Theft involves the taking of property of another. The last I knew, this is still America and in order to be convicted of a crime requires, among other things, proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Its easy to take aim at persons accused of crime and criminal defense attorneys, but walk with me one day, meet my clients and you will feel differently about the fight to preserve our way of life. Its cases like Ryan Wacome's that erode our rights little by little.
According to the Des Moines Register, Ryan Wacome has been charged with a series of thefts at Des Moines City Hall. Wacome was a 20 year-old janitor. The Register says that small amounts of money were missing from desks over the past month so they contacted the Des Moines Police Department and set up a sting operation. A detective put a "small amount of money" in a desk and placed a camera to record whatever occurred. The camera allegedly caught Wacome removing the money. I hope he has not been charged with the other alleged thefts as has been reported. It would be one thing for him to agree to make restitution for the other amounts of money, but it would likely be a violation of his rights to get convicted of the other alleged thefts. Even if he confesses, Iowa criminal law requires more than that for an otherwise uncorroborated crime. I would also be curious to hear what evidence there is that the other thefts actually did occur. I keep some pennies and nickels in my desk but I can't tell you how many. Let me look, hmmmm, I thought I had a few more. Better call the Des Moines PD and set up a sting.
But here is the other thing: video and photographic evidence are sometimes the most unreliable evidence. Look at this photograph of an alleged burglary yesterday in Des Moines. Jurors are common people just like you or I, and if its difficult to tell who is in the photo, then that is not proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Thankfully most jurors are cognizant of that fact. I once had a convenience store robbery case where it was caught on surveillance video. The clerk alleged a weapon was displayed and she was stuck in the cooler. There was a cop in the parking lot and my client was nabbed walking out the door into the parking lot. It was 5 a.m. Very few other persons were around. The person in the video did resemble my client and he was facing a 62-year prison sentence. For good reason, my client is a free man today. A photo is not always worth a thousand words.
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