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."
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....
Take a hard look at ALL reality TV
1. Gold Rush - a complete farce with big commercial placements in the show - Caterpillar, Volvo donate the heavy equipment just so these clowns can dig holes and create environmental havoc. The costs of operation versus the gold recovered at today's price - If the people where not getting paid from the production, they would be broke.
2. Dog Bounty - again, all the product placement - GM donates new SUVs and there are other stuff plugged into the show. Is it real? yes...but as Dog gets richer it becomes more scripted. Put a fish on the hook and pretend you caught it.
3. Flipping Vegas - complete farce with the "theme" of every show...The production team actually stages the house before the remodel.
4. 48 well...it's real enough but I have to wonder if any witness has ever been killed? Or will be killed when they are ID'd as the person who gave info to the cops...
Too many police detectives care more about 'closing' a case instead of 'solving' a case. Prosecutors care more about a conviction instead of justice. Any city that allows their police department to showboat for the few minutes of air time deserves to be named and shamed publicly in re: how many innocent lives they are helping to ruin.
Glad the show has moved on, puts Miami in a negative light and lumps the city in with other crime infested cities, Detroit, Cincinnati, Memphis, etc.
What you should have looked into is who benefits from the charity that the City of Miami demanded the first 48 donate money to. There's a reason why they demanded money for that specific charity. It was an attempt to extort the show for money. This isn't meant to defend the First 48, but there's a bigger story here if the New Times had the balls to look into real corruption in the City.
How much do the producers of 48 Hours generate from this show???? And they declined to pay or rather - Donate $10,000 for the benefits of children in these neighbourhoods. So they dropped them. I am never watching this unethical show. How is it that they can take pictures and invade the privacy of these people? They should be responsible to the wrongly accused and not air shows that they know have been innocent. There should be some loop holes to shut these vultures down. We need to pass this on. Set up a petition to turn them off. And as for the detectives who want their 5 minutes of fame. Shame on those who twist the truth to their advantage. It is frightening how vulnerable all of us are. Anyone of us can be accused of a crime from lies from immoral policing. If they do not have to pay the consequences for the lives that they have destroyed the KARMA is a B....h.
....................................the "judicial system" is the BIG taxpayer MONEY feeder source not only for TV, but the funding for judges pensions, police overtime, building construction and maintenance, and on and on = cha -ching
here in FT LIQUORDALE we are building a new courthouse complex that must be tens of millions of dollars in under the table costs alone
we will need ALL THE ignorant and poor and disenfranchised people living in heavily populated and unsecure drug-infested heavily populated neighborhoods to PAY FOR ALL THAT
we will need ALL THE shoot-outs and armed robberies and drug-deals gone bad in those neighborhoods to provide steady J O B S for judges and lawyers and cops (especailly now that scott rothstein no longer funds BSO employees) and bloated and corrupt administrative staffs and ALSO maintain correctional facilities and property including computer systems and paper-shredders
withOUT the ignorant and destitude committing crimes against themselves WE THE (mostly white) PEOPLE couldn't suck out taxpayer money for salaries and commissions and bonuses and pension contributions and fraud and under the table hand outs = period
it's a BEAUTIFUL THING
A&E probably figures this show is equal in popularity to E!'s "Keeping Up With The Kardashians" and encourages detectives to ham it up for the cameras. I watched it a couple times, but never again...now that I know...
The prison-industrial complex is a system situated at the intersection of government and private interests. It uses prisons as a solution to social, political, and economic problems. It includes human rights violations, the death penalty, slave labor, policing, courts, the media, political prisoners, and the elimination of dissent.Some men kill and go to prison-- sentenced to life or death. Some men go to prison even if they haven't killed-- for life and sometimes for death.
Thank you, New Times. Thank you, Terrance McCoy. As my heart cringed reading your article, I tried not to think of the lifetime consequences of the botched police actions.
I hope that Taiwan gets his life back, goes to college, and buys a house. I pray for Raynathan Ray and Jonathan Volcy, asking their relatives and friends find peace and some closure, when the real killer is brought to justice.
I trust that our justice system, the best in the world, becomes flawless and infallible. And I look forward to looking up, one day not to distant, at our police force with respect and admiration, instead of with disdain and terror.
@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!!!!!
@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)
@uibhui Please e-mail me and let's talk about that. You can reach me at email@example.com.
Thanks very much,
.............."The prison-industrial complex is ....,"
YES indeed that's a BINGO !
as long as poor uneducated destitute BLACK kids go on drug-induced binges then shoot at themselves and continue to commit crimes THE GREASE is on that WHEEL = period
feeder breeders are young BLACK women who continue to have kids they cannot afford (and who ultimately will "enter the system" and perpetuate the poverty and crime and keep the taxpayer money flowing to the judiciary and law enforcement operations and jails)
like richard pryor said JUSTICE for BLACK people means " JUST US " !
.....................sadly the truth is no one really cares about any of them = period
it's the "profit motive" that anyone is only interested in as the deck is stacked against any of those unfortunate disenfranchised neighborhoods from ever producing a positive result for those people
our justice system is very expensive to operate and rely on and only the rich can avail themselves of positive results since the taxpayer money that PAY JUDGEs SALARYs and PENSIONs comes from rich people = period
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...