Phillip D. Prokopowicz, Chief Deputy for the Dakota County Attorney's Office stated that there were five three-ring binders of evidence in the case. There is also a Grand Jury transcript. The Defense has not received any of this evidence despite requesting it 13 days after the indictment. Now, it is likely that there is sufficient evidence for a conviction contained in those documents but, it is possible that there is not. For all we know there are doodles from a BCA Analyst.
I have heard of people hiring a lawyer and pleading guilty and the attorney never even looked at a copy of the police reports. In fact, when I was a prosecutor there were plenty of times I had the defense's copy of the police reports in my file and the attorney stated that their client was going to plead guilty. You never know what is in those reports until looking at them and studying them.
We may not like Brian George Fitch Sr. or what he did, but his attorney must look at the discovery.
What's the Rush?
Many people are up in arms over the fact that Fitch didn't plead guilty yet. I have read several reasons for why people in general feel that Fitch should plead guilty now or at his Omnibus Hearing. For example: Fitch told the cops he did it so he should just plead. Fitch is wasting the taxpayers money. Fitch is wasting the courts time. Officer Patrick's family should not have to go through multiple hearings. Fitch is clearly guilty so he should just plead. All of these points are very valid emotional points. However, our justice system simply does not work that way. I understand the process takes awhile. When I tried a murder case in Hennepin County it took over a year and that was considered fast!
Certain things happen at certain hearings. For example, a judge won't rule on admissibility of evidence at an Arraignment hearing. There is a proper time for a plea.
Fitch is not going anywhere, for now. He is sitting in Oak Park Heights, a maximum security prison, chipping away at his probation violation time without bail on this case. He is getting credit for any jail or prison time that may be ordered concurrent on the case. If bail was issued he wouldn't be released until he had completed his sentence that he was ordered to finish.
Pleading guilty at an arraignment on a Homicide case with this many charges and with a police officer as a victim is pretty much unheard of. It is likely the Judge wouldn't even take the plea. In order to take a plea on this type of a case, arrangements need to be made in advance for the Officer's family and friends to be there if they wish. A sentencing agreement, if applicable, needs to be worked out ahead of time. Facts that are going to be admitted by the Defendant need to be agreed upon by the Defense Attorney and the Prosecutor ahead of time. There is a process to go through and there are particular times that one can plead in court.
Taxpayer dollars are not being wasted. The next hearing is necessary for several reasons. First, it gives the prosecution and defense team time to exchange discovery. It also gives them time to talk. Yep, they talk. What do they talk about? I often tell the prosecutor how bad their case is and why I believe they don't have a good case. But, on cases like this when there is overwhelming evidence against my client, I talk about how we can resolve the case.
Second, this is what the justice system is all about. The hearings are designed to make sure that all of the rules are being followed and that all of the rights of the parties involved are being upheld. Many people forget that the State of Minnesota also has rights.
I sometimes represent guilty people. Did I just type that?! It happens. How can I represent guilty people? Because they need help too. Those are the cases when people need help getting a resolution. They can't plead guilty right away even if their intent is to plead guilty eventually. Entering a guilty plea right away doesn't give us time to mitigate the circumstances. Waiting to plea gives people the time to work on a compromise that won't destroy their lives.
I'm not saying that waiting to plea is for plea negotiation purposes in the Fitch case. In this case, I think it gives the attorney's time to get all their ducks in a row make to give their client the best possible representation. It is a high profile case with numerous charges and voluminous discovery. The attorneys need adequate time to prepare and are definitely not ready to proceed.
I do not represent any of the parties involved in this case and all of the opinions are mine. This is not legal advice. If you want legal advice, give me a call and we can chat. 612-968-1278