ETHICS PROJECT ASSIGNMENT: A Murder in Metropolis: An ethics-based case study – Introduction
You are a retired law enforcement officer who now teaches at a local community college in the criminal justice program. In addition to teaching ethics, you write crime novels on the side. You recently heard of a real-life case that you thought would make the basis for a good story, but, as you looked into it further, you realized that it provided many opportunities for educating students and criminal justice professionals on ethics. You decide to write a paper for possible publication in a journal.
To research this case, you have obtained a copy of the police investigative file, reviewed media accounts of the case, and interviewed witnesses, members of the criminal justice system who were involved in the case and other criminal justice professionals not directly connected with the case. As part of the preparation for writing your paper, you will organize your notes, outline your ideas for the themes for the paper, and identify the ethical dilemmas presented in the case. You anticipate as you work on this project that you will have to do substantial research to make this paper worthy for publication in an academic journal.
Details from the police report:
On July 27, 2007, Lois Murphy was found dead on the floor of her garage, a victim of an apparent homicide. She was discovered by her brother, James Murphy, who had come to her residence to check on her after being unable to reach her for three days. James immediately called 911 to report the discovery.
MPD conducted a comprehensive crime scene investigation, including photographing and videotaping the crime scene, collecting physical evidence, and gathering fingerprint evidence. The MPD classified the case as a homicide. Following the initial crime scene investigation, MPD detectives conducted an extensive investigation, interviewing many witnesses and following all credible leads.
Although there were multiple signs of blunt wound trauma around the head and face, according to the Metropolis County Medical Examiner, the cause of death was a gunshot wound to the chest. The ME listed the cause of death as homicide.
The MPD eventually arrested William Tanner on suspicion of murder. The evidence indicates that the crime was motivated by an unpaid debt for drugs.
The crime occurred in the city and county of Metropolis.
Ethics Project: The Crime
This paper is being submitted on October 26, 2014, for Rose Du Houx Pogatshnik’s J255 Ethics in Criminal Justice course.
Ethics Project: The Crime
The classical school of thought in criminology all crime as people exercising their right of free will. A classicist believes that people will attempt to pursue pleasure while trying to minimize any sort of pain. The crime scene explanation states that the woman was killed by a gunshot and that her murder was likely due to her unpaid debt for drugs. This woman’s lifestyle could very easily be explained in the classical school of thought. She was attempting to pursue what she believed to be pleasurable (drugs) and she was attempting to minimize the pain of having to pay for them by apparently ignoring her outstanding debt. Her murderer can also be explained through this thought process. He was attempting to pursue pleasure by becoming rich though dealing drugs and when this lady owed him money and wouldn’t pay up he felt as though killing her would minimize any sort of pain she would likely continue to cause him in the future.
The positivist believes that everyone’s behavior is decided by their internal and external influences in their lives. These things are their biological, psychological, and social factors. So simple put, the positivist believes that people will act based upon their own God given traits as well as being influenced by the people they hang around with. So a positivist would look at this report and say that this woman was obviously brought up in a bad environment and that was why she turned to drugs. Going along with this she probably hung around with people that also did drugs therefore encouraging her to continue in her destructive lifestyle. The murderer can also be pegged as someone that probably was friends growing up with other drug dealers who either encouraged him to get into it or just rubbed off on him over time.
The structural view sees crime as being something that has deeper roots than just their immediate environment or the pursuit of pleasure. They would say that the criminal law is a reflection of those people in a position of power. Anyone that threatens their power is punished severely. Going along with this theory crime can be explained as something that people do to directly act out against the law. The woman in this example may have had issues with authority all her life and so she naturally fell into a rebellious lifestyle so as to act out. The same can be said for the drug dealer. He did not care for authority or the law and he was directly violating the law and he will be severely punished for his actions.
The ethical view sees crime as being a basic moral failure in people’s decision making. So an example would be that someone does something wrong because they simple have not considered the fact that it is wrong and will probably impact them negatively. The woman in this example obviously didn’t start doing drugs with the realization that it was going to destroy her life and eventually get her killed. Going along with the ethical theory she didn’t properly think through the negative implications before taking part in the poor lifestyle choice. Same goes for the drug dealer. He obviously didn’t intend to end up murdering someone and if he had thought through his actions better he would have likely chosen a different course.
EXCERPTS FROM AUTHOR’S RESEARCH FILES:
Details from the police report:
One MPD investigators interviewed the victim’s best friend, Maria Frank, who lived in a poorer neighborhood, who was initially reluctant to speak to officers because she feared retaliation by the gang members involved. She eventually revealed that on July 24 she was with Lois in her home in the same neighborhood, when an altercation between Lois and a drug dealer started. She saw an individual pull Lois out of the house, shove her into the garage and then heard sounds of a struggle, screams, and a gun shot. She ran from the home and hid at her grandmother’s house until a week after the murder when the police located her.
The evidence collected from the crime scene, along with the statements by Maria Frank, lead to the arrest of William Tanner, an African-American male. The investigation also lead to the arrest of Anthony Landon, believed to have driven William Tanner from the crime scene, and Tanner’s younger brother, Joey, who is believed to have helped William Tanner dispose of incriminating evidence the next day.
Videotaped interview with Anthony Landon
In an MPD interrogation conducted by Detective Jones, Anthony Landon, a White male, admits to knowledge of William Tanner’s involvement in gangs and drug selling activity. He states that he knew when he drove William Tanner to the victim’s residence that Tanner planned to threaten her about money owed him and that he knew, from past experience, that Tanner was capable of serious physical violence. He denied all involvement in any violent acts against Lois and stated that when he drove Tanner away from the crime scene, he did not know that Tanner had just killed her.
Interview with an officer not involved in the case:
According to MPD Detective Phil Manning, Lois Murphy, a White female, was known by the Metropolis Police Department (MPD) as a drug user. She had three convictions for drug-related crimes and was currently on probation for her most recent conviction. She had been a confidential informant for Detective Manning for almost two years, providing information about drug trafficking activity in Metropolis. Detective Manning believes that Lois was not involved in a gang, but he knew she came in contact with gang members when she purchased drugs. Detective Manning knew she had drugs in her possession at times that he met with her, but did not arrest her because he wanted to keep her as an informant.
Detective Manning also knew that Lois was in violation of the terms of her probation by purchasing drugs, but he never reported that to her probation officer because she was a valuable source of information for the department, leading the local drug task force to many successful raids.
Interview with Nearby Convenience Store Owner
Raoul Garcia, the Latino owner of a convenience store down the street from the victim’s residence, was interviewed for background information on his knowledge of the victim and criminal activity in the neighborhood. He stated that that the cops frequently stop by his store for a chat and ask how things are going in the neighborhood, and they tend have a visible presence on his block. He’s always happy to provide a cup of coffee free of charge to any of the officers who stops by because he knows they have a tough job and they are looking out for the businesses in the neighborhood.
Raoul says that he fears and respects the cops that patrol his neighborhood, but even though he hears stories about some bad apples, and he sees no problem with showing his gratitude in this small way.
Interview with Nearby Bar Owner:
Joe Sampson, a White male and the owner of the Corner Tap, was also interviewed about the safety in the neighborhood and the amount of known gang activity. Joe stated that he knows drug dealing goes on in the neighborhood and there are often fights between rival gangs. He says he does not have to worry about any of the violence spilling into his bar because he’s friends with many cops. There are a couple officers who swing by his place a couple times a night whenever they are on the night shift, and he always makes sure they are taken care of when they come in to watch the football game on Sunday. And, unlike the bar down the street, none of his customers get hassled by the cops at closing time. The word is out that he’s friends with the cops.
An article appearing on July 31 in the Metropolis Daily News reported that a call had been made from the victim’s home phone on July 24 during which the caller said in a quiet whisper that she needed help but then the phone was disconnected. No follow-up call was made by the dispatcher and no squad was sent to the residence. When asked about this call by the Metropolis Daily News, the MPD denied that such a call had been made.
In another article on this story appearing on August 15, the Metropolis Daily News reported that the MPD acknowledged, after further inquiry, that a call had been made on July 24 from the victim’s residence. The MPD is refusing to release either a transcript or the audio recording of the call, citing data privacy restrictions.
Author’s interview with Maria Frank
Maria Frank said that the investigator who tracked her down at her grandmother’s home promised that the police would protect her if she came forward to testify. Relying on the investigator’s assurances, she told them what she knew about the incident. However, she now knows that Metropolis has no funds for witness protection and the MPD cannot do more than provide enhanced patrolling in her neighborhood. Maria feels that the defendant’s gang friends want to kill her and feels betrayed by the MPD, especially as she lives in a vulnerable area.
Internal affairs report
As a result of an internal affairs investigation it was determined that the MPD representative who denied the existence of the 911 emergency call on July 24 when the Metropolis Daily News reporter asked, knew of both the existence of the call and the audio taped recording of the call. In addition, the dispatcher was found to have violated standard procedure by not calling back the residence following the hang-up call. It is uncertain whether this was due to the location of the victim’s home or other circumstances.
Videotape of MPD interview with Joey Tanner
The videotaped interview of Joey Tanner, the 18-year-old brother of the murder suspect, shows the MPD detective telling Joey Tanner that they have a witness who puts him at the scene of the crime which suggests that he had some involvement in the murder and could result in more serious charges. The investigative file clearly shows that the detective knows that this statement is false when he makes it. The detective at all times was professional in the interview, appearing at times to have sympathy for Joey’s plight that his brother got him into this situation and indicating that any cooperation on Joey’s part would be communicated to the prosecutor and would be looked at favorably “down the line.”
Joey Tanner eventually tells the detective that the day after the crime he helped his brother get rid of the gun, and he told the detective where it could be found.
Prosecutor’s charging decisions
Upon consideration of all the facts, and following negotiations with Joey Tanner, the Metropolis County District Attorney’s Office made the following charging decisions in the case:
William Tanner: Murder, second degree (unpremeditated)
Anthony Landon: No charges for aiding and abetting murder in the second degree, on the condition that he testify truthfully against William Tanner.
Joey Tanner: No charges for aiding and abetting after the fact, on the condition that he testify truthfully in the case against William Tanner.
Author’s interview with informant:
In a discussion with Billy Knowles, a White male and a known drug dealer who spoke on the condition of anonymity, he stated that it is well known on the street that there is an officer in the department who has been passing information along to Anthony Landon including specific information about other gangs and notice of planned drug raids. He doesn’t know the name of the officer, but he says that Anthony seems to have some kind of inside connection because in the past year the police have had big raids on nearly all the active gangs in the area except his.
Author’s interview with deputy sheriff at the Metropolis County Adult Detention Facility (jail)
A sheriff who works in the county jail was interviewed about his interactions with the three individuals who had been arrested. During the course of that interview, the deputy mentioned that another inmate had approached him and said that his cellmate, Anthony Landon, told him that he was actually the one who brought the gun to the house on the day of the murder and was in the garage when the shooting happened. The inmate said he asked Anthony if he had been the shooter and Anthony did not actually say so, but sort of gave a “knowing wink” in response. The inmate then asked Anthony if the police believed his statement when he said he was just the driver, Anthony gave another “knowing wink” and said that he and “Jonesy,” the detective who interviewed him, “have an understanding.”
The deputy sheriff said that he gave this information to the Metropolis County District Attorney’s Office before the trial.
Author’s interview with member of MPD
In an interview with another MPD detective, who agreed to talk on condition of anonymity, the author asked about the culture in the MPD. This detective said that the culture varies by precinct. There is one precinct known as “Lower Town” where the officers are known to play “fast and loose” with the rules, often putting in their police reports that they Mirandized the suspect when they did not, putting down false information in an affidavit to get a warrant, and, using excessive force when arresting a suspect. The cops in Lower Town seem to have an “us against them” mentality where their job is to “get the bad guys,” and they take whatever steps they feel is needed to get the job done.
After reading the article for our Issue Spotting project I was blown away by just how many ethical issues are evident in these reports. There are reports of officers that are bending, twisting, and just downright breaking the law in many of these interviews. Whether they are doing this because they want to catch the bad guy, no matter what the cost, or they are doing it for some sort of sick personal gain, it is wrong and they should be held accountable for their actions.
• The first issue that I see is with the interview with the officer that was not involved in the case. There is a serious ethical concern here if the officer that is using Lois as an informant is allowing her to break the law and get away with it so that he can continue to use her as an informant. Now I know that this is a very touchy subject because many people would say that you have to fight fire with fire. But honestly if we as police officers start to break the law to catch the people that are breaking the law then haven’t we just become the exact thing we are fighting to stop? The interview states that the police officer would know that Lois was violating her parole by having drugs in her possession when he would meet with her. It states that he would do nothing because she was a valuable asset to them. I see the positive that is coming from using Lois but I still do not believe that it is ethical to break the law to catch criminals. If we as police officers don’t obey the law then we are the same as the criminals.
• The next interview that caused me to raise an eyebrow would be the one with the local convenience store owner. In this particular example I don’t know that it is necessarily an ethical issue, but maybe more of an ethical concern. The store owner says that he gives out free coffee to all the officers that stop in to his store to ask how things are going in the neighborhood. This is a very slippery slope and can become unethical very quickly if an officer is not careful. Accepting free coffee is not inherently wrong in and of itself but if it leads to more, and it many times does, then the officer has crossed a line. Many officers begin to justify things by saying that society owes them for all they do and before they know it they not only took free coffee they also took a “free” sandwich and bag of chips. This is why I say that this is not an ethical issue yet but it is a very dangerous thing to take part in and I personally will not accept anything for free when I am on the job. Not only can this lead to justification of taking other things but it can also lead to favoritism when dealing with the store owner on the street and that is also wrong.
• The very next interview with the nearby bar owner is the absolute perfect example of what I am talking about. The bar owner states that he is friends with the cops so he doesn’t have to worry about violence at his bar. Now if this was the extent of what he said I wouldn’t see any ethical issues here. But he goes on to say that he makes sure that he takes good care of the officers when they come into his bar on Sunday to watch football. I don’t know if this means that he treats them differently than he does other customers but regardless it is causing the officers to show favoritism towards this bar owner and his customers. He states that the cops don’t hassle his customers like they do to other customers that are leaving any other bar. If these cops are trying to stop drunk drivers then they should be looking around all the bars and not leaving his bar alone because he gives them free beer or whatever it is he does for them. This is very unethical and is the perfect example of a cop taking advantage of a service that would not be offered to the normal person and it results in the cop showing favoritism towards this bar owner.
• There is an obvious issue if the media account and what is claimed in it is true. Dispatch knows that they are supposed to call someone back if the call gets disconnected like in the situation described here. It obviously was unethical for the person working in dispatch to not call the lady back but what is even worse is that their PD tried to cover their mistake up by saying originally that no such call had been made to them. If someone makes a mistake they need to own up to it and not try to sweep the issue under the rug. In the end it does state that after further inquiries the PD did state that a call was received from the victim on the date of the murder. This to me just shows a pattern of gross unethical behavior that is affecting even the higher ranks in this department. They attempted to cover up their mistake by lying about it instead of just owning up to what was done.
• The interview with Maria Frank is very upsetting on many levels. Police officers are supposed to protect the general public at all costs and above all else be trustworthy. This cop failed miserably at both! This is a perfect example of an officer that clearly has the “us against them” mentality deeply engrained inside him. Pretty much everything this officer did was unethical in this situation. First off he willingly got this woman to rat out the gang knowing full well that it would put her in danger and they would have no way of protecting her. Then atop that he lied to her saying that they would protect her if she told him what she knew. It wasn’t until she found out on her own that she realized that their PD had no money for witness protection and she was basically a sitting duck! I don’t really care what this officer thinks he achieved by getting the information from this woman. What he did was clearly wrong and he should lose his job for intentionally putting someone in a clear path of danger.
• The interview with Joey Tanner has a couple of ethical concerns to consider. Now I don’t know if it is legal for an officer to lie to a suspect, like the detective did in this interview, when they are interviewing them but I personally think this is unethical. Now in this situation I can see the benefit of what the detective did and it obviously worked because he got Joey to tell him everything including where he could find the gun. Me personally, I don’t think it is right to lie to someone about what you have on them. Maybe I am just naive because I have never done any sort of police work but I just feel like as an officer of the law we are called to a higher standard than lying and being deceitful.
• In the interview that takes place with an informant named Billy Knowles you can see clear ethical issues. This department seems to be more and more corrupt as I continue to read. You’ve got cops that are lying, showing favoritism, breaking the law, and now leaking vital information to a drug dealer of all people. Now in this specific interview it appears that what Billy is telling the officers is second hand information if not completely just his own assumptions. Now if what he says is true then the PD has a rat in their agency that is leaking very sensitive information to a local drug dealer for some reason. In the interview it sounds like Billy doesn’t have any proof of this but he is just assuming that Anthony is being informed because everyone else’s drug rings have been busted but his miraculously never gets busted. While this definitely seems suspicious it is not proof of anything and at this point is just Billy guessing. If what Billy claims is true then there is an officer that has clearly abandoned everything he swore to uphold when he put on his badge for the first time.
• The interview that took place at the jail raises probably the biggest concern of all. If what the inmate says is true then the detective that interviewed the real killer purposely overlooked it and charged the wrong man with the murder of Lois. The inmate in this interview claims that Anthony never actually admitted to being the shooter but he insinuated that he was. Anthony then went on to insinuate that he and the detective that interviewed him had an understanding of sorts. I’m not really sure what this means exactly but apparently it means that the detective chooses to purposely not do his job and just charge someone else with the murder regardless if they actually committed it or not.
• In the last interview that took place the anonymous police officer was asked to talk about what the culture was like at his agency. He responded that it really depends on what precinct you are in. The cops that he describes in lower town are the key example of what is ruining this agency both physically and their reputation. Cops that develop the us against them mentality tend to act exactly like these cops where they break the law to catch the lawbreakers. They essentially make themselves criminals so they can catch criminals easier. This is a wrong mentality to adopt and it inevitably leads to this kind of behavior. We as police officers are to uphold the law at all costs, not break the law so we can catch criminals easier. This defeats the whole purpose of having cops. We may as well just pay thugs to clean up our streets because that is exactly what these cops have become.
This department is in dire need of some housecleaning. What I mean by that is there are too many corrupt cops that are being allowed to continue working even though they have continuously broken the law themselves. Officers like the ones described in the interviews are a poison that will ultimately destroy the agency from the inside out and they need to be gotten rid of. When you allow this kind of criminality to creak into your agency it will only grow and get worse over time. These officers need to be fired and replaced by men and women with a higher ethical standard that desire to uphold the law above all else.
You’ve organized your thoughts and identified the ethical issues. Now it is time to analyze those issues in a systematic and scholarly way.
For this next phase of your project you conduct research on the various ethical problems that appear in the case. You look to applicable ethical rules and standards that apply to law enforcement personnel, and thoughtfully consider those problems using your critical thinking skills. If you conclude that the behavior identified can be classified as “police corruption,” you should identify what kind of corruption it is. As part of this analysis, you address whether issues of “noble cause corruption” and the “code of silence” apply in to the situations explored in this case. Your analysis should demonstrate your understanding of ethical principles and theories.
Deciding what is wrong and right defines daily routines of criminal justice professionals. Although most of the laws are written down, they find themselves in many situations where they are supposed to make decisions putting into consideration what is possible, practical, and ethical (Chelf, 1953). In the case presented, the ethical obligation of the prosecutor is to establish the truth in the metropolis murder case. First, it is difficult for the investigator to know whether Maria Frank, one of the best friends for Lois, is telling the truth about what happened on July 24. According to her, she was with the victim on the day when a commotion between Lois and a drug dealer started. She saw an individual pull Lois out of her house to the garage, and then heard sounds of a scream, struggle and a gun shot. Maria Frank may fabricate the evidence in order to incriminate William Tanner, if she has anything personal against him. Secondly, the investigator may face an ethical dilemma in deciding whether to charge Antony Landon or not in regard to his involvement in the murder. Although he is the one who drove tanner from the scene of crime, he claims he was not aware that tanner had already killed Lois. It may be true that Landon was not aware of what had happened, but there is still a possibility that he could be hiding the truth and his involvement in the illegal drug business.
Another major ethical dilemma in this case is establishing the truth about the relationship that detective manning had with the victim. Lois was known as a drug user by the metropolis police department, and had already charged with 3 convictions for being related in crimes related to drugs. Despite these crimes, Louis was still free since they believed that she provided crucial information regarding crimes in the area. The detective manning knew Lois had drug in her possession when they met but he did not arrest her because she is an important informant. He also knew that Lois violated probations terms and purchased drugs, but he did not report the issue to the concerned officer due to the same reasons. The manning detective and the entire department were facing a dilemma of whether to charge Lois for her crime or keep Lois for her crucial information. They had to decide if they were to let her continue with her crime so long as she continued to help them fight crime.
The cops who visit Raoul Garcia also face an ethical dilemma whether to accept free coffee during their patrol in the area. They do not know whether they should compromise their standards and accept free items against the law or to take it and satisfy their needs. Joe Sampson, the owner of the nearby bar also states how he has befriended several cops who visit his bar on their patrol. He says he ensures the that the cops are taken care of when they visit his bar to watch the football game on Sundays. This is an example of “police corruption” in the form of “noble cause corruption”, where police officers receive gifts from the public in order to enjoy their protection (Creamer, 2005). The investigator also does not know whether to believe the information from the media regarding the call from the victim for help, or to believe the claim from MPD officers. The investigator does know whether to use legal means to get private information from MPD officers or just to believe what they claim. The MPD in this case are using “code of silence” to hide information from the investigator claiming data privacy restrictions