City of Mobile fails to produce body cam video in DUI case, judg - FOX10 News | WALA

City of Mobile fails to produce body cam video in DUI case, judge's ruling could set precedent for cases to come

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An example of a body camera worn by an officer. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice/MGN An example of a body camera worn by an officer. Photo: U.S. Department of Justice/MGN
MOBILE, AL (WALA) -

The city is challenging its own judge's ruling about the use of body camera video in court cases. 

It all stems from a DUI case in Mobile Municipal Court. 

A man was arrested for a DUI last year. The Mobile Police officer handling the arrest supposedly recorded that incident, but when it came time for court proceedings, the body camera video no longer existed. 

The municipal court judge ruled whether police intended to delete the video or not, that was destruction of evidence, meaning anything that happened in that video is no longer admissible in court.

It's a decision that could set a precedent for countless cases to come, Municipal Court Judge Shelbonnie Hall ordered to prohibit city officials from "mentioning anything (in court) captured on video by the body camera they failed to produce."

It all started when attorney Daniel Mims asked to see the body camera video showing the DUI arrest of his client, Terry Druckenmiller. 

"When a video camera is being used, it can't just be used for the benefit of the city. If you're going to use it, then it's evidence. I agree with (Mobile County District Attorney) Ashley Rich, who has been quoted as saying that it is evidence just like any other evidence, regardless of what your record retention policy is, it seems to me that that is evidence, and that evidence should be preserved for use in trial," said Mims. 

But, Mobile Police couldn't provide it, saying "new video feed recorded over old data," according to court documents. 

Mims believes that shouldn't be acceptable. 

"If there's an arrest, then the footage needs to be turned over... I think the defendant's entitled to see it," said Mims. 

Since there's no video, Judge Hall considers that destruction of evidence.

In response, the city is trying to appeal their own judge's decision to the Circuit Court. Court documents show a city prosecutor says, "barring the city's officer from testifying at the trial of this matter is tantamount to dismissal of the city's case.... (it) is a gross disruption in the administration of justice."

However, Mims said it's a disruption of justice for his client to be denied the opportunity to see what was on that body cam video.

"That's not fair, plain and simple not right," he said. 

FOX10 News requested an interview with city officials about this issue, but was told they do not comment about ongoing litigation. 

Arguments were heard on the appeal a couple weeks ago, and we're told a Circuit Court judge should issue a decision any day now. 

That decision could end up forcing Mobile Police to use body camera video for what it was intended to do in the first place, end the "he said, she said" in court, and give a jury an exact look at what happened... for all cases big and small. 

At the end of the day, Mobile Police spends $400,000 a year on storage space for body camera video. 

The question remains: if all that taxpayer money is being spent to store this video, then why can't the city of mobile produce the video when a taxpayer sees his day in court?

We'll stay on top of this story, and keep you posted as we learn more. 

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