Defense Attorney Hammers Officer on Stand to Discredit Police Report in Court Trial
By Alexa Kendell RIVERSIDE, CA – After Mikhiel Whitlock was arrested for assault with a deadly weapon–not a firearm, her trial by judge began here in Riverside County Superior Court Thursday. Her defense attorney relied on many perceived holes in the police report to provide Whitlock with a defense, insisting the police officer had recorded incidents in his notes that he had not been directly told about or experienced, and omitted other information, including where the source of the information.
And, during cross-examination, the defense attorney harshly interrogated a police officer about the report he made of Whitlock committing the crime. The defense questioned the police officer as to where exactly the information in the police report had come from. “Your report was written by you exclusively, correct?” asked the defense, to which the officer said it was not a group effort, and, “My report is my report, sir.”
The defense then asked why the officer would write that “John Doe followed [Whitlock] to the listed address in his vehicle and try to force [Whitlock] into his vehicle” if he did not have any first-hand knowledge of this occurrence. “Why did you write those words in your report,” the defense asked. Immediately contradicting his previous statement of his report belonging only to him, the officer said that “the summary was written in a collection of the other officers’ reports,” and admitted he had received information from another officer.
This brought the entire report’s reliability into question, and certainly made the origins of the report confusing for Judge Charles Koosed. “I’m still not clear. Did the other officers tell you that that’s what happened?
I’m still confused,” said the judge. The officer tried to explain to Judge Koosed that he had written down what had been told to him by the other officer that had spoken to the accused, Whitlock. Judge Koosed then noted “if he just said that he got that information from the other officer who got that information from [Whitlock], that’s double hearsay.”
Double hearsay is defined as a hearsay statement that includes another form of hearsay within that statement. The information provided by the double hearsay statement is only admissible if the other statements can be proven to be true separately. To add to Judge Koosed’s confusion, the police officer stated who had been feeding him the information written in the report–an officer referred to as Officer Cisco.
The defense then asked the police officer if Officer Cisco had informed him of the history of the couple, such as that he “was considering arresting John Doe for attempted kidnapping.” The prosecution quickly objected to the question on the basis of relevance. The defense carried on and rephrased slightly by asking if Officer Cisco “indicated to [him] that [Officer Cisco] was investigating John Doe for another offense.”
Yet again, the prosecution immediately objected to the question on the grounds of relevance, and vagueness. The lack of information, specifically intent and the history between John Doe and Whitlock, furthered the defense’s claim the report was untrustworthy. The police officer previously admitted to not having first-hand knowledge of John Doe trying to force Whitlock into his car, even though he had written it in his police report.
The defense attorney then noted another story that the officer had written down, but had no personal knowledge of. “Do you have any personal knowledge about a phone call … put in your report that my client allegedly made to a man that she had allegedly cheated with? Do you have any personal knowledge of that?”
“That is what John Doe told me,” said the officer, but was challenged again by the defense with the questions: “Do you have any personal knowledge of that? Do you understand what personal knowledge is?” The defense then explained that personal knowledge is “something that you experience, something you’ve seen, something you’ve heard, something you’ve said, something you’ve tasted, personal experience…”
The officer responded with “the only knowledge I had, sir, was from what John Doe told me.” “Okay, so you didn’t observe that [phone call]? Hear that?
Smell that? Taste that? Personally, did you?”
The officer responded that was correct. “But that didn’t keep you from putting something in your report. You can’t put things in your report that are not based on personal knowledge,” repeated the defense.
The rest of the cross-examination continued, with the defense attorney asking why the officer had chosen to include some details in his report he had not witnessed, as well as why he chose not to include other important details.
The trial reconvenes Monday.