Rare ‘Perry Mason’ moment in court wins dismissal for defendant, desk duty for 5 police officers
Updated: A seemingly routine suppression hearing in a suburban
Chicago courthouse last month took an unexpected dramatic turn when
video from a police car was introduced that disproved the testimony of
five police officers.
They had said Joseph Sperling was arrested after officers who pulled
him over in a traffic stop smelled marijuana, searched the vehicle and
found nearly a pound in a backpack lying on the back seat of his car.
But the Glenview police video showed the search occurred only after
Sperling was taken from his car, frisked and handcuffed, reports the Chicago Tribune (sub. req.). The newspaper dubbed it "a 'Perry Mason' moment rarely seen inside an actual courtroom."
Castigating the officers for their "outrageous conduct," Cook County
Circuit Judge Catherine Haberkorn granted a defense motion to suppress
the search, which eliminated a basis for his arrest and resulted in a
swift dismissal by prosecutors of the felony drug case against the
"All the officers lied on the stand today," said Haberkorn, who
herself is a former prosecutor, at the March 31 hearing. "So there is
strong evidence it was conspiracy to lie in this case, for everyone to
come up with the same lie."
The officers were later put on desk duty as investigations of their conduct proceed.
The Tribune says the Glenview arrest of Sperling last June came at
the request of Chicago narcotics officers who had Sperling under
surveillance. They asked local police to pull him over in a marked car,
which occurred when Sperling allegedly failed to use his turn signal (he
says he did). Then, one of the Chicago officers testified, he smelled
marijuana as he waited for Sperling to produce his license and
registration. Sperling testified he was never asked to do so.
The officer, supported by testimony from four other Chicago and
Glenview officers, said he ordered Sperling to exit the vehicle and
stand by the trunk as he searched it. However, the video shows the
search didn't occur until after Sperling was sitting, handcuffed, in a
Another discrepancy in testimony concerned the location of the
backpack in which the marijuana was located: Police said it was in plain
view on the back seat of the car. Sperling said it was under the seat.
If not for the video, which Sperling's lawyer Steven Goldman got by
issuing a subpoena to the Glenview police department, and produced in
rebuttal at the suppression hearing, Sperling likely would have been
convicted and jailed, the attorney told the newspaper.
Now Sperling has filed a federal civil rights suit over his arrest.
Edited by tatee - Apr 18 2014 at 1:25pm