By Michael E. Miller
By Ryan Yousefi
By Kyle Munzenrieder
By Sabrina Rodriguez
By Michael E. Miller
By Carlos Suarez De Jesus
By Luther Campbell
By Kyle Munzenrieder
Then when the judge asked how Smart's story conflicted with the evidence, the cop distorted Smart's statement. "Smart claims the shooter shot through the window, killing both victims," Sanchez said, despite the fact Smart had repeatedly claimed he did not witness the murders. "There is no evidence the shooting occurred outside. It occurred inside."
Hearing this, Cueto nodded, the gavel struck, and the boy, now formally charged with two counts of murder, was led away.
At the time of Taiwan Smart's arrest, there were several people whom detectives might have wanted to interview. One witness, named only "Christine" in the investigation's internal logs, said the killer had sought vengeance for a past Little Haiti murder — a tale corroborated by Smart. Another witness, 40-year-old Wayne Mitchell, had heard that his friend's cousins were behind the killings.
Perhaps these tips seemed too tangential or the witnesses too unreliable, or maybe detectives felt the heat of The First 48's deadline, but cops didn't investigate the leads.
Though the consequences of this lapse would be severe, other mistakes filmed by The First 48 — which has shot in Miami, Detroit, Dallas, Memphis, and Houston — have been substantially more tragic.
In Detroit on May 16, 2010, after First 48 videographers expressed a desire to achieve a "good show" and capture "great video footage," police stormed a duplex in an impoverished neighborhood, according to a federal lawsuit. It was past midnight. All the streetlights had suddenly gone black. The cops were hunting for a murder suspect. As cameras rolled and dogs bayed madly, city police fired a flash-bang grenade through a front window.
"Police!" one officer cried. The grenade exploded next to a living-room couch where a 7-year-old girl, Aiyana Jones, slept. From the patio, a cop lowered a submachine gun and fired into the house, striking the girl in the head. Upon entry, however, the cops realized they'd raided the wrong house. Their suspect lived next door. The officer who fired the gun, Joseph Weekley, was indicted for manslaughter and awaits trial. First 48 producer Allison Howard pleaded guilty last year to obstruction of justice after she lied about "copying, showing, or giving video footage she shot of the raid to third parties," Detroit prosecutors said. The episode was never aired.
While the drama saturated the city, 1,300 miles south in Houston, an innocent man named Cameron Coker languished inside a Harris County jail awaiting trial. In mid-July 2009, 16-year-old Eric Elizarraraz had been shot at an apartment complex just off Highway 6. The boy had confronted a group of men who'd insulted his girlfriend. At least three witnesses offered county deputies a similar description of the killer — tall, light-skinned, skinny — and later picked 18-year-old Coker out of a lineup. As cameras rolled, Coker, who professed innocence, was arrested and charged with murder.
When the episode "Straight Menace" aired on March 11, 2010, viewers howled for Coker's execution. "Put him down," one commenter wrote in an online forum. "They got the death penalty in Houston?"
But the case was substantially more fraught with error than viewers realized. Though the show didn't broadcast it, none of the witnesses whom detectives used were positive Coker was the shooter.
In February 2012 — after Coker had spent nearly three years in jail — Steven M. Smith, a professor of psychology at Texas A&M and an expert in human memory, tracked down the witnesses as part of Coker's defense. The first, Andrew Nguyen, confessed he hadn't seen the shooting and had "taken a good guess," picking Coker out of the lineup "based on what my other friends had told me," according to court documents.
Another witness, Roberto Valdez, who confessed he'd been drunk and high on weed and Xanax the day of the murder, said he told detectives he wasn't sure who pulled the trigger and would "guess." At the bottom of the photo array, he wrote, "I'm p.," which he later told Smith had meant, "I'm probably wrong." A third witness also admitted he hadn't been sure.
In mid-2012, after spending 1,095 days in prison, Coker was released. Prosecutors' closeout memo had cited "witness identification problems."
"I couldn't believe they did that to me," Coker now tells New Times. "It was like a torture that no one should have to go through in this life." Coker's attorney, Vivian King, says she's repeatedly asked The First 48's producers to stop rebroadcasting the episode now that Coker has been exonerated, but they've declined. First 48 producers refused to comment for this article.
"Just imagine the image they made out of me," Coker says, adding he fears retribution for a crime he didn't do. "Even when I walk places I've never been, people know me from The First 48 without really knowing what happened."
Each of the 113 cases filmed in Miami also still air periodically — even those featuring men who later walked free of murder charges: Donta Boyd, Malcolm Williams, Kevin Goode, DeMarcus Alexander, Cory Harris, Vladimir Hernandez, Frank Sands, Quintin Barnett, Tyree Kemp, John Molina, Neville Moore, Myron Morales, Rene de la Paz, Antwan Kennedy, and Smart.
"I talked to a lawyer about suing, but there wasn't nothing we could do," says Frank Sands, who spent three years in prison on murder charges and hasn't found steady work since. "Because [The First 48] shows 'All suspects are presumed innocent until proven guilty' at the beginning of the program, they're covered."
Really... says the lady from CT... where the law is more biased and corrupt than FL.. Oh wait you guys have the biggest economic gaps in households in America, so I'm sure there a bit of that happening in CT.. So people don't get taken in and held for a statement? And if they're a person of interest they don't get detained longer or charged on the spot for their crime (if the evidence is right)? Then at an initial hearing they don't get an opportunity by the judge at bail dependent on their charge? Then they either bail or sit in jail until their case goes through the ringer for an end product of either guilty or not guilty?
What an ignorant statement! You know nothing about the Justice system! This is not how the system works! Please educate yourself about American juris prudence!
doesn't matter.. that ends up working in the favor of the criminals anyways.. A lot of them get charged are held in jail until they're either bailed or their hearings then found guilty or innocent. Happens. That's how the system works.. The reason for the 48 is the statistic that when a crime is not solved within the first 48 they rarely if ever are and their chances and odds diminish greatly.
It will be interesting to see how the court system handles this whole situation. I hate to see innocent people get tied up with these types of things. I really feel for that girl who now has to find a lawyer to help her understand the legal system just because she found the bodies. http://armstrongbarrington.com/criminal.htm
There are many people that are in prison that are innocent. You're stupid to blame a TV show for putting innocent people in prison. If "The First 48" did not exist, there would still be people in prison wrongly convicted. This is a stupid article. Reality TV is not actual reality.
Excellent read. This is such a travesty of justice. I hope you win your case against the PD Mr. Smart.
And I hope you get your life back.
Terrence Mccoy (author) you are a lousy journalist. Next time be less sensational and more factual. I don't love or hate the First 48 show for documenting what's happening. Whether it's filmed or not, black men are still falsely imprisoned every hour, I'd argue. I understand the prison industrial complex and it's disastrous effects. It's modern slavery for African Americans (and sometimes anyone without a good lawyer). However, you're making your disdain for First 48 laughable because you're sensationalizing the story. You're overly descriptive... "a curvacious 18 year old woman named ciara"... "teenager she recently started sleeping with". Whoa! Is this a soap opera or valuable information. Your writing is lousy.
Great article. The fact is that this show negatively impacts homicide investigations and prosecutions. If only one homicide investigation were to be impacted by this show, just one - that should suffice as grave enough of an impact to take the show off the air. But many more than one have been impacted; that is not what A&E wants to believe making money off the show or even what those who are entertained by the show want to believe, yet it is true. However, being personally impacted by this show, perhaps, my view is skewed. What is needed is a independent, professional assessment and analysis of the impact of this show on homicide investigations across the country, since its inception. I am happy to lend a hand to anyone interested in advocating for such as assessment. I can be reached at Facebook: William Fenzau.
Ridiculous article. Very few of the crimes depicted are actually solved in 48 hours. Many shows depict investigations that go on for months.
It is a fascinating show, however, as it does show how police investigations work, with most crimes being solved due to either witness/informers are the fact that video cameras are so pervasive that many crimes are caught on tape.
And the real cherry on top is that most of the ignorant, stupid criminals actually confess on tape in the interview room with the most obvious ploys by the cops like, "Well, we heard from so-and-so you shot Skeeter 12 times, but we'd like to hear your version of how many times you shot him." And the shooter says, "Oh, no way. I only shot Skeeter twice. Can I go home now?"
.........................funny but isn't it the ADVERTISERS that actually contribute the money funding the profit of the show ?
so if the GOP national committee wanted to pay millions to air this show - they could - right ?
okay so what about the billions of dollars in food stamps and section 8 housing assistance and school and municipal services including water sewer and electric that is spent of public taxpayer money in aid and assistance and support in these communites under NIMBY (white people pay so these people don't live near them (N)ot (I)n (M)y (B)ack(Y)ard
...................blaming a reality based TV show for airing peoples' general stupidity is the real story here.................IF tywana and treyvon and now taiwan had been in the LIBRARY there is NO SHOW - right ? say amen !
brawley , martin and now smart (who apparently isn't) are ALL throw-away kids who's parents only had them to quilify for FREE government cheeze and section 8 housing and oBaMaphones and these kids get "thrown away" once they no longer qualify their parent for financial hand-outs and public support - so they are basically on their own UNeducated UNemployable and desperate leading to drug use and eventual abuse making them prone to do stupid things like crimes which escalate in severity until BANG its over for them
it doesn't look like the world is losing a rocket scientist here and what was spent on him from public taxpayers pockets life-to-date probably exceeds hundreds of thousands of dollars total in food stamps and assisted housing and support from social services and free programs which he has no chance to ever pay back = period
blame the parents
oh boo hoo...like this is the first case of injustice in your great US of A....look at your track record and now u wanna blame a TV show...love the first 48 and have every episode recorded....to all you haters Kiss my ass....'they make the black neighborhoods look bad'....duh...wonder why...cause that's where all the shit happens...plundering, murdering and raping anything they can get their hands on....even if they were offered a way out they wouldn't take it cause they prefer their 'thug' life....killing a man just because he looked at you or 'mad dogged' you as the knuckle dragging thugs like to call it.....Det. Dwayne Thompson is a legend..can't wait to see any episode with him in....
@darrin.weis1 I see you have ZERO followers on your profile....wonder why?
@darrin.weis1 I see you have ZERO followers on your profile. I wonder why. LOL!!!!!
@Killjudas so no white people convicted are innocent? It's just black men? Gimme a break & stop making everything about race. There are crooks, murderers, sex offenders etc in every race, country, religion & economic status. Goes the same with the wrongfully accused. Treat & judge everyone the same, don't be part of the problem.
@AsokAsus The producers know that the whole 48 hours thing is just a device. Besides, they even say that it's about finding a lead within 48 hours, not solving the case. That pretty much covers them. It's not worth getting distracted from the merits or criticisms of the show itself over the title of the show.
Yes blame the parents for railroading and the mistreatment of people who don't have the understanding of laws or the means to get suitable legal counsel to fight said charges....Frank let me ask you a question if your brother was stalked and cornered by person then shot after defending them selves you would be up in arms about the rights of people being trampled on correct? If you were in your home the pace you are supposed to feel the ultimate safety with your family and someone tries to kill you and kills your family you get away but get charged for the murder would you say," well I guess I'm guilty cause I wasn't reading a book"?!? No you wouldn't because no one deserves to be put in lockup for a second if they don't deserve it period sir. You sound idiotic with your backwards logic the end all be all isn't education and the library won't keep innocent people out of jail boy stop.
Confessions can be faked. Police can use duress, and there have been cases where people were forced to confess to things they didn't do
@mwillemstein DT is the real deal fosho...but there's a few clowns as well - Interview skills suck...Peep ready to confess but det shuts it down. (Cleveland)
i guess rev sharpton and his ilk really do get to shape the BLACK people narrative because you miss the point
okay by me but another fifty (50) years will go by and BLACK people may be obsolete and more irrelevant than they are today, especially when the BLACK family disintegrates entirely
jews made it, italians made it, germans made it, asians made it and now hispanics are making it - WHY ?
GO ASK THEM HOW, like i did and do, and they ALL say the same thing - their parents and a supportive family !
you won't see any jews or italians or germans or asians or hispanics going around with their pants pulled down to their knees and their caps on backwards - WHY ? - they ALL say because they do NOT wish to disrespect their parents and bring SHAME to their supportive family
@joshlicon nobody commends the detectives for all the times that they got it right...so typical...seek the bad and ignore the good...
@joshlicon My favorite detective in the show is Dwayne Thompson and he happens to be black and i'm a racist...wtf
@joshlicon You are a knob-jockey. That is all.
@nuther_88 Ye i hear you...
good luck with all that
when you want to join civilized society, pull your pants UP put you cap on straight get a book and READ it (and thank a teacher) and we will be here waiting for you
Yes your right there isn't a mafia or murder Inc wasn't Jewish gangsters the Azn the neo Nazis I could go all night your missing the point sir just because the minority is bad doesn't mean the majority should be punished I don't divide things by race or social economic standing things of this nature is right or wrong and if your racist behind was being falsely accused I would feel the same way period END OF DISCUSSION
@nuther_88 Cleveland one of my least favourite PD's...