REALITY CHECK: Criminal case dismissed after officer fails to show up in court twice
MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) —
A judge dropped the case against a suspected burglar, after a Mobile Police Officer failed to show up for court on two different occasions.
Now the victim in this case is frustrated. He had to take time off from work to be in court.
The victim even provided police with home surveillance video showing a man stealing items from his SUV, so he thought it would be a slam-dunk case.
Instead a judge threw it out because the officer wasn't in court.
The break-in happened on Palmetto Street on August 16th.
On August 21th, the suspect, Jarrod Slaughter, was arrested and charged with unlawful breaking and entering.
The SUV belongs to Dr. Jason Valentine.
"It happened to be after I'd washed my car so we had some good fingerprints," said Valentine.
On September 11th Valentine showed up in court for the preliminary hearing. But according to records, the arresting officer, John Forward, wasn't there.
District Attorney Ashley Rich said the night before the hearing, the officer told the D.A.'s office he couldn't make it because he had training.
The next day in court, Judge Jill Phillips reset the case for October 10th.
But Rich said the officer was a no-show again this week, and this time her office didn't get a heads up. Judge Phillips decided to dismiss the case.
"And you know I missed two days of work over this, trying to decrease crime in my neighborhood. It's frustrating," said Valentine, who works at the Diagnostic and Medical Clinic in Saraland.
Now Dr. Valentine's concern is will the suspect strike again.
"He's now realizing he can get away with stuff in our neighborhood and go back to those behaviors," said Valentine.
Rich said her office reminds officers a week before they're due in court that they have an appearance coming up.
She even implemented a program several years ago to cut down on situations like this one.
"In 2011 we saw a need to make sure supervisors were notified if officers failed to appear in court and a case was dismissed. We try to make sure we are all working together," said Rich.
We reached out to the Mobile Police Department. Assistant Chief Clay Godwin said they're now investigating to find out why the officer didn't show up.
Godwin said there are department policies that address this kind of thing. Officers have even been suspended for this in the past.
We should point out that the District Attorney said this is the first time Officer Forward has ever just not showed up for a case.
The District Attorney now has the option of presenting this case to a Grand Jury in hopes of getting an indictment against the suspect.
Rich said that in 2009, the same suspect, Jarrod Slaughter, had a robbery charge that was also dismissed, because the victim didn’t show up in court and chose not to move forward with the charge.