven years in prison.

Of course, the greater question is to what extent evidence-planting is practiced by law enforcement officers. No one can say how often or routinely the police plant evidence on suspects in this country or how many cops are involved in the practice. One researcher at Bowling Green State University, professor and former police officer Philip Stinson, has gathered an extensive amount of information about police misconduct and the practice of evidence-planting. Even after comprehensive research, Stinson concludes that the planting of evidence by police officers remains a “hidden” crime. “There’s not much we know about it,” Stinson admits.

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WHAT SHOULD YOU DO IF YOU ARE FRAMED FOR A CRIME?

What should you do if you are accused of committing a felony or a misdemeanor and you are persuaded that police officers have planted evidence to incriminate you? It’s a very tough place to be. The claim that “I was set up” is the same claim made by multitudes of criminal defendants who are eventually proven guilty. If the evidence planted was narcotics, and you are not a drug user, you may need character witnesses who can vouch for you. You will also need the legal counsel of a good criminal defense lawyer, and in the state of Arizona, you’ll need to consult with an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney.

If a law enforcement officer’s DNA or fingerprints are found on a piece of evidence, and a suspect’s prints and DNA are not found, a good defense lawyer may be able to cast doubt on the authenticity of that evidence. Evidence-planting is considered a serious crime every state, and in Arizona, planting evidence is a Class Six felony. A conviction for evidence-planting in Arizona is punishable by a year in custody or by two years if the state can prove “aggravating” circumstances. Here is the precise language of Arizona Revised Statute § 13-2809(a) and (b):

A. A person commits tampering with physical evidence if, with intent that it be used, introduced, rejected or unavailable in an official proceeding which is then pending or which such person knows is about to be instituted, such person:

  1. Destroys, mutilates, alters, conceals or removes physical evidence with the intent to impair its verity or availability; or
  2. Knowingly makes, produces or offers any false physical evidence; or
  3. Prevents the production of physical evidence by an act of force, intimidation or deception against any person.

B. Inadmissibility of the evidence in question is not a defense.

If you are arrested and accused of committing a crime, and if you are convinced that law enforcement officers have planted or have otherwise arranged evidence to incriminate you, do not think that your circumstances are hopeless. However, whenever a suspicion emerges that evidence has been tampered with, a criminal case swiftly becomes complicated and quite challenging, so you must be represented by an experienced criminal defense lawyer who has worked successfully on similar cases. If you face any criminal charge, contact a good criminal defense attorney who will go the full distance to fight aggressively for justice on your behalf. In the Phoenix area or elsewhere in the state of Arizona, if you are arrested and charged with committing any crime, immediately contact an experienced Phoenix criminal defense attorney. The legal help you’ll need is here, but you must take the first step and make the call.

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