A Parade of Officers Testify Using Hearsay Evidence

By Galen Yun

Mr. Willie Flanigan’s case resumed today with the prosecution’s case. The judge allowed police officers to use hearsay evidence over multiple objections by the defense, though not to establish factual elements of the case. The jury will only be able to use the hearsay evidence to understand why the testifying officers acted the way they did after communicating with other officers.

The Deputy District Attorney Asha Jameson began the day with the witness whose stolen car hit Officer Elia Lewin-Tankel in October 2017. The witness testified that her car was missing from where it was parked the day before the collision.

Next on the stand was a witness who saw the stolen car drive past their house and park quickly across from the house. The witness stated that the driver got out, removed the front license plate, then fled the scene on foot.

The witness never saw the victim’s face but testified that he recognized the witness from behind during a “cold show”. The witness asserted that his ability to recognize people so well was due to his many years in the restaurant business.

Ms. Jameson then called SFPD Officer Anthony Scafani, a plainclothes officer assigned to the Narcotics team. Hearing over the radio that the suspect’s name may have been “Marquis” or “Marquez,” Officer Scafani testified that he found a mugshot associated with an alias belonging to Mr. Flanigan, after searching the term “Marq” in an SFPD mugshot database.

He then circulated the picture to other officers searching for the subject who hit Officer Lewin-Tankel.

Officer David Goff testified that during the incident on October 18, 2017, he heard on his radio broadcast that there was an “officer down” on the street of Turk and Franklin. He claims he was told the defendant was driving a stolen Gold Lexus SUV, had possession of a firearm and wearing an orange vest heading towards Golden Gate Park.

As officer Goff headed to his car, he decided to take an unmarked vehicle so that he would be able to blend in with the public and to not be noticed by the defendant. Once he gets to the Golden Gate Park, he finds that the Gold Lexus SUV was located near the park with no suspect in the vehicle.

He noticed a white male near the steps with an orange vest along with a white female. Officer Goff testified that he went up and asked them if they had seen a black male pass through the park wearing an orange vest. Initially, they had told him that they did not see any black male.

After hearing sirens approaching the area, Goff then states that he overheard the white male saying, “I wonder why the black guy gave me this vest”. He then asked the white male how he obtained the orange vest and about the possible suspect’s description.

Officer Goff then showed the witness two of the mugshots obtained by Officer Scafani. The witness identified Mr. Flanigan as the subject.

Defense counsel Alex Lilien frequently raised hearsay objections to Officer Goff’s answers about information given to him by the white male. The orange vest was used for the prosecution’s evidence which was taken from the white male and not the suspect they were looking for.

The next witness that Ms. Jameson called to testify was Officer McEachern. On the day of the incident, this peace officer was contacted on his cellphone from Sgt. Ryan to assist with finding a suspect with possession of a firearm and stolen Lexus SUV.

He stated a “confidential informant” told Sgt. Ryan about the information. It seemed Officer McEachern was minimally involved with the incident given the fact that he never observed the Lexus SUV and never pursued it.

In fact, Sgt. Ryan never even informed him of the name of the suspect they were searching. He was at the scene where Sgt. Elia Lewin-Tankel was injured in that unfortunate collision with the defendant in the SUV. At the end of the day, Officer McEachern wrote the main report of the case incident.

Ms. Jameson sought to enter graphic pictures of Officer Lewin-Tankel’s ICU care into evidence. Outside of the jury’s presence, the judge heard objections raised by Mr. Lilien that the photos may have been prejudicial, potentially biasing the jury.

The judge held that the photos had probative value, helping the jury determine whether Officer Lewin-Tankel’s injuries rose to the level of great bodily injury.

After cross-examination, a juror asked about how an officer is selected to write the main report. Officer McEachern answer was ironic, stating that ideally, it is the officer who was more involved with a given incident.

One would argue that he was not as involved as the other police officers such as Sgt. Goff. Officer McEachern happened to just witness Elia Lewin-Tankel on the ground injured.

Mr. Lilian also questioned the existence and credibility of the criminal informant. Officer McEachern has neither met nor spoken with the informant and testified that he was not sure if the informant existed at all.

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About The Author

David Greenwald is the founder, editor, and executive director of the Davis Vanguard. He founded the Vanguard in 2006. David Greenwald moved to Davis in 1996 to attend Graduate School at UC Davis in Political Science. He lives in South Davis with his wife Cecilia Escamilla Greenwald and three children.

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