Footage from popular police reality show The First 48 might have screwed the prosecution in a Miami murder case.
After watching a 2006 episode of the show, a Miami-Dade judge determined that Andrew Cummings, the suspect in the case, was unlawfully detained when he implicated himself in the beating death of his boyfriend. The decision was upheld in an appeals court this week.
Further, the appellate court ruled that none of the footage shot by The First 48, much of which depicted police's early interactions with the suspect, could be shown in court. The footage, the panel of judges found, was too heavily edited.
“The video tape was so heavily redacted that the available portions were deprived of relevance,” the judges wrote in Wednesday’s opinion.
The decision amounts to a major blow to the state’s second-degree murder case against Cummings.
Prosecutors have long complained privately that the popular show gave defense attorneys more avenues to attack a case. For nearly a decade, the show’s cameras had followed Miami homicide detectives as they tried to solve murders in the first few days after the killing.
Last year, an investigation from the Miami New Times revealed that at least 15 local suspects featured on the show later had their charges dropped. The investigation found that officers "grossly misrepresent witness statements and tell outright lies," on the show in an attempt to show off to cameras. Similar cases have surfaced in Houston.
One of these suspects, Taiwan Smart, has an ongoing federal civil-rights lawsuit against the city of Miami for false arrest and imprisonment. He was in jail for nearly 20 months before being released.
Miami ended its relationship with the show in 2013, after community leaders complained it portrayed the city's black community in a negative light.
In 2010, a 7-year old in Detroit was shot and killed in a police raid while filming an episode of the show. The officer who fired the shot was indicted on a charge of negligent discharge of weapon causing death, but he was cleared of all charges just last week.
A&E cameras tailed the officers as they entered the home:
Despite the controversies, the show goes on. The 14th season of the series started airing in late January, featuring the Atlanta Police Department for the first time ever.
Daniel Rivero is a producer/reporter for Fusion who focuses on police and justice issues. He also skateboards, does a bunch of arts related things on his off time, and likes Cuban coffee.