Breaking News in the Ryan Frederick Case

Thursday, January 29th, 2009

Big development in the Ryan Frederick trial today.

This morning, Frederick’s attorney, James Broccoletti, requested and was granted a recess after three attorneys contacted him last night with concerns about state’s witness Jamal Skeeter, a jailhouse snitch who testified on Tuesday.

According to local TV station WVEC, one of the attorneys was actually another prosecutor, Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney Earle Mobley.

Broccoletti said Mobley told him Skeeter is well-known to prosecutors for giving false testimony and is considered a “professional witness.”

Ebert apparently told the court, “he did not realize Skeeter had questionable credibility.”

His long felony record and wholly implausible testimony didn’t give it away?

MORE: From the Virginian-Pilot:

A spokesman for Mobley said this morning that Portsmouth prosecutors had used Skeeter as a witness but stopped. The spokesman, Bill Prince, could not immediately identify what cases Skeeter testified in.

“We didn’t find him to be trustworthy. We felt an obligation to turn that over to the Chesapeake people,” Prince said this morning. “We got to the point where we wouldn’t use him anymore.”

To sit on such information, he said, would be “offensive.”

Mobley’s office also sent a letter last year to the Norfolk commonwealth’s attorney upon learning that Skeeter was scheduled to testify against a homicide suspect.

Norfolk did not use Skeeter as a witness.

You don’t often hear about one state’s attorney undermining another’s case in the midst of a trial. Mobley deserves a ton of credit, here.

Digg it |  reddit |  del.icio.us |  Fark

47 Responses to “Breaking News in the Ryan Frederick Case”

  1. #1 |  ktc2 | 

    These prosecutors need to be disbared. It won’t happen but that would be just result.

    I got lots of feathers. Anybody got lots of tar?

  2. #2 |  Bob | 

    “Special prosecutor Paul Ebert said he did not realize Skeeter had questionable credibility.”

    You can’t make this shit up! Will someone PLEASE take this ass to the Supreme Court and point out to them why the police need to be more closely monitored?

    This is why I can’t be a Judge. After sitting with my mouth wide open listening to this, I would just tell the Bailiff to shoot this asshole, then throw out the case.

  3. #3 |  Andrew | 

    Does the Prosecutor honestly think that anyone believes him when he says that he didn’t know of this witness’ credibility problems?

    It’ll be interesting to see how Broccoletti handles this. Could be easy grounds for a mistrial, but there’s also some weight in being able to use this against the Prosecution as a whole, casting it all, not just this witness, as being untrustworthy.

    Thank you to Mr. Mobley here, who shows what prosecutors are SUPPOSED to be about — justice, not convictions. For all the prosecutors like Nifong and Ebert, it’s good to know ones like Mobley exist as well.

  4. #4 |  Ben | 

    And what’s even better is there is no recourse for anyone in this situation. Prosecutors are immune from any kind of repirations.

  5. #5 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    I hope the jury is seeing through all this bullshit. I will be VERY disappointed in anything other than a complete dismissal of charges.

    Someone please remind me why people at the receiving end of glory hungry prosecutors who have no real interest in truth OR justice have no recourse against them?

  6. #6 |  Rick Caldwell | 

    I’m leaving work at 1:00 to be at the courthouse when they resume. This oughtta be a lot of fun.

  7. #7 |  Marty | 

    #1 | ktc2-

    will gorilla glue be good enough?

    Rick-

    I’ll be anxiously awaiting another update- along with Radley, you and the tidewater guys have been doing a fantastic job getting the news out. A big hats-off to all of you!

  8. #8 |  Dave Krueger | 

    From the article:

    Broccoletti said Mobley told him Skeeter is well-known to prosecutors for giving false testimony and is considered a “professional witness.”

    Well, of course it was well known. That’s why they used him. Duh!

  9. #9 |  claude | 

    This is great news. From the pilot article on this:

    “However, defense attorneys this morning told Circiut Court Judge Marjorie A. T. Arrington that Skeeter has proven so unreliable in past cases that the Portsmouth Commonwealth’s Attorney has refused to use him as a witness.”

    http://hamptonroads.com/2009/01/frederick-trial-delayed-defense-investigates-witness

    This IS great news.

  10. #10 |  ktc2 | 

    We should keep an eye on prosecutor Mobley’s career. I suspect he may need some assistance due to retaliation for telling the truth. He’s done a service for justice and if the scum go after him for it the public needs to support him.

  11. #11 |  Joe | 

    No doubt the jury is sequestered during all of this. A mistrial might not be the best for Frederick, they will simply pick another jury and be on their way with no real consequences to the prosecution’s case. Let this trial continue and let Broccoletti call Mobley as a witness impugning Skeeter’s veracity, thereby inflicting real damage on the prosecution.

  12. #12 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    Jeesh, when you can’t trust a guy named Skeeter in prison, who can you trust?

    Could we possibly see this railroading get derailed?

  13. #13 |  AJP | 

    I think at this point Broccoletti is better off pushing forward – a mistrial brings you back to square one, and it sounds like this has gone as well as can be expected thus far, given the enormous resources at the disposal of the State and the apparent enormous hole in Eber’s soul where his conscience should be. In a new trial, presumably the State would still call Wright and the other jailhouse snitch – so by moving forward here and discrediting Skeeter, the defense can hopefully cause the jury to question more generally the practice of using snitches and CIs to testify about “conversations” that can easily be invented out of whole cloth.

  14. #14 |  ChrisD | 

    Hey, at least he’s learning a trade in jail! :)

  15. #15 |  ktc2 | 

    I’m a bit rusty on the consequences of a re-trial in the event of mistrial or hung jury. But it seems incredibly unfair to me that in the event of a hung jury (a likely outcome) they can just keep trying him again, and again and again. Practice makes perfect and eventually with unlimited “do overs” they’ll get their railroading perfect or a jury of 12 total morons.

  16. #16 |  claude | 

    Another pilot update…

    http://hamptonroads.com/2009/01/portsmouth-prosecutor-frederick-trial-witness-unreliable

  17. #17 |  seeker6079 | 

    Is it just me, or is the prosecution starting to look like their fictional counterparts Nico Della Guardia and Tommy Molto in Presumed Innocent????

  18. #18 |  Mojotron | 

    looks like Ebert is totally Nifonging this case.

  19. #19 |  TomMil | 

    Can you say, “reasonable doubt.”

    I’m a criminal defense attorney and one of the things I try to point out to the jury is that the Government would not be using a “jail house snitch” if it could make a case without doing so. Then I invite them to think about that for a second. It means that the government had a defendant sitting in a cell (I usually describe it as a 6′ x 10′ cage) on a case they knew they couldn’t prove. I then ask, “What won’t they do to gain a conviction?” BTW, I don’t claim to have invented this technique.

    In this case they needed two jail house confession witnesses. The beauty of Skeeter’s unreliablity is that his testimony was significantly similar to the other snitch’s. If you can’t trust Skeeter, how can you trust the other scumbag.

  20. #20 |  Mojotron | 

    ahahahaha

    “Special Prosecutor Paul Ebert said he had no idea of Skeeter’s reputation until Mobley called him.

    Still, “I like to think he’s credible,” Ebert told the judge.”

  21. #21 |  t. reed | 

    Let’s keep an open mind here. Ebert is an experienced DA. Maybe he’ll say this: “Your Honor, I object. Just because Skeeter is ‘untrustworthy’ in Portsmouth does not mean that he is untrustworthy in Virginia Beach.”

    I say Ebert should “double down.” Bring in the ME from Mississippi. Bring on some “bite mark experts.” Find a ballistics expert to testify that Ryan wrote “this one’s for the pigs” on the bullet before he shot it. Close the state’s case by using the children of the dead cop as props. Ebert is a class act.

  22. #22 |  Ben | 

    Finally…a little bend in the railroading.

    This story helps me keep a little faith for the “justice” system.

  23. #23 |  Alaska | 

    I am a criminal defense attorney, just like TomMil. There is a bit of a difference between someone with a long criminal record providing unbelievable testimony and a witness being so unreliable that the prosecution has refused to use him in the past.

    Frankly, I think that the prosecution’s previous decisions to not use this witness should qualify as Brady material and thus should have been provided to the defense earlier in the trial. This is the kind of material that is generally hidden in prosecution files that is discovered years later, leading to exonerations and/or new trials. It’s hard to determine from the articles, but I would imagine that upon seeing this witness’s record, the defense did a standard cross exam – going over his record, issues with his testimony, etc. because the other material was not known. This is a good reason to request such information in pre-trial motion work whenever dealing with a snitch.

  24. #24 |  AJP | 

    Alaska – Good call on the Brady issue. If, God forbid, this travesty results in a conviction, the appeal issues are rapidly piling up.

  25. #25 |  TomMil | 

    Alaska,

    I don’t know VA’s evidence rules but in NJ Mobley could be subpoenaed regarding Skeeter’s reputation for truthfulness (lack of).

  26. #26 |  chance | 

    I’m a skeptic that statement analysis is a good a method of deception detection (not that that stops many police departments from using it), but just for fun, let’s look at this statement:

    “I like to think he’s credible,” Ebert told the judge.”

    If Ebert actually thought Skeeter was credible, he most likely would have made a short, declarative statement such as “I think he’s credible” or the even stronger “He is a credible witness”.

    However, putting “like to” in his statement changes its meaning. He is only saying that he likes to think that the witness is credible, apparently meaning he has a pleasurable emotion or feeling when he thinks that the winess is credible. He is not saying he is actually having that thought, he isn’t even saying that he is having that feeling. He is just saying that he likes to think that thought.

    From a declarative standpoint, he didn’t address the credibility of the witness at all. He could have said “I like to eat ice cream” and it would have had the same relevance to the question of whether or not the witness is credible.

    Funny if it wasn’t so tragic.

  27. #27 |  Steve Verdon | 

    [quote]This is why I can’t be a Judge. After sitting with my mouth wide open listening to this, I would just tell the Bailiff to shoot this asshole, then throw out the case.[/quote]

    Bob wins the thread. I don’t need to read anyone elses comment to know.

  28. #28 |  Ganja Blue | 

    I’d like to think there was justice in this country.

  29. #29 |  claude | 

    Heres the other payola…

    http://hamptonroads.com/2009/01/frederick-case-informant-granted-bond-criminal-case

  30. #30 |  Edwin Sheldon | 

    To sit on such information, he said, would be “offensive.”

    But not offensive enough to go back and review convictions obtained with his testimony, I bet.

  31. #31 |  Nick T | 

    This is great news. I don’t know if this has been pointed out, but people need to realize just how effed up the Skeeter testimony actually is considering he claims that he’s not receiving any benefit or deal from prosecutors.

    Basically it means 1 of 3 things: 1) either he’s lying and is thus a big fat liar, and denying Mr. frederick his right to a fair trial – and prosecuotrs KNOW he is lying and have said nothing, 2) he’s incredibly stupid and sitting on valuable inculpating evidence in a cop-murder trial he sought not to trade on it – innocnet yet highly unlikely – or 3) he’s is “telling the truth” insomuch as the prosecutors and he have some sort of understanding but no tangible deal. This would allow him to testify as much truthfully, but still have confidence that later down the road he will realize some benefit for his actions. That the prosecutors would essentially wink at this scumbag but not quite cross a line where he would have to admit to having a deal in place (and thus help make their case) is so incredibly scummy and offensive it’s mind-blowing.

    Sadly, options 1 or 3 seem by far the most likely and either situations necessarily invovles serious prosecutorial misconduct.

  32. #32 |  Mike Leatherwood | 

    From the Pilot’s article:
    “Mobley’s office also sent a letter last year to the Norfolk commonwealth’s attorney upon learning that Skeeter was scheduled to testify against a homicide suspect.”

    If Norfolk knew, and Portsmouth knew, then Chesapeake surely knew. These folks work with each other more often than not, especially since their cities intertwine with each other physically.

  33. #33 |  Don Tabor | 

    Ebert would like to think Skeeter is reliable?

    I’d like to think swimsuit models find me irresistibly attractive. That ain’t gonna happen either.

  34. #34 |  Mike | 

    Do Porsthmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk border each other?

  35. #35 |  Don Tabor | 

    “Do Portsmouth, Chesapeake and Norfolk border each other?”

    Yes. Portsmouth is surrounded by Norfolk on the East, Chesapeake on the South and West and the James River on the North.

  36. #36 |  Steve Verdon | 

    By the way, thanks Don for all your efforts on this one. Good work, good work.

  37. #37 |  supercat | 

    This is why I can’t be a Judge.

    If I were a judge, I would ensure that all defense attorneys knew that I would be very open to defense arguments that particular searches or seizures were not reasonable; I would allow the state to inform jurors of what practices are, or are not, generally considered reasonable, but I would inform jurors that because every case is different they must determine for themselves the reasonableness of police actions in the particular case at hand.

    I know that such a position is not particularly supported by case law, but I can see no legitimate argument against it. The Supreme Law of the Land explicitly states that unreasonable searches and seizures are illegitimate. So a finding that any particular search or seizure is unreasonable would imply that it was illegitimate.

    Would there be any legitimate argument the state could make against informing jurors that they must judge for themselves the reasonableness of police actions? Many other issues juries have to decide involve the concept of ‘reasonableness’, so I see no reason to exclude that one.

  38. #38 |  John Jenkins | 

    @supercat (#37): Whether a search is reasonable is a question of law that will be decided by the judge, not the jury. If the search is unreasonable (and the judge grants a suppression motion) the jury will never even see the tainted evidence. If the suppressed evidence is necessary for the prosecution to even make a claim, then the case will be dismissed before a jury is called.

    Your method would not have the results you think, either. Almost anything the police did would be reasonable to jurors if the police found actual evidence the defendant committed a crime. The whole reason the exclusion process is hidden from the jury is so the jurors will not convict on the basis of unlawfully obtained evidence. Juries have good bullshit detectors, but they care far more about rough justice than they do about the niceties of Constitutional Law.

    Prosecutors across the country would love to have a system like you’re describing, where the jury got to determine whether a search was reasonable, because it would virtually eliminate any chance they would lose a case on a suppression issue.

  39. #39 |  Stephen | 

    “If Norfolk knew, and Portsmouth knew, then Chesapeake surely knew. These folks work with each other more often than not, especially since their cities intertwine with each other physically.”

    Of course they knew. Why else do you think they picked him and spoon fed him what to say?

    The prosecutor and the police here seem to have some sort of belief in super-hearing powers. The jailhouse snitch can hear through glass doors and RF “should” have heard their whispering outside his house.

  40. #40 |  supercat | 

    @supercat (#37): Whether a search is reasonable is a question of law that will be decided by the judge, not the jury. If the search is unreasonable (and the judge grants a suppression motion) the jury will never even see the tainted evidence. If the suppressed evidence is necessary for the prosecution to even make a claim, then the case will be dismissed before a jury is called.

    It is right and proper for a judge to suppress evidence from an unreasonable search and seizure. A judge does not, however, have legitimate authority to declare that something is reasonable if twelve jurors who knew its background would declare it was not. Of course, judges often exclude as “irrelevant” evidence the defense might want to introduce to show a search was unreasonable. Such exclusion isn’t because the evidence isn’t relevant to the case at hand, but because it is relevant in a way the judge won’t like.

    Somehow people have become convinced that the Supreme Court has the authority to create all-inclusive rules for what is reasonable and unreasonable, such that any search which abides by the Court’s rules is by definition “reasonable”. Not only does such a notion render the Fourth Amendment moot (since it would effectively mean nothing but what the Court wants it to mean), and not only would such a notion represent a serious breach of separation of powers (if anyone has the authority to decide upon search procedure, it would be the legislature), but it also makes no logical sense. Questions of reasonableness and unreasonableness will be affected by observations on the ground, in ways that cannot possibly be foreseen. Any general rule which would not end up classifying as “reasonable” some searches and seizures that are patently unreasonable must necessarily classify almost any search as “unreasonable”, even those which would in fact be just fine.

  41. #41 |  BamBam | 

    The prosecutor and the police here seem to have some sort of belief in super-hearing powers. The jailhouse snitch can hear through glass doors and RF “should” have heard their whispering outside his house.

    They have watched too many episodes of Heroes. Maybe the police know of a program whereby civilians are unknowingly being injected with a serum that will, one unknown day in the future, manifest its capabilities in the form of a superhuman ability?

  42. #42 |  supercat | 

    Juries have good bullshit detectors, but they care far more about rough justice than they do about the niceties of Constitutional Law.

    There are no doubt some cases where a judge excludes evidence which a jury would have used to convict someone even if they were told to disregard it. On the other hand, I would expect that many jurors would probably balance the severity of the police misconduct versus the alleged crime; if told that it would be right and proper for them to disregard evidence from a search they find to be unreasonable, a jury could very well acquit someone for possessing a few milligrams of pot which the police only found after his house was ripped to shreds on the word of an anonymous tipster.

    There’s another reason, though, that the jury should serve as a secondary check on reasonableness: if police smash into people’s homes with sufficient frequency and violence that people live in fear of the police, it may become difficult for the state to find a jury of people who regard such conduct as “reasonable”. Having to convince the public of the reasonableness of their actions would IMHO be a very useful check on the spreading totalitarian anarchism in today’s police forces.

  43. #43 |  The Johnny Appleseed Of Crack | 

    First really good news I’ve heard about this trial.

    Thanks to Tidewater Liberty and The Agitator for keeping up with the case, that has probably had a lot to do with the latest break.

    Also, props to Mobley for coming forward.

  44. #44 |  billy-jay | 

    I wonder where Lima Charlie is?

  45. #45 |  Nick T | 

    I just wanted to point out that what Mobley did is required under the law. Legally he had no actual choice. That’s not to say he doesn’t deserve a lot of credit and praise, because it’s sometimes very easy to do what is not right. But there was only one right decision here. It’s like Obama ending torture, he deserves credit and it might have been easy for him to continue those terrible policies, but there was only one proper decision under the law.

    Again I say this not to dismiss the virtue of Mobley’s actions, but to just make sure it is discussed that this was someone fulfilling his legal obligations rather than saying “screw everybody” and doing what was in his heart.

  46. #46 |  t. reed | 

    Nick T,
    On one hand, you are correct. On the other hand, Mobley could have just pretended that he did not know about Mr. Skeeter’s contribution to justice in the RF case. IIRC, Mobley said that he read about Skeeter’s involvement in the newspaper. If you have video of me buying said paper, it’s near impossible to prove that I read a particular article. If you prove that I read the article, I can still claim that I did the ole “speed read” through it and I didn’t catch the Skeeter mention. If you prove that I read the Skeeter mention, maybe I didn’t remember the Skeeter history in my office–I’m a busy guy, and I do a lot of stuff.

    In a justice system with Mississippi ME’s and bite mark experts, Mobley gets a “profile in courage” award. This is a cop killing case. Cops will never, ever forgive him. Mobley screwed himself when he did not have to. God bless him.

    I hope the RF side plays this for all it is worth. Put Mobley on the stand. “District Attorney Mobley, just so there’s no misunderstanding here, do you see that same Mr. Skeeter in the courtroom today? Would you point him out to the jury? And, for the record, that would be the handcuffed man in the prison jumpsuit? Thank you, District Attorney Mobley. Sir, can you give us some idea of what it is that you do for the people of Portsmouth? You’re in the justice business, are you not? And the way justice works in Portsmouth, District Attorneys are not allowed to put people like Mr. Skeeter there on the stand, is that correct? Why not allow Mr. Skeeter to have his say in Portsmouth? Is it because a Portsmouth jury is likely to be misinformed by persons like Mr. Skeeter?”

  47. #47 |  The 2011 Worst Prosecutor of the Year Award | The Agitator | 

    […] credibility, fellow Virginia State’s Attorney Earle Mobley made the admirable and rare move of speaking up in  mid-trial to say that he and other area prosecutors had determined Skeeter was a professional liar, and had […]

Leave a Reply