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Mar. 1, 2013 10:15 am

‘This is not a social media contest’: Judge who acquitted cop that punched woman

Lt. Jonathan Josey, the cop who was caught on film punching a woman at last year’s Puerto Rican Day parade, was acquitted Tuesday, despite seemingly damning video evidence. Josey’s case offers another side to the ongoing conversation about the importance of surveillance cameras in policing (in more ways than one). There’s Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. […]

Lt. Jonathan Josey was found not guilty of assault this week.

Lt. Jonathan Josey, the cop who was caught on film punching a woman at last year’s Puerto Rican Day parade, was acquitted Tuesday, despite seemingly damning video evidence. Josey’s case offers another side to the ongoing conversation about the importance of surveillance cameras in policing (in more ways than one).

There’s Philadelphia Municipal Court Judge Patrick F. Dugan, who dismissed the video after he announced his decision by saying, “This is not a social media contest. This is not trial by video.” Dugan was referring to the fact that the video of Josey slugging a woman went viral last fall.

There’s the video expert that told the Philadelphia Inquirer that video isn’t always reliable evidence. “Digital video is not what people think it is,” he said. “In most cases, it’s an altered and compressed medium.”

There’s also the fact that, despite police data that says that video is valuable in making arrests, there’s no data on the conviction rate in video-driven arrests.

Perhaps most importantly, other factors might be at work. Daily News columnist Ronnie Polaneczky put it this way:

This is Philly, where the police beg for citizen videos to help investigators find and convict suspected criminals. When the same camera-wielding citizenry documents questionable behavior by police, though, the footage is dismissed as “not the whole story.”

Read Polaneczky’s whole column here. Also check out this column by Daily News columnist Christine Flowers, who applauded Dugan’s decision: “Bravo to Judge Dugan, who thinks that due process requires a little bit more than just a click of the camera,” she wrote.

Will video matter more with its wider adoption — think Russian dashboard cameras capturing a meteorite — or be sidelined as too easily manipulated in the courtrooms of today and the future?

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Juliana Reyes

Juliana Reyes began as lead reporter at Technical.ly Philly in July 2012. Previously, she was a city services beat reporter for the Philadelphia Daily News, as part of a project called “It’s Our Money.” She is learning to drive, learning to bike (in the city) but is an expert at taking SEPTA. She grew up in North Jersey and Manila, Philippines but she left the tropics for Bryn Mawr College, where she majored in linguistics. She now lives in West Philly.

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