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|The Harris Column|
Police blame defense attorney after they misidentify suspect
By SAMUEL J. HARRIS
Putnam Pit columnist
Cookeville Police Officers, Zac Birdwell and Jeff Johnson feel that their testimony under oath before the General Sessions Court in their case against Desmond Irvin was inaccurate because defense counsel, Will Roberson, tricked them.
This, according to reports in the local advertising circular.
Boys, when you testify under oath there is nothing routine about it. It should be routine to tell the truth; it should be routine to testify as accurately as memory will allow. And when you make a mistake be man enough to admit it and not whine about it. But I guess tradition demands that retribution be taken by the system when flaws are exposed. Perhaps the system would grow instead of eventually rot if it would engage in a little self-examination.
According to the Herald Citizen (so you really have to question the reporting and analysis), the officers told District Attorney General Bill Gibson that Roberson caused the officers to identify the wrong man. How did Mr. Roberson do this? Did he put a gun, to not one witness (but two witnesses), and have them lie? No. Did he tell them something that wasn’t true? No. Rather the cops testified, purportedly truthfully, that the man sitting at the defense table was the man they believed to be guilty of a crime. It just wasn’t the accused, Mr. Irvin.
Sounds to me like there is established reasonable doubt about a material fact in the case, namely the identification of the accused. Apparently, Wesley Rex and Joe Bond were not available for this case.
The prosecution assumed facts. But justice is not based on assumption despite the routine processing of individuals from accused to arrested to bound over to the grand jury to plea bargainer to finally, that most sacred position occupied in the Putnam County “Just Us” system - Guilty Court Cost Payer. The H-C writes the story that characterizes the preliminary hearing process like it is a routine matter to find probable cause. The Tennessee government should recognize this reported (indeed truthful) observation by the H-C. Abolish preliminary hearings, abolish testimony, abolish trial. Think of the savings. Accused equals guilty so pay up.
Will Roberson was acting the way an ethical defense attorney should act. He defended his client against those who would lock someone in jail based on assumption rather than the truth.
My bet is that the system will either retaliate against the misidentified accused or against The Putnam Pit for laughing at the flaws. But in all honesty, I simply wish for honor and integrity to become part of the system. Officers, learn from this, not to be more careful but to recognize mistakes are made by even police officers. When you make a mistake, have the honor and integrity to accept the consequences. You would be amazed at the respect everyone will have for you then.