Howard will speak to police officers and insurance executives about wrongful convictions and methods to reduce police misconduct 

On April 4 Howard will be speaking to law enforcement officials and risk managers and other insurance executives at a conference on “Risk Management and Loss Control for Law Enforcement” in Cape Coral, Florida. Howard will discuss the causes of wrongful convictions and methods to reduce wrongful convictions and false arrests, as well as the plaintiff’s perspective on police misconduct litigation. More information about the program is here:

We appreciate the opportunity to speak to police professionals to work towards our mutual goal of reducing police misconduct.


We filed a civil lawsuit for our client who was falsely arrested by Lynn police officers

We recently filed a civil rights complaint against two Lynn police officers and the City of Lynn for falsely arresting our client, Mr. Randy Spearing, for a violent assault that occurred in May 2016. Mr. Spearing had no involvement in the crime. The Lynn police officers conducted an improper investigation. They ignored evidence that their investigation focused on the wrong gas station and that Mr. Spearing did not commit the crime. They fabricated police reports to conceal the absence of probable cause to arrest and charge Mr. Spearing.

We recommend this article about the case. In the article, the lawyer for the City of Lynn is quoted as saying that the police lineup was insufficient because it wasn’t positive identification. However, the victim did make a positive identification; he identified a different person, not Mr. Spearing. 


Dead, beaten and abused: Millions paid in secret settlements to keep bad cops on the street and the public in danger

We recommend this article about how municipalities have covered up police abuse by ensuring that settlements are not publicized. A review of police departments across the state of New Jersey reveals how when officers break the law or commit misconduct, the investigations of their wrongdoing are often kept secret. When civilians complain about police abuse or brutality, their settlements are not public. This secrecy permits police officers who abuse their position of power to remain on the force. Although this article focuses on New Jersey, the problem of police secrecy exists in Massachusetts as well. While settlements using public funds cannot by law be kept confidential, settlements by insurance companies can be subject to confidentiality clauses. Keeping information about civil rights violations by police officers protects police officers and their departments from being held accountable for their misconduct.


Baltimore Police officer who planted drugs thinking he turned off body camera charged with tampering with evidence; others cleared

This article describes how the Baltimore police officer whose body camera recorded him planting drugs is being charged with tampering with evidence. The body cam video, which was publicized last summer, shows the officer planting drugs before turning on his camera and finding the drugs he just planted. The officer may not have realized that the cameras are programmed to save the 30 seconds of footage immediately before the camera is activated.

A similar situation happened in LA, where officers planted drugs in a black suspect’s wallet, unaware that their body cameras were recording. Body camera videos are showing that police planting drugs is more common than many people believe. These videos show that body cameras can be a useful tool in exposing police misconduct. However, police officers should not decide when to turn the cameras on and off.


Chicago Police Win Big When Appealing Discipline

We recommend this article from Chicago Police Win Big When Appealing Discipline; Analysis shows hundreds of misconduct findings overturned. In the Chicago Police Department, 85% of officers who appeal a disciplinary decision get their punishment overturned or reduced. Officers have successfully appealed cases involving drunk driving, excessive force, domestic violence, and making false statements. The victims who originally filed the complaints are not informed about the appeal and are left with the impression that the officers’ discipline was upheld.

By allowing arbitrators to routinely overturn officers’ discipline, grievance systems like the one described in this article undermine police accountability and embolden police officers to commit misconduct without fear of punishment. This problem exists in police departments in Massachusetts and other states. 


We sent Essex County Sheriff's Department a notice of intent to sue for negligence causing a man’s death

Earlier this month, we sent a demand letter stating our intent to file a lawsuit on behalf of the family of Sam Dunn. In January of 2016, the Essex County Sheriff’s Department took Mr. Dunn into custody, placed him in the back of a sheriff’s van for hours, and ignored him as he died from a drug overdose.  We recommend watching this report by 5 Investigates, which includes video and photos of Mr. Dunn’s final hours.


911 call: IRS agent put a gun in her mouth and sexually assaulted her

Howard is quoted in this story in the Boston Globe: 911 call: IRS agent put a gun in her mouth and sexually assaulted her. Back in July, a college student intern alleged that her coworker, a special agent for the IRS, sexually assaulted her while holding a gun in her mouth. The special agent has not yet been charged with any crimes. He is still working as a law enforcement agent for the IRS.


BUSTED: Watch LA cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware their body cams were on

We recommend this article: BUSTED: Watch LA cops plant drugs in black suspect’s wallet – unaware their body cams were on. Once again, police officers’ body cameras recorded officers planting drugs during an arrest. The police officers may not have realized that their cameras are programmed to save the 30 seconds of footage immediately before the officer activates the camera. Earlier this year, this 30-second feature revealed Baltimore police officers planting drugs. Although juries are reluctant to believe that police officers would plant drugs, perhaps videos from body cameras will show that this practice is more common than many people believe. 


First Circuit Judge Kermit Lipez reflects on the decision he wrote in Glik v. Cunniffe finding that people have the right to record the police performing their duties in public

Judge Kermit Lipez, Senior Judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, recently published an essay in the Maine Law Review reflecting on the case our firm handled with the ACLU on behalf of Simon Glik, who was unlawfully arrested on the Boston Common for filming the police with his cell phone. In 2011, Judge Lipez wrote the landmark Glik opinion confirming civilians’ First Amendment right to record the police performing their duties in public.

Judge Lipez’s essay provides a rare opportunity to understand the judge’s view of the opinion. It gives insight into the Glik decision as well as the judge’s reflections on how smartphones, body-worn cameras and other technologies are revolutionizing both policing methods and communities’ responses to policing. Judge Lipez calls the act of filming the police a “potent tool of accountability” and discusses how videos of police have forced the recognition that “black Americans experience the criminal justice system, including police interactions, differently from their white neighbors.” Judge Lipez accepts the legitimacy of the black community’s grievances about police misconduct while honoring the work of the police as a whole. He believes that the power of video will help bridge the divide between communities and their police officers.

Our firm agrees with Judge Lipez that videos of police misconduct have become a powerful tool to validate black communities’ grievances about deep-seated racism in our police departments. As for the notion that video can help bridge the divide? Only time will tell. But in the meantime, more and more police officers will be held accountable for their actions as more and more courts agree with Judge Lipez’s statement in Glik that filming the police is “a basic, vital, and well-established liberty safeguarded by the First Amendment.”


City of Lowell Pays $750,000 to Settle Our Cases Alleging Confidential Informants Planted Cocaine

The City of Lowell agreed to pay $750,000 to settle our three cases alleging that the City used unreliable confidential informants due to its long standing practice of ignoring the need to properly investigate informants and to document their work. This resulted in officer Thomas Lafferty using informants who planted cocaine in the motor vehicles of our three clients. The Lowell police falsely arrested and charged each of our three clients with trafficking in cocaine. They faced mandatory minimum prison sentences for crimes they did not commit.

We recommend this article about the cases: Lowell officer's mishandling of confidential informants proves costly.


Massachusetts Super Lawyers recognizes Howard and David

Super Lawyers, an attorney rating service, has announced that Howard Friedman and David Milton are 2017 Massachusetts Super Lawyers. Howard Friedman has received this recognition for over a decade; David Milton has since 2013. The rating system names no more than 5% of Massachusetts attorneys as Super Lawyers.


Our Client Fred Weichel, Now Free After 36 Years in Prison, Files Wrongful Conviction Lawsuit against the Commonwealth

Yesterday we filed a lawsuit against the Commonwealth of Massachusetts on behalf of our client Fred Weichel, who is seeking compensation for being convicted of a murder he did not commit. He spent over 36 years behind bars. Under Massachusetts General Law chapter 258D, compensation up to $500,000 is available to people who, like Mr. Weichel, were erroneously convicted of a felony and served time in prison.

Watch this story by 5 Investigates: South Boston man sues state for wrongful conviction.


Howard Friedman listed in The Best Lawyers in America© for Civil Rights Law

Howard was selected by his peers for inclusion in The Best Lawyers in America© 2017 in the field of Civil Rights Law. Howard and his team have successfully handled civil rights cases involving police misconduct, police brutality, false arrests, wrongful convictions, illegal strip searches, violations of prisoners’ rights, violations of the Massachusetts public records law, and more.


David Milton speaks to civil rights lawyers about the right to record the police

Last week, David spoke about recording the police to a group of over 100 civil rights lawyers at an all-day seminar in Washington, DC, put on by the National Police Accountability Project, “Police Misconduct in the Age of Trump.” David was on a panel about litigating First and Fourth Amendment cases in an era of increasing law enforcement repression of political protest. David gave an overview of the state of the law nationwide and predicted that eventually all courts would recognize the First Amendment right to record police officers performing their duties, as the federal appeals court in Boston did in the landmark 2011 case Glik v. Cunniffe, handled by our firm.


Fairness should have no time limit

Howard is quoted in this article: Judge asks jurors in 1985 murder case about bias allegations. Darrell Jones is serving a life sentence after an all-white jury convicted him of murder when he was 19 years old. Darrell always maintained his innocence. Now, a Massachusetts Superior Court judge has summoned the jurors back to court after allegations that two jury members said they believed Darrell was guilty because he was black.


Baltimore prosecutor drops 34 cases after police officer caught planting drugs


Follow the law, not the leader

Police officers must follow the constitution and avoid using unreasonable force. Many police departments have stated this basic principle of our constitution in light of these statements by the President. We hope Massachusetts police departments will reassure the public that police officers here will follow the law rather than following the leader. Our constitutional democracy depends on it.


Body camera video shows police planting drugs

Take a look at this video, which shows a Baltimore police officer planting drugs in an empty lot, walking away, then returning to the lot to “find” the planted drugs. The video comes from the officer’s own body camera, which he activated just before he walked back to “search” the area where he had planted the drugs. Two other officers watched him plant the drugs.

Fortunately for the person charged with possession of heroin, the officer’s body camera was programmed to save the 30 seconds of footage immediately before the officer activated the camera. After the defendant’s criminal defense attorneys obtained the full video, the charges were dropped. Had the video not existed, the defendant—who had been in jail since January since he was unable to pay $50,000 in bail—would in all likelihood have been convicted. Juries are reluctant to believe that police officers would plant drugs and lie about it, although this is more common than many people believe.


Boston Police fail in second attempt to fire police officer

Yesterday the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court affirmed an arbitrator’s decision to allow David Williams to rejoin the Boston Police Department. He had been terminated for his assault and choking of our client, Michael O’Brien. Mr. O’Brien was a Sheriff’s deputy and correctional officer and was in the Army National Guard at the time of the incident. Officer Williams had been fired once before, in the Cox case. Michael Cox, a Boston police officer in plain clothes, was badly beaten by fellow officers thinking he was a civilian. Read a Boston Globe article about the recent decision here. Read the SJC decision here.

David Williams is one of a small number of Boston police officers with a large number of complaints by people in the community. It is important for the public and the police department that these officers either change their behavior or find new jobs outside of law enforcement. The BPD did not investigate this incident promptly or properly. The decision indicates that if the BPD charged Williams with lying or if applying a chokehold was against BPD policy, the termination might have been upheld. Mr. O’Brien said he was choked; he reported this to a doctor that night and there was physical evidence to support it. Officer Nguyen acknowledged he saw Williams with Mr. O’Brien in a chokehold. Officer Williams denied using a chokehold. This shows Williams was not truthful in his report. This alone should have been enough to fire him.

Neither civil rights activists nor the Boston Police Commissioner are happy with this ruling. Many changes could help, including those suggested in the SJC decision, including making clear that chokeholds are never permissible and giving arbitrators less authority to override police department disciplinary decisions/less authority to determine what constitutes excessive force. Most importantly, police departments should make police internal affairs investigations of officer misconduct readily available to the public, as required by the public records law. Internal affairs investigators frequently fail to ask police officers the right questions that would lead to a proper understanding of the facts. Public review of these investigations is needed to make sure the investigators are doing their job.


Third Circuit affirms the right to record the police, quoting brief written by David Milton for the National Police Accountability Project

The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit recently issued an opinion affirming a vital right granted by the First Amendment: the right to record police officers. The opinion cites an amicus curiae, or friend-of-the-court, brief that David Milton wrote on behalf of the National Police Accountability Project (“NPAP”). Amicus briefs provide courts with information and arguments that the parties to the case may not raise. 

David is well-acquainted with the right to videotape police officers. In 2011, he argued Glik v. Cunniffe, which resulted in the First Circuit Court of Appeals confirming the right to audio and video record police officers in public. The recent Third Circuit opinion relies on Glik and quotes David’s amicus curiae brief twice.

David’s brief for NPAP argued that recordings made by civilians—typically, cell phone videos—promote police accountability and can expose police misconduct or brutality that would otherwise remain hidden. For example, judges and juries are more likely to give police officers the benefit of the doubt despite the well-documented prevalence of police perjury. But a civilian’s cell phone video can provide the irrefutable evidence necessary to convince these supporters of law enforcement to admit that a police officer may lie. Video has proved to be critical evidence in civil rights cases against police.

In the case before the Third Circuit, Richard Fields v. City of Philadelphia, et al., police retaliated against Mr. Fields for taking a photo of on-duty police officers performing their duties in public.

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