Justices hear debate over staged photos

Nevada’s Supreme Court justices heard arguments Tuesday in a case that could decide the future of re-enactment photos and computer-generated evidence in trials.

In 2004, Anthony Michael Alcaraz was charged with firing a gun at Metropolitan Police Department officer Dan Drummond when he was trying to pursue Alcaraz in Laughlin. A Clark County District Court jury found Alcaraz, now 22, guilty of attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon. He is in Ely State Prison.

Defense attorneys appealed the case because prosecutors showed jurors photos of a Las Vegas police officer posing as Alcaraz, holding a gun aimed at Drummond.

“A picture is worth a thousand words. Unfortunately in this case, the picture never, in its 1,000-word entourage, never should have been brought before the jury,” Robert Miller, a deputy public defender, told the court while holding one of the photos.

Bill Gang, a spokesman for the Supreme Court, said Tuesday was the first time all seven members of the court have met in Las Vegas to hear a case. The entire court, as opposed to a panel of a few of the justices, heard the oral arguments because the questions surrounding the use of re-enactment photos interested it, Gang said.

The court’s decision on the Alcaraz case could have ramifications for the admissibility of computer-generated evidence in criminal cases, Gang said, though neither side addressed that issue directly.

The arguments before the court focused on the photo, and one of the key points for the lawyers who argued against its propriety was that none of the officers involved in the chase testified they saw Alcaraz hold or fire a gun.

“The problem with the photos and why they were so unbelievably prejudicial was that no one saw him (Alcaraz) with a gun,” Lori Teicher, an assistant federal public defender, told the Review-Journal.

One officer said he saw the defendant hold and aim an object at Drummond, and another officer testified he saw Alcaraz holding a metallic gray object.

Miller argued that to create a photo that portrays the “gray object” as a gun is unacceptable. “They made the leap. … There’s no way it could be found a harmless error,” he said.

While investigating the crime scene, investigators found a spent cartridge and a firearm about 30 feet from where Alcaraz was arrested, prosecutor Ravi Bawa said.

Teicher said, “But there were no fingerprints on the gun, no gunshot residue on his hands, and no one heard or saw it.”

Bawa said the purpose of the photo was to help “the jury to understand where everybody was.” He said Drummond could not see any gunfire because he was taking cover behind a square-shaped utility structure and because cactuses blocked his view, which was difficult to describe to jurors. “You don’t understand what that means until you see it. You have to see it,” Bawa said.

Bawa said the photo depicted the perspective of Las Vegas police officer Steve Leyba, who witnessed the chase and arrest. Leyba said he did not see a gun in Alcaraz’s hand, but Bawa said Leyba testified he saw Alcaraz stop, turn and point a gray metal object at Drummond.

Justice Michael Cherry asked Bawa whether he needed the photos to convict Alcaraz, and Bawa said he did not because of the weapon and a bullet casing at the scene, which matched a casing found at an attempted robbery across the Colorado River from Laughlin in Bullhead City, Ariz., just hours before the arrest.

The victim in that case, who was held up at a drive-through, described a suspect wearing clothes that matched what Alcaraz had on later when he was arrested, Bawa said. That earlier robbery, in which the suspect’s gun went off, is what prompted police in Laughlin to start chasing Alcaraz.

Teicher, who was involved in the case on behalf of Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice, an affiliate of the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, said the Supreme Court also requested the organization weigh in on the subject of admissibility of computer-generated evidence, which with the advancement of technology could be used to re-create a crime for a jury.

“A jury sees something that looks like a video game, and it could be very believable to them, and it’s not even close to reality,” Teicher said.

Computer-generated simulations, which use software to analyze information and draw conclusions, should be required to meet the same standards applied to expert and scientific testimony, she said in the brief she filed.

“You’ve got to have parameters in check to ensure the defendant’s constitutional rights and that it just doesn’t become a movie that’s not based on fact or any type of standards,” she said.

District Attorney David Roger said that to his knowledge prosecutors in Clark County do not use computer-generated animations or simulations to re-create a crime.

He said that sometimes crime scene analysts are not called to a crime scene and that prosecutors go out and take photos that fairly and accurately depict the crime scene as it was at the time of the event.

Metro Asst. Sheriff Brett Zimmerman on Aug. 8 officer-involved shooting
Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Brett Zimmerman met with media Monday to discuss the details of the 14th officer-involved shooting of the year. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Clark County School Board president Deanna Wright on travel expenses
Clark County School Board President Deanna Wright says she followed proper expense protocol in trip to Florida last year.
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program
Matt Kelly Elementary School hosted its third annual Back-to-School Red Carpet Program where community and business leaders joined to welcome students back with an inspirational welcome. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Shooting leaves 1 dead in southeast valley
A man was found fatally shot in the doorway of a squatter apartment after an argument ended in gunfire on Sunday night. Officers responded about 10:30 p.m. to the Silver Pines apartments and discovered the man in a breezeway in one of the buildings. The wounded man died at the scene, despite the efforts of another person, who tried to administer medical aid. Witnesses saw a man and a woman flee the scene, but were unable to give police a clear description.
North Las Vegas unveils new school crosswalk
North Las Vegas councilman Isaac Barron talks about the new school crosswalk in front of CP Squires Elementary School Monday, August 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
LVMPD Briefing on OIS #13
Assistant Sheriff Tim Kelly held a press conference to discuss details of the 13th officer-involved-shoot for the department in 2018. Video shows the moments before the suspect was shot. The shooting, which has been edited out, occurred as the suspect lunged at an officer outside the apartment. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sedan and semitrailer collide in south Las Vegas
An early Wednesday morning crash has left one person in critical condition. A sedan and semitrailer collided around 4 a.m. at the corner of Spencer Street and Serene Avenue. Police do not believe impairment is a factor in the crash. Spencer has been blocked off north of Serene while police continue their investigation.
Cybersecurity Professionals Flock to Las Vegas for Black Hat
Black Hat USA, the largest annual cybersecurity conference, is expecting a record 17,000 attendees during its six-day run at the Mandalay Bay Convention Center this week. One thing attendees have in mind is making sure they don't get hacked while they're there. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Police chase ends with suspects captured in east Las Vegas
An early Tuesday morning chase ended with a car crash in an east Las Vegas neighborhood. Police were pursuing the vehicle, which they say was involved in robberies in Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, when the driver crashed at Owens and Statz Street. A man was taken into custody. A woman was ejected from a vehicle and taken to a hospital with non-life threatening injuries. The intersection at Mojave Road and Owens Avenue was shut down while police officers searched for the suspect and investigated. The intersection will remain closed for most of the morning.
Record number participate in Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony
Three hundred sixty-five medical students received their white coats during the Touro University Nevada White Coat Ceremony at the M Resort in Henderson Monday. The ceremony was developed to honor students in osteopathic medicine, physician assistant studies, nursing, occupational therapy and physical therapy as they accept the professional responsibilities inherent in their relationship with patients. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Stop for school buses, urges CCSD
Clark County School District Police Department hold a mock traffic stop at Centennial High School in Las Vegas, Monday, Aug. 6, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Work Begins at Las Vegas Community Healing Garden
Crews moved the wooden Remembrance Wall at the Las Vegas Community Healing Garden on South Casino Center Boulevard Monday. Construction on a permanent wall is set to begin within the week. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Man wounded outside Cottages apartment
Las Vegas police don't have a motive after a man was shot early Monday morning outside a northwest valley apartment. The man's mother called police to say her son had been shot. She called police around 1:15 a.m. Other people were inside the apartment but no one else was injured. Police are still looking for the shooter.
Ride new Interstate 11 segment in one minute
Interstate 11 opens to the public Thursday, providing sweeping views of Lake Mead, art deco-style bridges and a mural illustrating the construction of Hoover Dam. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Miss El Tiempo 2019
Miss Teen El Tiempo and Miss El Tiempo 2019 were crowned at Sam's Town Saturday, August 4, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Las Vegas Woman Raises Awareness for Anxiety and Depression
Cassi Davis was diagnosed with anxiety and depression after the birth of her second child. After seeking help and support, she felt that there wasn't enough for support for those living day in and day out for those with mood disorders. She created the Crush Run, set for Sept. 22, to raise money for the Anxiety and Depression Association of America and bring together a community of people who live with the same conditions she does. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
North Las Vegas marks the opening of Tropical Parkway connector
The City of North Las Vegas, Nevada Department of Transportation and other partners celebrated the opening of the Tropical Parkway connector to Interstate 15 and the Las Vegas Beltway. The stretch of road will make access easier for distribution centers for Amazon, Sephora and other companies moving into an 1,100-acre industrial area rising near the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bighorn sheep with West Temple in background at Zion National Park
A bighorn sheep walks through Zion National Park (National Park Service)
Adult Superstore location closes after 45 years
The Adult Superstore on Main Street has closed its doors for good after 45 years. The shop, which offered a multitude of adult toys, novelty items and movies, opened in 1973. Four other locations remain open. A note on the front door tells customers, “We can’t fully express our sorrow.” Adult Superstore was awarded Best of Las Vegas adult store by the Review-Journal in 2016 and 2017 .
Funeral held for Las Vegas corrections officer
Department of Public Safety Correctional Officer Kyle Eng died July 19 after a fight with an inmate at the Las Vegas Jail. A funeral was held for Eng at Canyon Ridge Christian Church Monday, July 30, 2018. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
What Back-To-School Shopping Is Like For a CCSD Parent and Teacher
Laura LeBowsky, a CCSD special education teacher and mother of two, set out to shop for her children's supply lists at her local Walmart and Target. She was looking for deals to try to keep the total under $150, while also allowing Chloe, 8, and Brady, 6, some choice in what they wanted. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @MadelynGReese
Businesses struggle to fill food manufacturing jobs
Chelten House is a family-owned food manufacturing company from New Jersey. They created a facility in Vegas five years ago and have struggled to find experienced workers in the area. (Marcus Villagran/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
LeBron heckler crosses line, altercation erupts
NBA superstar LeBron James, his wife, Savannah, and daughter Zhuri were at Liberty High School to watch Bronny James in action Wednesday night. But an unruly fan wearing a Michael Jordan Chicago Bulls jersey heckled the newest Los Angeles Laker. The man screamed at event security with LeBron and his family about 150 feet away. The man had to be restrained, triggering a brief altercation with security. James and his family were escorted out a side door along with Bronny's team, the North Coast Blue Chips. Event officials canceled the game between the Blue Chips and Nike Meanstreets.
Las Vegas Oddities Shop in Downtown Las Vegas
Las Vegas Oddities shop owner Vanessa VanAlstyne describes what's for sale in one of the weirder and wackier stores in Downtown Las Vegas. The store opened less than a year ago and carries everything from human bones to "rogue" taxidermy to Victorian death photography. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trying to Staying Cool in the Las Vegas Heat
Cooling stations like Cambridge Recreation Center's opened across the Las Vegas Valley this week after the National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for the area. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MountainView's nurses protest outside hospital
MountainView Hospital's nurses affiliated with the Nevada chapter of the national Nurses Organizing Committee picketed outside MountainView Hospital Tuesday to urge the hospital to address high turnover rates and understaffing. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Excessive Heat Slams Las Vegas This Week
The National Weather Service issued an excessive heat warning for Tuesday, July 24 through Thursday, July 26 in Las Vegas. People are reminded to limit outdoor activity, drink plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Visit weather.gov/heat for more heat safety tips. (Madelyn Reese/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Burning car in Las Vegas Spaghetti Bowl
Firefighters extinguish a burning car on the Martin Luther King offramp from northbound Interstate 15 in the Spaghetti Bowl in Las Vegas on July 23, 2018.
Fire Department Issues Warning About Water Safety
Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Buchanan made a public safety announcement about water safety after Clark County Fire responded to 27 calls that were classified as drowning incidents between May 1 and July 20. Clark County Fire, Las Vegas Fire & Rescue and North Las Vegas Fire responded to 55 total calls during the same time. (Madelyn Reese/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Taxpayer-funded LVCVA boss negotiating exit pay despite criminal investigation
CEO Rossi Ralenkotter is the third-highest-paid public official in the state He has a pay and benefits package valued at $863,000 annually. Ralenkotter does not have an employment contract He announced his retirement in mid June, amid a scandal over airline gift cards LVCVA bought $90,000 in Southwest Airline gift cards between 2012 and 2017. Now auditors can’t account for more than $50,000 of the cards. Ralenkotter and his family used $16,207 in gift cards on 56 trips. Brig Lawson, the senior director of business partnerships, was responsible for buying and distributing the cards. He recently resigned. Ralenkotter's retirement settlement package could cost taxpayers thousands of dollars.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like