Woman Spends 3 Months in Jail Despite Police Video Proving her Innocence
"You are innocent until proven guilty" they tell us.
The burden of proof is on the state. It is up to police to do their due diligence to prove "beyond a shadow of a doubt" our guilt.
One would assume these "rules of engagement" would protect the innocent from illegal search, seizure, and arrest.
But that is not how Norfolk police operates. Evidence of guilt or not, the Virginia police agency is apparently holding citizens hostage for indefinite periods of time, impacting their day-to-day lives.
Or maybe they just believe all black people look the same.
According to The Virginian-Pilot, Donna M. Small, 49, was arrested last year on cocaine distribution charges. It is alleged that she dealt cocaine to a police informant.
In the video recorded by the informant, Small wasn’t the seller of the drugs.
In fact, she wasn’t even there.
Nonetheless, police moved forward in their persecution of this innocent woman. It took authorities 114 days before “realizing the error” and dropping all charges against her.
Now that she is free, she is suing police and the city for false arrest.
Small's attorney had this to say:
“The law doesn’t specify a certain number of days constitutes a constitutional violation,” said Kevin Martingayle. “But being locked up for more than three months in a case of mistaken identity is clearly too long.”
Norfolk is claiming immunity in response to the lawsuit. The city argues police did not violate “any clearly established law.”
The Deputy City Attorney Michael Beverly said that Small was arrested subject to a “lawful indictment” handed down by a Norfolk grand jury.
In layman's terms, they were just following orders. The same way the SS and the Gestapo were just following orders.
The Norfolk Police Department declined to make any comment in response to the lawsuit and the allegations mentioned.
If everybody is just a foot soldier, then who's the boss pulling the strings?
Small's lawsuit names the city of Norfolk and three of its cops as defendants. It is seeking $500,000 in damages plus interest and legal fees.
The Pilot reports that Small was in jail until June 22, shortly after the state provided her defense team with a still image from the video for the discovery phase. That still image set off an alarm in the defense attorney’s head
“It was obvious,” attorney Asha Pandya said in an interview, adding that her client appears about 50 pounds heavier than the woman in the footage. Pandya didn't catch the error sooner because the prosecution provided a blurry black-and-white photo of the alleged dealer initially.
Note the lack of due diligence on the part of the state.
At first, Pandya did not believe it was her client but could not press the issue because the material evidence was not enough to prove her client's innocence. At most, it only created a shadow of doubt. She brought up those concerns to the judge at a bond hearing April 10th and the judge gave Small a $5,000 secured bond that day. Small remained in jail because she was unable to pay $500 to get out for something she had no part in.
According to Martingayle, another defense attorney, Small denied being the person in the photo after being shown the picture shortly after her arrest. Police did not listen. Her objections were not forwarded to the prosecution. No one took the time to confirm that it was indeed her in the video. The state assumed her guilt, not innocence.
“I’ve never gotten an answer to this day how they got the name Donna Small,” Pandya said, adding she didn’t get a chance to pursue the answer because prosecutors dropped all charges June 28. “It never got that far.”
“All they had to do was literally look in their own file,” Martingayle said. “Is that too much to ask?”
This wasn’t a case where new evidence came forward at the last minute that set Small free. This was a case where police intentionally ignored all claims of innocence. There was a dereliction of duty by the part of the state. Small was left in the cross hairs.
Are you really innocent until proven guilty?