Reality TV, of course, is anything but. Most shows are heavily edited, badly acted melodramas with as much relationship to the truth as Jerry Springer. Problem is, a few local police departments have allowed one reality show -- the wildly popular The First 48 -- to tag along with cops trying to solve real-life murders with real-life consequences. And now that bogus reality TV show could have doomed a real-life murder case.
A Miami man named Andrew Cummings was caught on an episode in 2006 confessing to killing his roommate. But a judge has now ruled that the footage proves he was illegally detained, and what's more, the rest of the show's tape was so heavily manipulated by editors that it's inadmissible in court.
New Times investigated The First 48's problems in the Magic City last year and found that the show prompted police to routinely charge innocent men based on wispy circumstantial evidence for the sake of drama. In fact, staff writer Terrence McCoy found at least 15 men charged with murder in cases featured on the show who later walked free of all charges.
Andrew Cummings could be the latest. In January 2006, as The First 48 crews tagged along, police investigated the death of Arsenio Lopez at a Palm Bay condo. Lopez was Cummings' lover, and, as cameras rolled, he denied any involvement before eventually admitting he'd hit Lopez with a towel rod during a fight.
Cummings' attorney, though, claimed that his client was confused after being injured in the fight and that police illegally detained him to get the confession. That assertion isn't so tough to believe based on Cummings' mug shot:
After reviewing the show's footage, Miami Judge Yvonne Colodny agreed. She's now tossed the confession and -- to make things worse for prosecutors -- said the rest of the footage was so heavily edited that it's inadmissible.
Colodny also cited testimony from Miami Det. Fernando Bosch, who admitted in a 2011 deposition that he had "play-acted" on camera for the show while investigating cases. "Most of [the detectives] do things like that," he said.
Miami PD stopped allowing the show access to its officers in 2013 amid political controversy that it painted a bad picture of black Miami. But the Cummings case isn't the only blowback still haunting the city.
Taiwan Smart, a 21-year-old detained for 20 months on flimsy evidence featured on one episode before finally seeing all charges dropped, has an ongoing federal civil case against the city.
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