Knowing Your Rights: "Convicted" as a Case Study
In September of last year, WaterBrook published a book entitled Convicted: A Crooked Cop, an Innocent Man, and an Unlikely Journey of Forgiveness and Friendship by Jameel McGee and Andrew Collins. The book describes an eye-opening, real-life tale of how police in Benton Harbor, Michigan bent and broke the law to obtain drug arrests in their town.
The book leads to a happy ending of reconciliation between the crooked cop and the innocent man in the book’s title, but this post will focus on the disturbing ways that the cop, Andrew Collins, was able to obtain the arrests he sought. This in no way implies that these things are happening in Central Virginia; however, it is always good to know just how bad things can get if people do not pay attention to the actions of its officers.
The book’s plot takes off with the arrest of Jameel McGee by Officer Collins. Collins was working with an informant to take down a drug dealer named Ox. When he found a vehicle that met the informant’s description during the controlled drug buy, he assumed that McGee was Ox, but he was not. The vehicle was not McGee’s either. It was McGee friend’s, who was taking McGee to the store as a favor.
Officer Collins, however, searched the vehicle anyway and found crack cocaine. Because of all of Collins’ assumptions, McGee was arrested – as Ox, it must be noted – and taken to jail.
In order to make sure the charge held up, Collins altered the police report in several small ways. First, when he found out it was McGee who was arrested and not Ox, he amended the report to change the name. Collins also said McGee was in the vehicle when he approached, even though McGee was actually in the store and came out later. He even said that McGee leaned toward the center console (where the drugs were found) so that he could demonstrate McGee’s concern for them before stepping outside of the vehicle.
Since no one was else was around, Collins just had to make sure his testimony in court was consistent with the police report to make the jury believe it. McGee ended up in prison for three years for a crime that he did not commit.
According to the book, Collins was used to taking shortcuts in order to get arrests. For instance, he would say that he thought he smelled marijuana if he wanted to search a vehicle for drugs, even if he did not. He might see lint and say that it looked like marijuana flakes or seeds as another way to conduct searches. Sadly, it did not stop there.
In the winters, he would pull over a car that he suspected of containing drugs and pretend to brush off the license plate. He would then lie to the car’s driver and say that he could not see the license plate and use that to conduct a search of the vehicle, usually finding the drugs he suspected were inside.
The most egregious thing he did, according to the book, was keep some of the drugs from various searches he conducted and plant them in a person’s car when he knew he needed more evidence to get a conviction.
That was the thing about Officer Collins’ actions. Usually, he used these shortcuts to conduct real searches that would lead to actual evidence. In his mind, the ends justified the means. Except in McGee’s case, when his actions resulted in a conviction of someone who was actually innocent.
What This Means for Us:
This blog has featured posts in the past about knowing and exercising your rights. That information gives you power. If you do not know your rights, then you might give the police more access and authority than you are required to give.
Furthermore, you might have to make plans for what to do in certain situations. McGee, for instance, never got into a car when he did not know the owner and the driver (if that was a different person) of the vehicle. He also noticed, upon his release and subsequent financial settlement with the city, that he was getting pulled over by police every day so that they could conduct searches of his vehicle. He had to account for that.
If this is something that has already happened to you and now you need legal representation, this post seeks to show you that there is a lawyer who can help you. If this is you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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The blog posts contained on this website were written, in part, by a non-lawyer employee of Jordan B. Davies. However, each post has been carefully reviewed and edited by Jordan B. Davies to ensure legal accuracy and compliance with the Rules of Professional Conduct.