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Michigan Court of Appeals: No Bad Faith for Overwriting Interrogation Video

Last week, the Court of Appeals of Michigan issued a decision, People v. Haywood, No. 342729, 2019 Mich. App. LEXIS 7628 (Mich. Ct. App. Dec. 3, 2019), affirming a lower court's conviction of the Defendant for discharging a firearm in a dwelling and for assault. In its decision the Court noted that while it felt the trial court made a mistake in finding that a videotape of a police interrogation was not intentionally deleted, it did not find that the police department acted in bad faith. The police routinely recorded over hard drives. ". . . while this practice may be unwise, the defendant did not demonstrate that the department acted with knowledge that exculpatory material was on those tapes or that the department destroyed the tapes after the court's order for the production of the original. Defendant argued at trial that the destruction of the original video also destroyed metadata that was necessary for his expert's complete analysis. Again, we note that the expert's affidavit is not in the record. There is no evidence to suggest that the police department was aware that it was destroying metadata when it deleted the original video or the impact that the destruction of metadata would have on a forensic analysis of the video." Id. at *18.

The Court of Appeals also rejected the Defendant's argument, under the Michigan best evidence rule, that a duplicate of the original video recording should be inadmissible because it omitted alleged threats a police officer made to the Defendant's mother and brother on the original video. The officer alleged to have made the threats testified that he had omitted them from an official report and said they were not threats because the mother could be prosecuted if a firearm were found in her home.

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