There was no love in the courtroom yesterday between the defense and the prosecution in a high-profile shooting case that sparked an uproar over police brutality.
But there were plenty of histrionics. And, for the armchair lawyers in the audience, there was a bonus legal lesson.
Defense attorney D. Scott Perrine passionately put forth an unprecedented argument on behalf of alleged shooter Pete Hopkins, one of three men assaulted by police. The beating was caught on tape by a Fox 29 news helicopter.
Perrine argued that a judge should dismiss all charges against Hopkins because he was denied a preliminary hearing within the 10 days required by law. Under the law, a hearing can be held later than 10 days if there is good cause for the delay.
Hopkins and two other suspects - Dwayne "Lionel" Dyches and Brian Hall - had been slated for a preliminary hearing on May 16. But that hearing was postponed until July after Municipal Court Judge Jacquelyn Frazier-Lyde recused herself without explanation, and witnesses for the prosecution failed to show. At the time, Perrine asked for an "emergency" judge to be dispatched to hear the case in Frazier-Lyde's place. The request was denied.
During yesterday's hearing, Perrine suggested that the longer his client sits in jail on $1 million bail without a preliminary hearing, the more time police have to change their story surrounding the May 5 shooting at 4th and Annsbury streets. He asserted that police had concocted the facts in the case to justify a car stop that ended with Hopkins, Dyches and Hall on the ground as police kicked and stomped them.
"That's why the preliminary hearing is so important, because you get people on the record," Perrine said.
Assistant District Attorney Christopher Diviny characterized Perrine's argument as speculation and "mere pandering to the press." Diviny noted that Hopkins is charged with an "extremely violent crime," adding that police recently recovered the gun allegedly used by Hopkins to shoot and injure three men.
"There is a ballistics match to a gun," Diviny said. "This is not some shifting sands that [Perrine] would lead you to believe."
Diviny also stressed that the initial preliminary hearing was postponed for "good cause." Frazier-Lyde had recused herself to avoid an "unspecified" perceived or potential conflict, Diviny said.
While listening to both sides, Municipal Court Judge Frank Palumbo seemed a tad frustrated and sometimes bemused.
"It's a creative and clever argument," Palumbo said. "I've never heard it before."
Palumbo said that if every defense attorney argued that the charges against his client should be dropped because the preliminary hearing got continued, more than 70 percent of the defendants in Philadelphia would go free.
"That's not going to happen in Philadelphia," Palumbo said. "It's not been done that way. It just doesn't make sense. . . . Your [motion] is being denied." *