|By Steve Schmadeke, Chicago Tribune|
|McClatchy-Tribune Information Services|
But in a "Perry Mason" moment rarely seen inside an actual courtroom, the inquiry took a surprising turn when the suspect's lawyer played a police video that contradicted the sworn testimony of the five officers -- three from
"Obviously, this is very outrageous conduct," a transcript of the
All five are veteran officers.
Legal experts in
"Police officers are just like anybody -- just because they're wearing a badge and carrying a gun does not give them more credibility," said Cook County Public Defender Abishi Cunningham Jr., a former
"I've heard some police officers say in a social setting, 'If (the defendant's) going to lie to beat the case, why can't I lie too?'" Cunningham said.
"Obviously perjury isn't something that is condoned by the FOP or anybody in the
County prosecutors said judges occasionally don't believe an officer's version of events, but it's rare for a cop to be called out for lying on the stand.
"Sometimes the officers were just lazy," Orfield said last week in an interview. "Sometimes they stretched things to get the bad guy."
Criminal defense attorney
"In most people's minds, the ends justify the means," Goldman said. "So because they get the bad guy off the street or the drugs out of their hands, everybody's happy."
Goldberg said a recent client who was accused of grabbing a police officer's vest was acquitted of aggravated battery after photos taken at the scene by bystanders showed the officer wasn't wearing a vest.
The five officers testified that Sperling was caught with up to a pound of marijuana in a black backpack lying openly on the back seat of his car after he failed to use his turn signal and was pulled over at
In his testimony, Sperling admitted he had the marijuana but contended he had hidden the backpack under a seat. He also disputed that he hadn't used his turn signal.
Pruente, one of seven
The other four officers who testified backed up Pruente's version of the events to one degree or another.
As part of his rebuttal case after the officers completed their testimony, Goldman surprised prosecutors and the officers by producing the video taken from the
While police can search a car if they smell marijuana inside, the officers in this case didn't follow proper procedure and instead arrested Sperling immediately, Goldman said.
The video, a copy of which was obtained by the Tribune, showed that as soon as Pruente walked up to the car, he reached through Sperling's open driver's window, unlocked the door and had him step out of the car. Sperling testified that the officer said nothing to him.
Sperling, who was holding a cup of Mountain Dew that he then placed on the car roof, was frisked, handcuffed and led back to the squad car before his vehicle was searched.
Veteran lawyers warned of the damage done to the criminal justice system when police officers lie while under oath.
"The dangerous part of it is an innocent person could go to jail," said Cunningham, the county's public defender. "What we're trying to find is the truth. It's what the whole system is supposed to be about."
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