Let's Talk About It
We’ve all heard the phrase, “garbage in, garbage out,” right? The gist is that if you use substandard ingredients in anything, you’ll probably get poor results. We don’t allow airplane mechanics, doctors, surgeons, engineers, or scientists to practice their professions without the proper training, experience and education. Their work is too important, so we hold them to higher standards. Aren’t the stakes just as high in the criminal justice system? Hang on, this is not about attorneys.
I have often had to overcome the suspicions and doubts of clients who mistrust the credibility of private investigators. That skepticism is even higher with law enforcement, many of whom see private investigators as bumbling amateurs, who must somehow be breaking the law. How ironic.
Even if they do receive good training, there is still the question of how much actual experience they have with a given offense. How long has the officer been an investigator? What resources did he/she have at the time? How many other cases was the officer working? Was the investigator solo, or did they have a senior/junior partner? There are too many questions to list.
Now, I know a lot of police officers, many of them are friends of mine, but if they’re being honest, they’ll admit that not all police investigators are created equal. Of course there are some very good criminal investigators out there, but if a sub-par investigator’s work has never been challenged, the defense will never know the difference.
The point is that when a case goes to trial, both the state and the defense end up relying on whatever information law enforcement has put in front of them. Given that training and experience is such a mixed bag, you never know what you’re going to get.
Now I’ll drop the other shoe. Defense attorneys owe it to their clients to hire a trained private investigator to challenge the state’s information. No, it’s not necessary in every case, but it should be done far more frequently than is the current practice. The value that independent investigation can make is hard to overstate.
In my own experience, I have discovered critical evidence in almost every case; police manipulation of witness statements, witnesses who committed perjury, relationships between actors that police failed to explore, close analysis of crime scenes to disprove the state’s theory of the crime, and many more. These are not things that most attorneys have the training, experience, or time to discover on their own.
The most common response from an attorney as to why they didn’t hire an investigator is cost. It’s true, good investigators aren’t cheap, but neither are good lawyers, and the reality is that defense attorneys can always request funds from the state, as long as they can articulate the need. A private investigator can help with that too.
The bottom line is, to ensure the best outcome for their clients, defense attorneys need to find a good private investigator they can count on.
Daryl Parker is a published author, investigator, inventor, criminal justice reform activist, retired U.S. Marine, and treasure hunter.