The First 48 Makes Millions While the Innocent Have Their Lives Ruined

Once you're charged with murder on A&E's The First 48, you're guilty for life - even if you're innocent.

Ultimately, "Smart denied any involvement, and it was the opinion of [the expert] that he was being truthful," according to prosecutor Marie Mato's closeout memo.

Prosecutors summoned Sanchez and told him what had happened. Sanchez now "agreed [the state] could not prove their case, and it appeared Taiwan Smart was not the shooter," Mato wrote.

Sanchez was not reprimanded for his work on the case. The Miami Police Department has not apologized to Smart. A&E has continued to broadcast its First 48 episode featuring Smart. And Carter, who's since been released from prison, hasn't been seriously investigated by any other agency for his possible connection to the murders.

Cameron Coker, pictured here about eight months after his charge was dismissed, called his wrongful incarceration "torture."
Facebook screenshot
Cameron Coker, pictured here about eight months after his charge was dismissed, called his wrongful incarceration "torture."
"Straight Menace," the episode featuring Cameron Coker's interrogation, is still being aired, despite the fact that Coker was released and the victim's homicide is still unsolved.
Screenshots from A&E's The First 48
"Straight Menace," the episode featuring Cameron Coker's interrogation, is still being aired, despite the fact that Coker was released and the victim's homicide is still unsolved.

In the two years since his release from prison, Smart's luck hasn't turned. With a pair of murder charges on his record, he's struggled to find work or an apartment. He spent months living in a small motel room with his mom, uncle, girlfriend and two siblings — while supporting them with the $6.09 hourly wage he makes cleaning cars at the Busy Bee off Biscayne Boulevard. Now he and his family live in a claustrophobic apartment where they have neither kitchen sink nor stove, and the electricity flickers on and off.

Meanwhile, The First 48 has arrived at Season 13, and even today, nearly 1.4 million people tune in for some airings. But this season, the program hasn't featured Miami, though producers call the city the "face" of the show. Last year Police Chief Manuel Orosa asked the show's producers to donate $10,000 per episode to a local youth sports program that works with at-risk children, but they declined. So The First 48, which doesn't compensate police departments in any way, left Miami and now films in Broward County, Cleveland and Dallas. (Memphis and Detroit have also discontinued their relationships with the show.)

The families of the murdered never see a dime of the show's profits. Smart has filed a civil lawsuit against the City of Miami for false arrest and imprisonment. "Despite the police questioning of Taiwan for 15 consecutive hours," the lawsuit says, "and his pleas of innocence and his factual accounts, police were only concerned with closing the book on the crime within 48 hours to captivate the public with the expeditious crime-solving...It intentionally placed Taiwan as a remote second in importance to the pursuit of the First 48 marquee."

Cameron Coker's attorney, Vivian King, says she has repeatedly asked The First 48's producers to stop airing the episode now that Coker has been exonerated, but they decline. Producers refused to comment for this article.

When "Straight Menace" aired in March 2010, viewers howled for Coker's execution. "Put him down," Cams2guilty wrote in an online forum discussing the show. "They got the death penalty in Houston?" Another commenter posted: "Anyone who watched this episode and came to any conclusion other than Cameron Coker killed Erik Elizarraraz must have a mental illness. Every bit of evidence pointed at Coker, and two seasoned Harris County detectives interrogated him. People who say otherwise are the reason murderers walk free to kill again." Holly Morris, a blond suburban mom, gushed on Facebook, "The First 48 is by far the best show on TV...I love it!!! Goes to show why murderers should NEVER be let out!!!"

Coker says he fears eventual retribution for a crime he didn't commit.

"Just imagine the image they made out of me," Coker says. "Even when I walk places I've never been, people know me from The First 48 without really knowing what happened."

In a review of 22 other Houston-based episodes of the series, Miami New Times found only one other instance in which a suspect was charged and jailed before the case was dismissed: Keegan Maull spent 21 months in jail on a murder charge before the alleged eyewitness who helped put him there changed his story. (One of the other episodes involves charges against two defendants who are still awaiting trial.)

Erik Elizarraraz's murder remains unsolved.

« Previous Page
 |
 
1
 
2
 
3
 
4
 
5
 
All
 
My Voice Nation Help
14 comments
liz_5
liz_5

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

OBAMA Answer This
OBAMA Answer This

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?

jaybmichael
jaybmichael

This case is hardly typical of most. Incredibly biased article.

a.mackay90
a.mackay90

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.

a.mackay90
a.mackay90

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.

YellowJournalism
YellowJournalism

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.

charlaurie
charlaurie

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!!!!

Melanie Martin
Melanie Martin

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.

charlaurie
charlaurie

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.

 
Loading...