Video evidence has allowed prosecutors to bring criminal charges against officers involved in controversial shootings, but a recent series of acquittals demonstrates its limitations. “It’s not the end-all, be-all,” says the Milwaukee district attorney.
The recent series of failed prosecutions of officers involved in controversial shootings demonstrates the limitations of video recordings as evidence, reports the New York Times. Since the 2014 shooting death of Michael Brown by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo. — a shooting that was not captured on video — there has been a nationwide push for more video recording of the police. But as three cases this month show, videos do not ensure convictions.“It’s not the end-all, be-all,” said John T. Chisholm, the district attorney for Milwaukee County, who presented video from two officers’ body cameras in the case against Dominique Heaggan-Brown, a police officer who fatally shot Sylville K. Smith in August. The officer was acquitted last week.
Without body-cam video, Chisholm said, he would not have brought criminal charges against the officer who fired the fatal shot. “It was absolutely central to this case,” he said. But jurors, watching these images playing on projection screens in courtrooms, have not come away with simple answers. And some jurors have said that, videos aside, they had been swayed most of all by officers’ assertions that they feared for their lives.