Evidence tampering is a third-degree felony in Texas. It carries a sentence of two to 10 years in a state prison. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of examples of police and prosecutors tampering with evidence to help secure convictions or to cover up their acts.
When police attempt to subvert justice, it’s incumbent on criminal defense attorneys to question evidence and never take anything on face value.
Last month, a grand jury indicted a senior law enforcement officer on a felony evidence tampering charge over the death of a Black man who was stunned multiple times with a Taser in 2019.
Williamson County Sheriff Robert Chody is accused of destroying or concealing video and audio recordings related to the death of Javier Ambler. The indictment stated he allegedly hid or destroyed video and audio recordings “with the intent to impair their ability as evidence in the investigation,” the Texas Tribune reported.
Jason Nassour, a county attorney, was also indicted on an evidence tampering charge, according to the Tribune.
Chody has denied the charge. He has accused the Travis County District Attorney of seeking a scapegoat in the case.
Ambler died last year. Deputies accused him of failing to dim his headlights. A police chase of more than 20 minutes followed.
In June, the Austin American-Statesman published video of Ambler’s arrest. Deputies shocked him four times with a Taser before his body went limp. Ambler told the deputies he could not breathe and had a heart condition. Medics declared him dead in a hospital about an hour after he was tasered, according to the Statesman.
The Tribune reported the incident was caught on camera for an episode of the police reality show “Live PD,” that never aired.
The felony charge against Chody followed months of calls for the sheriff’s resignation by civic leaders and community activists. The deaths of Ambler and Mike Ramos in Austin were taken up by protestors who were angered by the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis earlier this year.
Under state law, evidence tampering charges may be brought against someone who alters, destroys, or conceals any record, document, or another piece of evidence with intent to impair its verity, legibility, or availability as evidence in the investigation or official proceeding.
The charge may also be brought against a party who uses a document or another piece of evidence knowing it is false to influence the outcome of an investigation or an official proceeding. This third-degree felony is charged as a second degree felony if the evidence tampered with is a corpse.
The Innocence Project has highlighted many alleged examples of evidence tampering by police or prosecutors in Texas. In 2011, Michael Morton was exonerated of the murder of his wife after spending almost a quarter of a century behind bars. The prosecutor in the case was later found guilty of prosecutorial misconduct, including tampering with evidence and withholding evidence. Former Texas Governor Rock Perry later signed the Michael Morton Act into law. It requires prosecutors to keep records and turn them over to the defense.
If you or a family member has been accused of a crime, please contact our Dallas criminal defense team as soon as possible.