Martin & Kent, L.L.C. Martin & Kent, L.L.C.

attorneys

Man's Failure to Use Proper Process for Obtaining Access to Video Evidence in Retail Theft Case Did Not Pose Sixth Amendment Violation, Illinois Appellate Court Rules

A man's decision to represent himself may have been a fateful choice in his retail theft trial. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected his appeal, ruling that the man was not, in fact, denied access to a crucial piece of video evidence in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights, but rather that he merely failed to take the appropriate steps needed to view the video footage.

A man's decision to represent himself may have been a fateful choice in his retail theft trial. The Illinois Appellate Court rejected his appeal, ruling that the man was not, in fact, denied access to a crucial piece of video evidence in violation of his Sixth Amendment rights, but rather that he merely failed to take the appropriate steps needed to view the video footage.

In late 2011, a security employee at a McLean County Wal-Mart store spotted Bryon Champ grabbing several shopping bags from an unoccupied cash register and then proceeding to fill the bags with merchandise from the men's and domestics departments. The man began to exit the store without paying for the items when the security employee and two other employees stopped him. The store's video surveillance system captured Champ's movements.

The state charged Champ with retail theft. At trial, the state introduced into evidence a DVD that contained a compilation of video footage segments that showed some of Champ's activities in the store. The video montage did not capture Champ grabbing the bags or concealing the unpurchased items by putting the items into the bags.

The man, who had asked (and received) permission to dismiss his public defender and instead represent himself, objected. Champ, who had not viewed the footage before trial, argued that, since the video did not show him doing everything the store employees accused him of doing, the video should be excluded from evidence. The court refused to exclude the DVD, ruling that the video was a fair representation of Champ's movements and the fact that it did not demonstrate all of the man's actions (such as putting items into bags) was not a valid basis for excluding the DVD.

After his conviction, Champ appealed. One of the man's arguments was that he was denied his Sixth Amendment rights when he did not receive an opportunity to view the DVD before trial. One fatal problem with this argument was a procedural one that was in part potentially traceable to Champ's decision to represent himself at trial. Champ made his Sixth Amendment argument for the first time at the appellate court level. In order to be allowed to argue this before the appeals court, he first had to raise the issue in front of the trial judge. Since he never did so, he forfeited the right to argue it in his appeal.

The appeals court, however, went on to address the merits of Champ's argument. To establish that his rights were violated, Champ would need to show that he was prevented from viewing the DVD or that the state concealed its existence. Champ's appellate argument did not prove that he was denied access to the video footage, simply that he failed to take the appropriate steps to do so. Although Champ asked for the DVD, he neither asked for access to the necessary facilities to view the footage, nor did he ask for a continuance of his case to secure more time to watch the video.

Sometimes, people make the mistake of thinking that defending themselves in criminal cases is as simple as offering factual evidence that proves their innocence, or at least raises reasonable doubt as to their guilt. In reality, defending against a criminal charge involves much more, since criminal trials involve not only the facts of the case, but knowledge of the law and court procedure, too. For skillful and reliable defense against the criminal charges facing you or a loved one, contact the DuPage County theft defense attorneys at Martin & Kent. Our years of experience and extensive knowledge can help you present the best possible defense.

Contact us online or by calling (888) 388-9151 to schedule your confidential initial consultation at no charge.

No Comments

Leave a comment
Comment Information