St. Louis Judge Refuses To Watch Video Showing Officer Sucker Punching Teenager and Then Clears Him . . . Police Union Calls For His Rehiring

burkeIt is often difficult to get actual charges against a police officer, but former St. Louis Officer Rory Bruce, 35, was an exception. After all, it was a police video that clearly showed him verbally abusing a teenager and then sucker punching him while handcuffed. One would think it would be an easy conviction, even without the testimony of the 16-year-old boy. That is if the judge watched the video. She did not. Judge Teresa Counts Burke showed no reason to actually watch the video before ruling and now the police union is demanding that the department rehire Bruce.

One the video from 2012, Bruce is shown on the left as he pulls the teenager out of the police van with the words “Stand out here with us…you lying piece of shit.” There are words and then a punch from Bruce decks the kids.

The police union appears to have watched a different video. Jeff Roorda with the St. Louis Police Officer’s Association insists that he can see the suspect moving in a threatening manner and Bruce defending himself: “It’s one forearm blow as he’s trained to do.” Bruce later on the video says “I told you I wanted to search you and you came out of the thing and started lunging at me.” There is no lunging that I can see on the video.

The police fired Bruce on the basis of the video and the prosecutors brought charges. However, Burke declined to watch the video. I am not sure why. Clearly it is a problem with no testifying victim but that does not rule out a charge or a conviction. If there is no witness to a bank robbery but a bank video, a judge would not simply refuse the evidence and acquit.  There are various ways to authenticate a video that is taken by a police camera. If the prosecutors failed to authenticate, it is not referenced in articles but such a failure would itself be quite suspicious.

Roorda praises the judge for not watching the video which is describes as a “gotcha-head hunter” tool for cops. He inexplicably states, according to the article below, that such video should only be used to protest officials. Thus, it would seem that the video can only be used as a defense of officers in abuse cases and not as evidence against them. That would seem a bizarre claim but it appears close to what happened in this case.

Now that Burke cleared the officer, Roorda wants him rehired.

By the way, Burke’s partner David Wilson, 28, is also under investigation for striking another teenager in his custody. Both were probationary officers.

Source: Kmov

54 thoughts on “St. Louis Judge Refuses To Watch Video Showing Officer Sucker Punching Teenager and Then Clears Him . . . Police Union Calls For His Rehiring”

  1. Why does the video need authentication? It was recorded on official police equipment which is paid for by the taxpayers and installed in a official police vehicle. That to me is a moot point!

  2. I suppose the silver lining is that plaintiff’s counsel in the subsequent civil action will likely not make the same mistake. Of course, that’s only if the excessive force claim doesn’t fall to qualified immunity…

  3. D.S.: The specific legal requirements vary somewhat by state. In many the recording could be authenticated with the type of testimony you cite if accompanied by testimony establishing that the recording could not have been tampered with. Usually such testimony requires a witness with technical expertise beyond the knowledge necessary just to install or operate the equipment, and many police departments don’t have an employee with tthe required level of expertise. Arranging for the testimony can be expensive and difficult, depending on the availability of the needed expert. The prosecuting attorney probably hadn’t made such arrangements as she expected to authenticate it with the other officer’s testimony.

  4. What about the following hypothetical: A thief breaks into a St. Louis jewelry store and night and is caught on the surveillance camera, which streams data back to the security company. There are no eye-witnesses (besides the thief himself, who will not testify). The security company can provide an expert to testify (1) the camera was not tampered with; (2) the camera was in the store that night, pointed at the spot depicted in the recording, and turned on all night; (3) the data streamed back to the security company were properly saved in the company’s server; (4) chain of custody of the server is unassailable. Am I to understand that this surveillance tape is inadmissible because there are no eye-witnesses to authenticate it?

  5. You have a judge that properly and legally refused to allow evidence that was not and could not be authenticated.

    If the case was about something other than a police officers actions people would be praising the judge.

    “Prosecutors allege it shows Bruce hitting the teen unprompted. Bruce’s attorney, Joe Hogan, planned to argue it showed his client reacting in self-defense when the teen lunged at him, after earlier trying to turn a gun on Bruce’s partner, Jacob Fowler.

    But the video never made it into evidence because the law required prosecutors to authenticate it with someone who had personal knowledge of the events. Bruce refused to testify against himself, on the same constitutional grounds as the teen.

    That left Fowler, who claimed the same but was forced to testify after prosecutors granted him immunity from charges and obtained a last minute order from another judge.

    When Fowler viewed the footage, he testified it differed from his recollection of events. Burke ruled he thus couldn’t authenticate it. That left only the testimony of a few police employees, who couldn’t say much because of hearsay rules.

    The decision on the video brought the complicated case to an abrupt end. “Not guilty,” announced Burke.

    Bruce and Fowler, both probationary officers, were fired after the incident.”

  6. Missouri has a warped criminal “justice” system which might be why the teenager chose not to testify. This incident is the tip of the iceberg; check out freeryanferguson dot com to see how far Missouri goes to *not* correct a wrongful conviction. Very scary.

  7. Unless we have a transcript of the proceeding we can not judge the judge for being a judge and ruling that a piece of evidence is inadmissible. We should not through rocks at her. Lets be nice here. Bark.

  8. of course im being sarcastic some of those cops will find it will do more harm for them then good

  9. smh there goes what’s left of our freedom so now we are designated to pay the police to beat,harass,rape,rob,mug,shoot, abuse us. and have no recourse but to accept it.

  10. The Saint Louis Board of Police Commissioners can review that video.

  11. I understand the missing element was the “truly and accurately depicts what I saw” part. Neither the defendant nor the victim testified, and the partner said something along the lines of he didn’t think it was a true and accurate depiction.

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