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Certain video evidence to be checked by prosecutors before filing felony cases

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is implementing a new policy, requiring prosecutors who know of video evidence showing a crime or suspect to watch it before filing felony charges. Video may come from a cellphone, a surveillance system or a police officer’s body-worn camera.

Flynn Carey, an attorney with the firm Mitchell, Stein, Carey, Chapman, said just being accused of a felony can have a major effect on someone’s life. 

“And so asking a prosecutor to first review body camera footage that may be directly relevant adds an additional layer of protection to many cases,” he said.

Body camera video is not infallible for a couple reasons, Carey said. Police can avoid capturing evidence that prosecutors would otherwise see by waiting to turn on their body camera or putting it on mute.

“Often a viewer will empathize or agree with the person wearing the camera is doing because of just the angle,” he said. 

Carey called the County Attorney’s new policy, which only supervisors can allow exceptions for, a step in the right direction.

Next, he would like prosecutors and police to standardize how police reports are written, and when officers’ body cameras get turned on

Matthew Casey has won Edward R. Murrow awards for hard news and sports reporting since he joined KJZZ as a senior field correspondent in 2015.