Imagine being 19 years old and spending 9 months in jail for a crime you did not commit. This is the sad case of T.G.
Fortunately, this sad story has ended due to the efforts of The McShane Firm who fought tirelessly and eventually got the charges dropped.
T.G.’s case is a prime example of how unreliable eyewitness identification can be and how necessary it is to seek scientific evidence. This is a case where a sworn and trained and highly experienced police officer believed with his whole heart that T.G. was the perpetrator when he in fact as innocent as you and I.
Here are the case details:
On January 28, 2012, at approximately 12:15, Officer Jon Fustine, Corporal Wealand and Officer Ishman were partnered together and attempted a traffic stop on a tan in color Ford Contour for a turn signal violation. As the officers exited their vehicle the passenger attempted to flee, but was ordered back in the car. When the passenger got back in the car, the driver, who was believed to be Mr. T.G., put the vehicle in reverse hitting the patrol car and then fled from the scene. Corporal Wealand smashed the driver’s side window with his flashlight and grabbed onto the car. He was drug by the vehicle for about 10-20 feet. The police pursued the car and later found it unoccupied. A hat was found on scene, which Corporal Wealand noted to be from the driver.
Mr. T.G. and another person (Ismail Haigh) were apprehended shortly afterwards in two separate locations. Corporal Wealand came to where T.G. was apprehended and indicated he was the driver. When Mr. T.G. was detained, he had actually been walking with a female friend who was later released to her mother. Haigh confessed to being in the car at the time of the incident. He also identified two other individuals who were in the car, none of which were Mr. T.G. In fact, he told the officer’s that he did not know Mr. T.G. Mr. T.G. was incarcerated on January 28, 2012 and bail was set at $200,000.
After T.G. was incarcerated he submitted to a DNA test. On June 8, 2012, the Pennsylvania State Police received a buccal swab from T.G., buccal swabs from the hat found on scene as well as human hairs from the hat. A report was put together on August 29, 2012 noting that Mr. T.G. could not be included as a contributor to the DNA mixture in the knit hat and he did not match the DNA profile obtained from the hairs from the hat. A petition to modify bail was filed and T.G. was released from DCP on September 11, 2012.
The following quotes were taken from various police reports put together in this case:
“When the Defendant attempted to flee during the initial traffic stop, I was able to see his face clearly and I was able to identify him as a result.” Corporal Wealand
“When I was on his left I recognized T.G. as the driver of the vehicle. I confirmed this by placing my hands on either side of his face like I had previously as he was in the vehicle.” Corporal Wealand
This is the reality of eyewitness identification and how it can lead to false arrests. This false identification was from a trained police officer so how accurate can they be when they come from untrained common citizens?
This is why we need science in the courtroom and why defense attorneys need to understand and use science for the defense of their clients. If this happened 50, 60 years or if he had an attorney who did not use science, Mr. T.G. would have been a goner!