Judge grants protective order for beating video

October 19, 2010 4:29:22 PM PDT
It will be a long time before we will get to see video which apparently shows Houston police officers hitting a handcuffed 15-year-old boy suspected of burglary. We've been talking about the video for the past several months. But despite several legal challenges, the video has not yet been released.

It could be months, maybe more than year, before you ever see what's on that tape. A federal judge said simply showing it to you would make it hard to be fair to the accused police officers.

We see surveillance pictures all the time. The FBI releases pictures of alleged bank robbers. The police hand out tapes of convenience store robberies to help catch criminals. And somehow they get fairly tried.

The videotaped Rodney King police beating was seen all over the world. And those officers were acquitted.

But in this case, where 15-year-old burglary suspect Chad Holley was allegedly beaten by a gang of Houston police officers in March, a federal judge ordered the tape to be kept secret to protect the officers' rights.

"The irony is what are they being protected from - their own conduct. They just happened to be caught on tape. You don't have the right to protect yourself," said Ben Hall, lawyer for Chad Holley.

Hall has seen the tape and calls it "horrific." Of the officers' actions, Hall says, "It's unjustified violence by people who we trust."

But you can't see it. The officers' lawyers don't want it released, and neither does District Attorney Pat Lykos.

"It's irrelevant that it's the police department. This could be any case with this type of evidence," said Lykos. "We don't want the case tried in the media, if you will, or in cyberspace; it needs to be tried in a courtroom. We need to have juries who are not tainted by any pre-trial publicity."

So a federal judge sealed it, saying in part, "If the surveillance videotape is released in advance of trial, with its 'vivid, unforgettable information,' there is a substantial likelihood of prejudice to the parties involved in the state criminal prosecutions."

[ READ THE JUDGE'S PROTECTIVE ORDER ]

Our legal analyst says this is really rare, and the real reason to hide it may be to protect the image of Houston's 5,000 other officers.

"This isn't about this case," said Joel Androphy, KTRK Legal Analyst, "If they lose credibility, then every case out there is suspect."

Lykos says that's not the case, and that once the officers are tried, then the tape will be released.

The officers' attorney applauded the decision and said that tapes like this are always shocking until the officers' actions can be explained in court.


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