According to Lawyers Weekly, Leonard H. Cohen has served as the criminal defense attorney in more than 5,000 cases, including 50 first-degree murder cases and hundreds of high-profile proceedings. While amassing his impressive courtroom resume, Cohen repeatedly witnessed the significant impact of crime scene photographs, especially the impact they have on juries. Quite often, such photos have worked against his client, bringing crime scenes to life, effectively securing guilty verdicts.
Crime scene photographs not only paint a powerful picture, they convey to the jury exactly what transpired during the commission of a crime. During criminal proceedings, prosecutors and members of law enforcement typically inundate the jury with a barrage of crime scene photos, snapped meticulously from every conceivable angle, using all types of special lighting. Needless to say, a superior court trial devoid of crime scene photographs would garner serious attention and raise considerable suspicion. Yet while representing me, Leonard H. Cohen stood idly by and raised no issues or concerns when crime scene photograph were absent from my trial.
While testifying in Berkshire Superior Court, Pittsfield Massachusetts police investigator Mark Trapani described for the jury, a particular crime scene where an attempted sexual assault had occurred. An assault for which Trapani had fallaciously arrested me, despite irrefutable proof that I was two towns away at the date/time in question. He’d merely exploited an earlier misdemeanor arrest, by speciously tying me to to a four-month-old felony case he’d embarrassingly been unable to solve.
The incident involved a young woman who was attacked in her car, a white Oldsmobile Alero, parked near the front entrance of a Pittsfield Massachusetts Subway sandwich shop. Under oath, Trapani told the court he’d snapped numerous digital photographs of the victim’s car, focusing intently on the passenger side window, thus capturing latent fingerprint images left by the assailant. Testifying that his photo compilation corroborated his latent fingerprint discovery, Trapani promoted his photographic evidence, expounding its role in establishing me as the perpetrator.
But then a strange thing happened. When asked to present these photographs, Trapani suddenly lost his smugness. Sitting sheepishly in the witness chair, he confessed to the jury that he hadn’t brought them to court.
Hadn’t brought them?
Trapani’s omission of crime scene photos — conveniently, the only way to corroborate his purported latent fingerprint discovery — was irresponsible and completely inexcusable. Unless of course no photographs existed because there were no crime scene latent fingerprints. Omitting crime scene photographs couldn’t have been an oversight. The Commonwealth’s case focused exclusively on a latent fingerprint, a smudged left index fingerprint supposedly discovered on the passenger side window of the victim’s car. Had there been photographs, Second Assistant District Attorney Joan McMenemy would have insisted that Trapani bring them to court.
How did Leonard H. Cohen react to this development? Did he smell blood in the water? Did he pounce on an easy victory on behalf of his client? Did he demand a court recess and request (for the record) that Trapani walk across the street to the police station and retrieve his alleged crime scene photos . . . knowing full well I’d be found not guilty when Trapani returned empty handed?
Leonard H. Cohen, a man who served as the criminal defense attorney in more than 5,000 cases, including 50 first-degree murder cases and hundreds of high-profile proceedings, did absolutely nothing. My family gave Cohen, a supposed man of integrity from the prestigious law firm of Cain, Hibbard, Myers, and Cook, $30,000 of hard earned money, only to watch him let Trapani off the hook. He requested a recess, he never demanded that the crime scene photos be presented in court, and he filed no subsequent motions to have Trapani’s illicit evidence fabrication investigated.
If only I’d been represented by a second-year law student. Someone with no trial experience. Such an individual would have prevented an innocent man from serving the eight-year state prison sentence that Leonard H. Cohen ineptly facilitated.
Lawyers Weekly . . . a lot they know!