Thursday, November 8, 2012

Photography Is Not A Crime: Carlos Miller's Attorneys Prove it Again.

Miami freelance photographer Carlos Miller likes to challenge authority. Many people say he is a “jerk”. He is a “bit” adversarial when it comes to police press relations and has been cuffed three times for it.

But there is no law that says, you can't be a jerk.

Miller was arrested while documenting city and county police officers evicting Occupy Miami protesters last January. In the days leading up to the eviction, police kept tabs on Miller's Internet posts and singled him out for arrest. 

Nine months after his latest run in, the verdict is out. On Thursday, November 8, Miami-Dade County jury found Miller not guilty for resisting without violence when confronted by Miami-Dade Police Public Information Officer Nancy Perez.

Arrested by a public information officer? That alone should raise a few eyebrows and question what the heck is really going on here.

According to a paraphrase on Miller’s blog, the prosecutor told jurors, a real journalist is supposed to follow police orders without a second thought. A real journalist would never back talk to police. A real journalist would never question a direct police order as to why he was not allowed to stand on a public sidewalk.

One of Miller’s defense attorneys, Santiago Lavandera, delivered a slam dunk, high five closing statement that went like this.

“In this country, when you’re a journalist, your job is to investigate.
Not to be led by your hand where the police want you to see, so they can hide what they don’t want you to see.

No, when you’re a journalist, a real journalist, it’s your job to go find the truth. As long as you are acting within the law as Mr. Miller was, you have the right to demand and say, ‘no, I’m not moving, I have the right to be here. This is a public sidewalk, I have the right to be here.’

He did his job. He has the right to do his job the way he sees fit. It’s not up to these prosecutors to tell anybody, much less an independent journalist, how to do their job. It’s not up to the police officers, it’s not up to a judge or the president.

In this country, journalists do their job the way they see fit.
What he is describing is Cuba. What he is describing is a communist country. The government says you can’t be here because I say you can’t be here. And it’s infuriating to me that a prosecutor would try to get up here and try to convince you that just because a police officer says something, that he has to bow his head and walk away. That is a disgrace to the Constitution of this country.”

Updated 11-9-12
As a photojournalist I’ve been threatened with arrest on numerous occasions both domestic and foreign. Fortunately, I've been lucky. I’ve known when to back off and when to file a complaint. I have never been arrested in over three decades doing my job.

Miller has been arrested three times in five years. It happens when he is on assignment covering a news event but the way I see it his real work begins after the arrest as he blogs about it.

That’s what bothers me about all this. Why should the police embroil themselves into arresting a freelance photographer? I’m sure they have their motives but the perceived lack of knowledge many police officers in the country have on civil rights are failing to protect our tax dollars. Money wasted by unlawful arrests of citizens and journalists and the judicial process that follows, both criminal and civil.

For more on Carlos Miller and this case go to:

On a coincidental side note: The judge in the case, Miami-Dade County Judge Ed Newman and bailiff Tony Nathan are both former Miami Dolphin teammates.

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