Good article but misleading title. Sadly, a lot of detectives are satisfied sending people 20 years in jail based on hunches and appearances.
By Chris Lane
By Jeff Balke
By Aaron Reiss
By Angelica Leicht
By Dianna Wray
By Aaron Reiss
By Camilo Smith
By Craig Malisow
The detective misrepresented his interview with Armbrister, who had repeatedly told investigators that the victims had argued with a "Spanish guy," not Smart. Instead, Sanchez told the judge: "She could hear [Smart and the victims] arguing over drugs and money."
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 that 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 and Smart, now formally charged with two counts of murder, was led away.
In Coker's case, his interrogation was downright anticlimactic.
Coker, who turned himself in once he found out investigators were looking for him, quietly but firmly denied his involvement — which is totally expected. At first, Coker said he was in jail at the time of the shooting — for evading arrest — but investigators pointed out that he had been released about 15 hours before Elizarraraz was killed.
But Coker wouldn't budge.
"Sir, why don't y'all just put me on a lie-detector test?"
The investigators said they were happy to give him a polygraph. Coker flashed a naive expression, as if he actually thought the test was going to make a difference.
"And then are y'all gonna leave me alone after that, after I give y'all what y'all want?" he asked. "Y'all not going to be asking me all these outrageous questions, trying to confuse me?"
He went on: "This is my life y'all are playing with — my life."
No, the investigators said: You shot him.
"I swear to God, from the bottom of my heart, on everything I love, sir, I was not there," he said.
It was like a broken record with this kid. It's something Kuhlman and Hunter have heard more times than they'd care to count. Coker might be trying his best to come off like a wide-eyed schoolboy, but he already had a record. And three witnesses put the gun in his hand.
It's like what Kuhlman said earlier in "Straight Menace," even before Coker turned himself in: "There will be people that will say, 'Oh, there's two lives messed up because of the other guy that's gonna go to prison for this,' but you know what? That guy messed his own life up."
Except, as it turns out, he didn't.
On February 10, 2012, ten days before the case was to go to trial, and 931 days after Coker went to jail, prosecutor Jill Foltermann began interviewing the three alleged witnesses. She incorporated the disastrous results in an affidavit, which states the following:
One witness, Andrew Nguyen, "'took a good guess' as to who he believed shot Erik Elizarraraz. Mr. Nguyen informed me that he did not actually witness the shooting because he was inside the apartment when the shooting occurred. He did not see who had the gun or who shot. [Nguyen] indicated that the person he picked was 'based on what his other friends had told him about' the shooter."
Another witness, Roberto Valdez, "indicated that he had been drinking beer, smoking weed and doing Xanax" on the day of the shooting. He told Foltermann "he did not recall what happened, and said that he did not see the shooter or the gun. He indicated that he did not recall giving the officers a description of the defendant, what he was wearing, or the gun...Mr. Valdez said that when he viewed the photo array that he told the officers he was not sure and was going to 'guess' and asked if he should continue...Mr. Valdez said that he wrote an abbreviated note at the bottom of the photo spread. The note, Valdez told the prosecutor, meant 'I'm probably wrong.'"
The last witness to help lock up Coker for three years, James Decastro, told the prosecutor that "when he viewed the photo array...he was not '100%' sure that the person he circled was the one that he observed shoot Erik Elizarraraz. Mr. Decastro said he was '50/50.'"
Turns out it was close enough.
"I couldn't believe they did that to me," Coker says. "It was like a torture that no one should have to go through in this life."
The First 48 no longer films Harris County Sheriff's investigations, according to HCSO spokesman Alan Bernstein. "By mutual agreement, the project was brought to a close last year in April or thereabouts after accomplishing the goal of showing the public some of the behind-the-scenes work done by our investigators," Bernstein explained in an email.
At the time of Taiwan Smart's arrest, there were several people detectives may have wanted to interview. One witness, named only "Christine" in the investigation's internal logs, said the killer had sought vengeance for a previous 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.
Good article but misleading title. Sadly, a lot of detectives are satisfied sending people 20 years in jail based on hunches and appearances.
I can't believe anyone is sticking up for these criminals. If most of them were white we wouldn't hear a word from any of you. Just because witnesses are too scared of 'snitching' and testifying doesn't mean the police didn't do their job. They work with what they have. I've seen this episode and it's obvious he did it. All these young black thug murderers we see on this show have ruined their own lives. Don't blame it on a tv show. If they were law abiding tax paying hard working citizens they wouldn't have been looked at in the first place. Trying to say the show ruined this mongoloid's life is insane. What you thug supporters aren't mentioning is most of these thugs would shoot you down for a dime. Yet you people talk like it's just a case of mistaken identity and the cops are racist. But since the kid is black he's innocent and the cops are racist. I love this show and respect the hell out of the Harris County homicide cops. Thank God they're around to combat murderers-white or black. This is like the old Trayvon case. He beat the crap out of George Zimmerman but no one mentions that. Again it's not if he's innocent but if he's black . You people are the racists not the cops doing their job.
I know cameron n that wasn't even the whole Interview its not about skin color I'm white. He is a very nice respectful guy. Yea may have messed up with a weed case but weed n murder... no totally different love my boy cameron. ♥if u disagree it really doesn't matter cause he is home
Maybe Harris County Sheriffs should be going after those whom they can prove have committed crimes, instead. Namely, there are federal judges and some locals who committed felony crimes it seems, but not one arrest or indictment yet. This is all in a case of a white man whose career was ruined after he refused to practive illegal discrimination against blacks and men apparently at a big local NPO. The judges allowed known perjury to stop the case without a jury trial, very illegally. See my FB page for more info, as the Obama admin. also seems unwilling to prosecute or do anything despite proof via court documents of various felony crimes that took plave in Harris County and elsewhere. This is at a time when lots of blacks are unemployed. The man involved had been hiring students of PV A&M, which is a traditionally black university. My page has a link to a few websites with some of the court documents showing evidence of felony criminal acts. Also on my FB page is info links showing the man has sent a letter and affidavit about the crimes to U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and the DOJ about having sent previous messages for help against the corruption but to no avail. This is bad. This is very bad. Holder and President Obama took oaths to uphold the Law and Constitution, and both are over the federal court system and judges. They should be impeaching them, not covering for them -- if that is what they are doing. Is someone blackmailing them or pulling strings behind the scene to prevent even them from acting?
This article is as biased as they purport the TV show to be, go and watch the episode, and tell me if you'd like this kid roaming around in your neighbourhood. Does witnesses recanting their testimony mean that someone is innocent, or does it mean the witness has been go to by the defendant? We'll never know as this case won't be going to court. When 1 witness changes their mind, we can conclude that they just aren't sure, but when several change their minds it makes us think that there is a another power acting upon them. A&E don't commit the murders, they just film the aftermath, if you lived in these mostly poor deprived areas you'd want the police around trying to catch these mostly young men, and keep them off your streets. The job of the cops is made that much harder by the stupid no snitching policy enforced by ppl who don't have the best interest of the majority of the folk at heart. Don't get me wrong, I have lived, live, in very poor deprived neighbourhoods, and I know most of the time the cops ain't your friend, but surly when it's the murder of a young kid it's a different matter. The cops can only work with what they have, most of the homicide cops seem to be a breed apart from the rest, if the years of watching the 1st 48 are anything to go by. They don't have it all their own way, the defence council of the accused usually gives them a very hard time, and rightly so, it's about the only way justice can be served, if an innocent person gets convicted, it just means the defence haven't done their jobs, or the cops have lied on purpose, and if the cops have lied then they should be prosecuted too.
this article is as biased as they purport the TV show to be, go and watch the episode, and tell me if you'd like this kid roaming around in your neighbourhood. Does witnesses recanting their testimony mean that someone is innocent, or does it mean that they have been go to by the defendant? We'll never know as they case won't be going to court, when 1 witness changes his mind, we can conclude that they just aren't sure, but when several change their minds it make us think that there is a another power acting upon them. A&E don't commit the murders, they just film it, and if you lived in these poor deprived areas you'd want the police around trying to catch these mostly young men, and keep them off your streets. The job of the cops is made all the more hard from this stupid no snitching policy enforced by ppl who don't have the best interest of the majority of the folk at heart. Don't get me wrong, I have lived, live, in very poor deprived neighbourhoods, and I know most of the time the cops ain't your friend, but surly when it the murder of a young kid it's a different matter. The cops can only work with what they have, most of the homicide cops seem to be a breed apart from the rest, if the years of watching the 1st 48 are anything to go by. They don't have it all their own way, the defence council of the accused usually give them a very hard time, and rightly so, it's about the only way justice can be served, if an innocent person gets convicted, it's just means the defence hasn't done their jobs, or the cops of lied on purpose, and if the cops have lied then they should be prosecuted too.
Lol @ all 3 witnesses not testifying... Hmmm, I wonder why?? Now the taxpayers get to pay the settlement so this monster can walk free. I guarantee he will be in some form of the DOC in less than 3 years. Witness intimidation and a subsequent failure to raise charges does not mean innocent, it just means the streets got the witnesses. Have fun feeling sorry for the poor gangster drug dealer.
This is outrageous! In our day of DNA and forensics why is so much credence provided to eyewitness accounts alone?! More to the point, why why WHY is this not headline news instead of the inane fascination of something like "Justin Bieber" who is given not one, but four headlines for CNN and other primary news outlets like it? People's lives are being ruined!!! How can A&E get away with it and keep showing the episodes?! I wish I was a lawyer-i'd class action lawsuit their ass. As it is, I'll have to settle for "voting with my dollar"---I won't buy another A&E product as long as I live. And yes, I will tell ALL my friends. Bastards!!!!
I saw this episode when it first aired and googled his name a few times following the show to see when his court date was. They sure did make him seem like a horrible human being and guilty as hell.
ummm...wasn't this already published, weeks ago on a sister site?http://www.miaminewtimes.com/2014-01-16/news/the-first-48-makes-millions-off-imprisoning-innocents/
@JQ127 Who is sticking up for the criminals??? This article is sticking up for people who are wrongly accused on sub par investigations - otherwise called the innocent.
@a.mackay90 The mere fact that your argument states: would you like those kids around your neighborhood shows that you are more interested in prejudice than justice.
The only people I feel "sorry" for is the sad, diluted people who watch A&Es "docu-drama" masquerading as "entertainment." Its rubbish at the expense of others suffering. I also feel empathy for our hard working detectives who are politically pressured to make a quick arrest with overwhelming caseload and under funding. And NO I don't think someone who is found "not guilty" is the same as innocent--but one of the gr8 things about our system is that we don't imprison people who cannot be found guilty beyond a reasonable doubt....AND though you may be right in your prediction about the likelihood of this person's future with the DOC, it is by no means "guaranteed." For those kind of "guarantees" go to Russia or North Korea.
@marquse1 @a.mackay90 Yup guilty as charged I am prejudiced against violent, gun toting, disenfranchised thugs is that a problem? Unlike most white, middle class educated people, I couldn't give a damn if people think I am a racist, as long as me and my family are safe that's all I care about. The race card is played with such regularity these days that it has ceased to have any meaning, apartheid era South Africa or 1950s Deep South USA that's racism, wanting to live in a safe neighbourhood isn't. I think that now a days the race issue has become counter productive anyway, when you have an automatic bogey man to blame for everything it takes away the need to accept responsibility for your own actions, and I can't think of any circumstances were that is a good thing.
@marquse1 I am sure you are a nice person and your heart is in the right place, but you aren't too good at constructing an argument, you are jumping to conclusions instead of reaching them. You are letting your own prejudice shine thru, as I have never mentioned colour once, so it's yourself who obviously assumes that I am talking about black folk when I say violent thugs. You also I assume I have no sympathy for the ppl featured in the First 48. We can argue back and forth all day long and it won't change the tragedy that lies behind nearly every case featured on the show. Yes most of the offenders are of colour mostly black or Hispanic, most are young and nearly all are male, but there is 1 thing that every single one of them as in common and that is poverty. That is the real tragedy that in a rich country like the USA with all it's opportunities that there are 16 year old kids who are so disenfranchised, can see absolutely nothing in their lives are so jaded at that young age that they think it's OK to use AK-47 in residential areas without a thought to what it might do to other people, how can this happen in a country like the USA? IMO it's partly to do with racism, partly the fact that the USA doesn't have an effective social welfare system and partially to do with the gun laws, there are plenty who will disagree with me, but there has to be some reason why the USA has such a high murder rate compared to other G7 countries. Having said all that my original point stands, I don't want to bring my kids up in a neighbourhood like that, no one should have to live like that. Nice talking to you BTW, keep safe and peace.
@a.mackay90 @marquse1Now that you have admitted that you are predjudiced you can work on admitting that you are ignorant: not all black disenfranchised people are criminals. If you are not concerned about who goes to jail: the innocent or the guilty - all your arguments about protecting Americans are moot.