3/30/2005 Newsletter


  • Alicia Smith Trial

For the past two weeks, we've been observing the pretrial and now trial of Alicia Smith.  You'll recall that Alicia is the young woman who was unfortunate enough to have her head smashed through the back windshield of a MPD squad car.  She has been charged with FELONY obstructing legal process.  Her real "crime"?  She was involved in a domestic dispute and was running from her abuser, who had beaten her and was threatening her with a gun when she saw a cop car.  She ran to the car screaming, "help, help, he's going to beat me" and put her arm inside the car to get the cop's attention.  Apparently, this startled the cop, Michael Pfaff, who swung the car door open to shove her away from the car then roughed her up and arrested her while she tried to explain what was happening.  To make his point, he slid her across the trunk of the car and rammed her head through the back window of the squad.

Long after the incident was over, Pfaff came up with the story that Ms. Smith tried to reach for his gun--a story that has been contradicted by witnesses who have testified so far.  Even the radio transmissions and the squad car tape of the event contradict the cop's testimony, since he never once mentioned any attempt at getting his gun or an officer in danger, etc.  He tried to claim that she was "crazy" and that she kept saying, "help, they're trying to eat me."  As he was testifying, his story morphed so that during cross examination it began to sound as if she had gone for his gun at least four or five times.  It sounded to this court watcher like Pfaff couldn't quite keep his story straight.  During his testimony, he was asked repeatedly to demonstrate his actions.  At one point, defense attorney Jill Clark showed that when he claimed that Ms. Smith had "gone for his gun" he was actually pushing his hip with his gun holster against her hands, which were handcuffed behind her back.  How that translated into willful action on her part is anyone's guess.

At one point during yesterday's hearing, a witness for the state testified that she saw a terrified woman begging the cop for help and then saw the cop attack the woman.  Apparently that's not what the prosecution wanted her to say.  The prosecution then scrambled to try to impeach their own witness!

In fact, this woman had given a statement to the police by tape but the investigator had the tape transcribed (to the police's liking) and then destroyed the original tape--an illegal destruction of evidence.  The woman testified that the police transcript did not accurately reflect what she had said.  This was an issue of contention during pretrial, when that cop testified that the homicide division routinely "recycles" (destroys) tapes.  Judge Jack Nordby read that cop the riot act for destroying evidence and told her that her department had seriously damaged this case and any other cases in which similar evidence destruction had occurred.  It was a priceless moment to behold.

Seeing their case about to crash and burn, the prosecution then came after the large number of court watchers.  They complained to the judge about us wearing out October 22 buttons in court and hinted at a possible mistrial.  While the judge agreed we have a First Amendment right to wear them, he "warned" us about trying to influence the jury.  This, after an off-duty cop swaggered into court in full dress uniform to testify a few days ago AND a bunch of cops showed up yesterday morning outside of the courtroom (while the jury was still in the hall) to protest the fact that they had been subpoenaed to appear.  Not to mention that the county attorney's office has a cabal of prosecutors camped out in court every day (in addition to the two actual prosecutors who are trying this case) at taxpayer expense.  Who, exactly, is trying to influence the jury?

The prosecution is expected to rest their case today and then the defense witnesses will start.  This is a fascinating case and one of the best court watch opportunities we've ever been involved in.  If you can make it down to the Hennepin County Government Center, room 955, for even a little while, it will be worth it.  Court has been starting at 9:00 or 9:30 a.m. each day and generally stops for lunch from 12 noon to 1:30 p.m. then runs again until 4:30 p.m.  Friday's hearing will start at 9:00 a.m. and end at 1:00 p.m. for the day.  You can call our hotline at 612-874-7867 to check the schedule before coming down.  Help us keep the courtroom packed.
Communities United Against Police Brutality
3104 16th Avenue S
Minneapolis, MN 55407
Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867)

  • Michelle Gross
    published this page in 2005 Newsletters 2016-09-19 00:06:25 -0500

Get our Newsletter or Volunteer Donate Contact Us


get updates