The Hits Just Keep On Coming

Friday, January 30th, 2009

Shouldn’t a prosecutor required to do even a bare bones investigation into the reliability of his witnesses?

More from Chesapeake this afternoon:

Jailhouse informant Jamal Skeeter’s credibility took more hits at the Ryan Frederick murder trial this morning, as a defense attorney introduced about 30 letters Skeeter wrote to various authorities offering his assistance in homicides, police shootings and even the Michael Vick dogfighting investigation.

Called back to the witness stand, Skeeter didn’t deny that he’s a “professional witness.” But he denied writing some of the letters, even though acknowledging they were in his handwriting with his name on the envelope…

When Skeeter entered the courtroom, he initially refused to answer any questions, saying his safety was in jeopardy. He also tried to order the removal of the media. The judge refused and ordered him to testify.

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49 Responses to “The Hits Just Keep On Coming”

  1. #1 |  ktc2 | 

    Bad snitch! No cookie 4u!

    Seriously, this is just ridiculous. This Ebert chump needs to be disbared. Isn’t he the same dipshit from the Rack N Roll debacle?

    Is there a way for the public of his jurisdiction to initiate a disbarment/impeachment or whatever you do to lying scumbag prosecutors?

  2. #2 |  ZappaCrappa | 

    As Skeeter’s reputation gets around the various jails, he might want to invest in a large tub of industrial lubricant.

  3. #3 |  MacK | 

    I keep getting this picture of a 3yr old with chocolate all over his face, and when his mom asks did you that candy bar, he gets big puppy dog eyes, and says “NO!”.

  4. #4 |  Carl Drega | 

    http://hamptonroads.tv/hrtv.php?id=2995218

    Audio of Mr. Frederick’s interrogation as played in Court

  5. #5 |  Fledermaus | 

    I once went to a CLE (lawyer class) on defending drug cases and there was a really great federal defense attorney who told us about the time when he started off his presentation at a meeting of cops and prosecutors thusly: “Whenever I get a case that involves a jailhouse informant I’m like Elvis in the kitchen . . . I smell bacon!”

  6. #6 |  Edwin Sheldon | 

    Talk about a bombshell! That alone ought to let Frederick walk, if the jurors have half a brain between them. That’s a pretty big “if”.

  7. #7 |  t. reed | 

    We know RF killed this cop. This trial is all about RF’s state of mind and intentions. If I am right, the State’s only direct evidence as to RF’s intentions comes from a guy with a tin foil hat. God help us. The state leaves no stone unturned for “I’m gonna gecha, coppa” evidence, and this is the best they can come up with? Now I know why Ebert opened with the cop’s wife: it’s his best “evidence.”

    At this point, on the charge of 1st degree murder, I’m asking for a directed verdict. Given the overall circumstances of the shooting, what has the state produced? On lesser charges, there are determinations that should be left to the jury, but where is there evidence that RF intended to kill a cop?

  8. #8 |  CRNewsom | 

    Motion for directed verdict denied, counsel, I want to see how this one plays out.

  9. #9 |  Bob | 

    Stunned, slackjawed silence.

    Imagine my shock later when I discover that this practice (Of using “professional witnesses”) is routine.

    Even then, isn’t ANYTHING Skeeter says total hearsay? I thought hearsay evidence was not generally admissible.

    Ok, I’m no lawyer, but according to this wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hearsay_in_United_States_law
    Hearsay can be admissible if it’s in the form of a confession. However, the Jury must be instructed that this is hearsay and that they can consider it false… Was the jury so instructed? And if so, how could ANYONE think this guy’s testimony was anything but an attempt to buy a reduced sentence?

    Even WITHOUT the pile of letters, offering help on all those cases, the defense should have been able to crush any possible credibility of this witness.

    With the pile of letters, the defense can just say, “Look! Clearly this guy is a witness for hire, this casts a pall on ANY hearsay evidence the prosecution brings forward. Evidence talks, hearsay walks. And the Prosecution has brought no real evidence to the table.”

  10. #10 |  Nick T | 

    Bob,

    Statements by a “party opponent” is generally NOT hearsay. that menas in any litigation if a party seeks to admit out-of-court statements by its/an opposing party that is NOT hearsay. Some jurisdictions define this as an exception to the hearsay rule (practically it makes no difference), but under every jurisdiction I’m aware of it would come in. Confessions by criminal defendant are generall covered under this same umbrella (or as statements against penal interests) and the question becomes the credibility or memory of the witness relaying those original statements. Clearly confessions are generally solid evidence and should not be denied from entry outright simply because they are not made in court.

    In this case the system has functioned apporpriately allowing a thorough cross-examination of a witness relaying such statements for bias and outright lying.

    As for Ebert, I don’t think he’s evil, bad or otherwise, he’s simply incompetent. His case just fell apart before his eyes BECAUSE he failed to test the credibility of this witness. It was never in his best interest to turn a blind eye to this stuff, so this is just plain incompetence.

  11. #11 |  chsw | 

    If I were a juror on this case, Skeeter’s skeevy testimony would be enough for me to vote not guilty.

    chsw

  12. #12 |  t. reed | 

    It is very important for readers to follow the “More from” link above. There is video of RF on the stand listening to RF’s interview with a cop on the night of the shooting. RF does not come across as a cop killer. Also, the cop twice says that “they know” RF’s house was broken into.

    Also, the M. Vick case is a very big deal in this part of VA. The fact that Skeeter offered to snitch on M. Vick will not play well with some members of the jury.

    Note to Radley: the cop questioning RF continuously says “you can’t just shoot through a door.” Is that the standard police apply to police? How many “shoot through the door” cases are there where the shooter is a cop?

  13. #13 |  Cynical In CA | 

    #10 | chsw | January 30th, 2009 at 4:10 pm

    “If I were a juror on this case, Skeeter’s skeevy testimony would be enough for me to vote not guilty.”

    If I were a juror in this case, I would nullify.

    That goes for any case.

    Drive a stake in the vampire’s heart.

  14. #14 |  David | 

    Yes, you’re an anarchist. Congratufuckinglations. We get it. You don’t need to loudly point it out in every thread that involves the government doing anything.

  15. #15 |  Omar | 

    Did anyone watch the video of RF listening to his post-arrest interview?

    There’s no timestamp on it, but I really think, I hear Queen Bohemian Rhapsody. Is this a freaking joke?!?!? Was this movie on in the police car?

    About 4/5 of the way through..you can hear it right after the detective says “you understand now that you cannot shoot blindly through a door”.

  16. #16 |  Mike T | 

    As Skeeter’s reputation gets around the various jails, he might want to invest in a large tub of industrial lubricant.

    Defense attorneys should start getting together a posting ads on cable TV on channels likely to be popular in prisons when they run across guys like Skeeter.

  17. #17 |  Omar | 

    By movie, of course, I mean song. Too shocked to type really. About the audio, not the song.

  18. #18 |  Bob | 

    Nick T:

    I getcha! ‘Hearsay’ per se would be when the intermediary was unidentifiable or otherwise unexaminable. As all parties were available for cross examination, this was not hearsay.

    As to Ebert being evil, bad, etc… I think this goes beyond incompetence. Incompetence would cover it if his job description was “Convict the accused at all costs with all the complexity of law”… like it was a chess game.

    But it’s not. Only the defense can go there. The Prosecution team, from the scrubbiest desk clerk organizing Police Reports to the highest Prosecutor need to have a Moral Compass.

    The problem arises when the unscrupled among law enforcement decide that winning is the only thing, and strive only for arrests and convictions. That is what I think Eberts is guilty of here. I also think that’s what started the case in the first place, with the SWAT team making a raid that noone with any Moral Compass would back.

  19. #19 |  Bill | 

    By all means, follow t. reed’s advice and listen to the recording of the interview! I have done some interviewing and statement taking, and my impression is that, even taking into account that the officer was presumably upset about his colleague being shot, his interviewing technique was very unprofessional. First, about a third of the way in, HE begins rationalizing to FREDERICK the police actions: (paraphrasing) “That’s why we knocked and announced ourselves…” and, though we’ve heard about it before, to hear him TWICE state that the police knew that Frederick had been burglarized, and also that they knew Frederick had a gun, is interesting. Most of my interviews have been in relation to civil, not criminal matters, but one of the rules is that you are there to gather information, not to provide it. Statements like this could (as they did) provide information that could later be used against you, and could taint a witness. (“How do you know that?” “Your investigator told me.” is not something that a lawyer wants to hear in court.)

    Further, the cop tries to convince Frederick that he shouldn’t have shot through the door. Why? It’s not like he’s going to have another chance to do it any time soon. He in essence gets into an argument with Frederick, when it probably makes a lot more sense to be somewhat sympathetic…if Frederick was going to admit to anything, he’s not as likely to do it when the interviewer is hostile. Further, when debating with Frederick, the interviewer seemed at times less coherent than Frederick. He seems, for example, to consistently confuse the house and the garage.

  20. #20 |  Ganja Blue | 

    @David I’m glad you pointed out that the common thread in just about every travesty like this is the utter failure of government. Your anger is typical of the response that most of us anarchos get when we suggest that government might be THE problem. (didn’t Reagan say that, btw)

    I doubt Skeeter and Prosecutor (wasn’t that a Traveling Wilbury’s song?) will face any repercussions for their perjury plot. This trial shouldn’t even be happening.

    The cop says, “You can’t just shoot blindly through a door. You don’t know who’s the other side.” Umm, not guilty?

  21. #21 |  Bill | 

    One other point, and then I’ll shut up for a while…it’s interesting that Frederick early on asserts that he saw people through the hole in the door, while the interviewer continues with the “shooting blindly through the door” assertion. Another problem with the cop lecturing Frederick on how he shouldn’t shoot blindly through the door is that, if he HADN’T already said that he saw people through the door, the cop’s lecture might have been incentive to adjust his recollection to claim that he did see someone before he fired.

  22. #22 |  David | 

    Your anger is typical of the response that most of us anarchos get when we suggest that government might be THE problem. (didn’t Reagan say that, btw)

    It’s more annoyance than anger, and it’s directed at the fact that every regular here already knows Cynical’s politics, so there’s no reason to come into random threads to post what boils down to “that’s very interesting, but HEY I’M AN ANARCHIST.” Although I do give him credit for at least trying to tie the threadjack to the discussion at hand.

  23. #23 |  Bob | 

    Bill,

    My thoughts almost exactly.

    He didn’t sound like he was trying to get information out of the ‘interview’, he sounded like he was trying to crush Ryan’s will so he would say anything to make the interview stop.

    At the same time, I think the interviewer was trying to justify his own beliefs to himself.

    Ryan’s biggest error was thinking this was anything but a confession fishing trip. We’ll never know how close he came to totally breaking down and making a false confession just to stop the interview.

    Word up: If you are ever ‘interviewed’ by the police after being arrested, just shut up and say nothing.

  24. #24 |  Gonzo | 

    Bob – First say “lawyer.” Then say nothing.

  25. #25 |  Chris in AL | 

    I would also say that anyone currently sitting in prison based on Skeeter’s testimoney needs a new trial immediately. Every case he has testified in needs reviewed.

  26. #26 |  TC | 

    Thought;

    Ebert is destroying his own case with intention.?

  27. #27 |  Cynical In CA | 

    #14 | David | January 30th, 2009 at 4:39 pm
    Yes, you’re an anarchist. Congratufuckinglations. We get it. You don’t need to loudly point it out in every thread that involves the government doing anything.

    Am I getting to you David?

    Too fucking bad, infant.

  28. #28 |  Cynical In CA | 

    “Shouldn’t a prosecutor [be] required to do even a bare bones investigation into the reliability of his witnesses?” — Radley Balko

    With absolute prosecutorial immunity, where’s the incentive?

    /insert gratuitous anarchist reference here just to annoy David

  29. #29 |  David | 

    I’d like to note that I haven’t said or even implied (that I know of) that you’re wrong. I’m definitely in the minarchist camp, but some of your posts, including the most off-topic ones, make excellent points (e.g. the rule-of-law thread). Just that the off-topicness gets freaking old.

  30. #30 |  Cynical In CA | 

    Once more into the breach:

    “… there’s no reason to come into random threads to post what boils down to “that’s very interesting, but HEY I’M AN ANARCHIST.” Although I do give him credit for at least trying to tie the threadjack to the discussion at hand.”

    Which I always do, you whiny bitch David. Keep your credit, I’ve got plenty of my own.

  31. #31 |  CEH | 

    I’m glad someone considered the fact that the interviewing detective just watched his friend and co-worker get killed in front of him. What a job he was given, huh?

  32. #32 |  Omar | 

    Cynical in CA,

    You always have a lot to say around here that’s great and worthwhile, but please, friend, cool it. Most of us are pushing for the same things here. Most of us are really upset about what’s happening to RF, but that doesn’t mean we need to tear each other apart. I was thinking the same thing as David…RF’s railroading has as much to do with Anarchism as it has to do with Fundamentalism, Communism, Liberalism, etc. Sure it wouldn’t happen under your preferred system – but it wouldn’t happen under ours either.

    Beliefs change over time. Mine have gone closer and closer to your belief system, but I wouldn’t cuss at my past self for saying things then I disagree with now.

    This same thing happened with Warren (bless his dickhead heart) back before the election. Don’t be like him…he has no credit anymore around here.

  33. #33 |  claude | 

    Dont ever forget… the stuff youre reading in regard to this case happens everyday in this country.

    In Virginia, can they give the jury options for lesser charges or are they stuck with the initial charges?

  34. #34 |  Omar | 

    Interesting to note…

    The majority of the comments on the Virginia Pilot’s page have been very anti-RF…to the point of seething. These gems over the past few days weren’t the worst:

    “May he rot in prison…”

    “breaking in a door is NOT a design to do some serious bodily harm and is not imminent danger of carrying out the design.”

    “Bottom line is an officer lost his life doing his job leaving behind a wife and children as well as friends and co-workers. facts: marijuana is still illegal in all 50 states and I have to wonder if Ryan Frederick had nothing to hide- would he have shot through the door??”

    “Losers: … You know, some of you seem to have an abundance of law enforcement knowledge and seem to think that you would do a much better job. Why don’t you become cops and show us how it really should be done?” Really?”

    Go read the comments from the latest article…not one commenter on there is calling for blood today. This is a really good sign – once people (even the L&O type) see how things have gotten out of hand here, they are backing down and saying “this isn’t right.” I hope the jury sees it the same way.

  35. #35 |  Steve Verdon | 

    Seriously, this is just ridiculous. This Ebert chump needs to be disbared.

    And his name changed to Nifong. I think the prosecutions case just went down the crapper. This is yet another lie/inconsistency/deviation from the truth they’ve been caught in. I don’t know how a juror who isn’t hooked up to a ventilator could believe anything the prosecution says.

    David

    I’d like to note that I haven’t said or even implied (that I know of) that you’re wrong.

    Fail. Your post has, if anything, contributed to any threadjacking going on.

  36. #36 |  perlhaqr | 

    So… Other than the fact that it might be a cop out there and you’re going to get railroaded, what’s the problem with “shooting through the door” when there’s someone on the other side smashing it down? You know where the guy is.

  37. #37 |  Jerri Lynn Ward | 

    “breaking in a door is NOT a design to do some serious bodily harm and is not imminent danger of carrying out the design.”

    That’s completely asinine. When I was in law school, I clerked in the local D.A.’s office and worked on an appeal that completely changed my view of the world (the view of an overprotected female). The summer before I started law school, a man broke down a young woman’s door, grabbed her, took her out on a desolate West Texas road, raped her and then cut her throat. During the time she was breaking down the door, she was on the phone with a 911 dispatcher. That guy was across the room in a flash after he got through the door. She had no gun. I saw the photos of the aftermath laying on that West Texas road.

    After I read that transcript, I got a gun and I also resolved that anyone trying to get through my door would be dead before he got through it. It is absurd to expect someone to wait until the door is broken down and the guy is after you. You don’t know, at that point, if you can get a shot off–or get one off AND hit the raging maniac coming after you.

    I just bet that the commenter or a cop would wait until his home’s door is fully breached before shooting the intruder. Yeah, right.

  38. #38 |  T. Reed | 

    Jerri,
    You’re right, but the RF case is worse. RF testified that he thought he saw or heard more than one person breaking in. In such a case, the homeowner (ie the home invadee) cannot wait for the door to be breached. If the door is breached, what’s he to do? Kill three guys with a little handgun before one of the three gets off a shot of their own? That only happens in the movies.

    There is an additional video of RF on the stand: http://hamptonroads.com/pilotonline

    RF’s lawyer asked: “Did you know the police were coming that night?” RF answers “no.”

    When you think about it, this is, at once, both a silly and profound question. If you are not a cop killer, and you know the police are coming, YOU GET RID OF ALL YOUR BONGS, DOPE, ETC!!!! RF did not do that.

    If you are a cop killer, and you know the police are coming, YOU GET A SHOTGUN AND FILL IT WITH DOUBLE O Buckshot!!! Or you get an AR15 which shoots though police vests. You get ready for a gun fight against professionals with body armour. You don’t use RF’s silly little gun and, at minimum, you put your freakin’ shoes on. RF in no way acted as if he knew the police were coming.

  39. #39 |  Steve Verdon | 

    “breaking in a door is NOT a design to do some serious bodily harm and is not imminent danger of carrying out the design.”

    In Colorado Springs a man was not charged after shooting through a door at a man who was breaking through said door. The guy was drunk, thought his roommates were having fun with him by not opening the door. So he proceeded to break in the glass to the back door. The male resident finally shot and killed him as he was about to get the door open. The DA decided not to file charges and referenced Colorado’s “Make my day law” as the reason why.

    So the commenter is indeed, as Jerri, notes a complete buttwipe.

  40. #40 |  ktc2 | 

    Anybody remember the much missed Bill Hick’s view on marketing/advertising people?

    That’s exactly how I’m starting to feel about our LE/Prosecutor people.

    http://www.comedy.com/embed/bill-hicks-marketing

  41. #41 |  Marty | 

    #10 Nick T

    ‘As for Ebert, I don’t think he’s evil, bad or otherwise, he’s simply incompetent. ‘

    I disagree. I feel he has the evangelical focus of a true believer. Not to insult any religions, I’m just pointing out how sure terrorists are of themselves being right, how sure Bush was that he was right. The terrorists and Bush may have shown elements of incompetence, but their overall focus stayed consistent. Mistakes don’t matter- stay true to the vision.

    I don’t know where Ebert gets his inspiration, but the more I follow this the more convinced I am that he is completely vile. He’s using his position to DESTROY people, not to look for justice or protect the public he’s supposed to be serving.

  42. #42 |  supercat | 

    “breaking in a door is NOT a design to do some serious bodily harm and is not imminent danger of carrying out the design.”

    I’m curious what the writer of that opinion would expect the intruders to do once they’re inside. Share a nice cut of coffee with their victim?

    Burglars almost always seek to either (1) avoid detection, or (2) incapacitate their victims. If burglars are seeking to enter an obviously-occupied dwelling in such a way that they cannot expect to avoid detection, that’s a pretty clear sign that the victim will be in grave danger once they get in.

    Perhaps the writer of that original opinion thinks the crooks will merely tie up their victim and then go. And perhaps the crooks might do that. On the other hand, there is no legitimate reason to require anyone to put their lives in the hands of crooks who are known to have no respect for the law. An attempt to render a victim defenseless should be regarded no less severely than an attempt to kill the victim outright.

  43. #43 |  SusanK | 

    I sincerely believe the prosecutors KNEW well before trial about skeeter’s problems. It’s probably why they didn’t name him publicly – too many people would have came forward and either told the state or the defense about the issues and destroyed their theory of the case.
    But I don’t understand why skeeter’s offer to testify against Vick specifically would be a big deal. Can anyone clue me in?

  44. #44 |  supercat | 

    But I don’t understand why skeeter’s offer to testify against Vick specifically would be a big deal.

    Perhaps some members of the jury would realize that there was zero likelihood of Skeeter having any real information about Vick? Had the prosecution known that the Vick case would have anything whatsoever to do with this one, that would likely have been a legitimate basis for excluding any jurors who have an opinion about the former. As it is, jurors who have knowledge about that case which would imply that Skeeter is lying about it should probably refrain from using such knowledge in reaching their decision (a juror who argued such knowledge during deliberation would effectively be a super-witness who would be exempt from any sort of cross-examination), though use of a juror’s personal knowledge to favor a defendant may sometimes be appropriate.

  45. #45 |  Cynical In CA | 

    Thanks Omar. And for what it’s worth, I didn’t want to start a flame war. Sorry David, it’s been a long week. I take back the venom. But please be fair, it harms no one to promote one’s political philosophy.

  46. #46 |  parse | 

    According to the Pilot story, Frederick admitted he did have a “grow operation,” albeit it sounds like a small one. The biggest problem with this, it seems to me, is that it strengthens the credibility of Wright and the other informants who testified about the burglary.

    However, it’s curious that the Pilot story says:In court, as he had testified earlier, Frederick admitted that he lied to the detectives that night about his marijuana-growing operation and failed to tell them that some plants had been stolen days earlier. But it then quotes Frederick as saying “I didn’t lie” when asked about it.

    What I take from this is that Frederick did grow marijuana but did not lie about it–if I recall from the audio, the police asked him if there was any marijuana in the house, and he admitted smoking. They asked what was in the garage, and he said a banana tree. While he didn’t offer the admission that there had previously been marijuana in the garage, I don’t think he lied, either.

  47. #47 |  Boyd Durkin | 

    I don’t get it. David posts a glib, snide, snarky, petulent remark at Cynical about an esoteric, questionable interpretation of thread jacking and Cynical apologizes? Oof.

  48. #48 |  Cynical In CA | 

    Sometimes discretion is the better part of valor, Boyd.

    It does no good to be consumed by emotion. Therein lies my apology.

    Thanks for standing by me. I will be back in full regalia soon …

  49. #49 |  Steve Verdon | 

    But I don’t understand why skeeter’s offer to testify against Vick specifically would be a big deal.

    As has been already noted it would be highly unlikely that Skeeter had any knowledge of the dog fighting charges against Vick. This could be easily checked by bringing Skeeter back and showing him the letter then asking him questions about dog fights. Are the dogs vicious towards humans? (Answer: no) Are the dogs bathed before the fight? (Answer: yes) On what surface do dogs fight? (Answer: carpetting–its a traction thing). Are the dogs big or small (Answer: most fighting dogs are medium sized) How many people are in the pit with the dogs? (Answer: three–two handlers and a referee) Now unless you go to dog fights, read about dog fights (like me), or learn about dog fights chances are you’d be unaware of how to answer these questions. Then there are questions about where the fights took place, who was there, times, etc. Lots of this information is known to the prosecution in the Vick case. Way, way too much information that could trip up Skeeter.

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