Racism in Arizona: An Interview with the Attorney representing the Sober Man who was Charged with a DUI

CC image Wikipedia.orgLast week, we featured a story on our blog about Jessie Thornton, an Arizona man who was arrested and charged with DUI despite blowing a .000 on the breathalyzer test. Friday we spoke with Marc J. Victor, the attorney who is representing Jessie in his case against the city of Surprise, Arizona. Mr. Victor was gracious enough to provide us with some interesting notes about the case.  Check out the transcript of the interview below.

1. I took a look at the various incident reports and police statements, but I couldn’t find how Jessie preformed on the physical field sobriety tests. Did Jessie pass the physical test, or did the test give the police cause to bring him downtown? 

“Well it depends on who you ask. If you ask the police, he didn’t pass. Jessie told them about his knee and toes, and his upcoming surgery, but they still decided to detain him. If you ask the drug recognition expert who examined Jessie at the station, he’ll tell you Jessie passed all of his tests. The DRE said he showed no signs of impairment.”

2. Mr. Thornton has had a few run-in’s with the Surprise Police Department in the past. Do you think he is personally being targeted?

“The past incidents do nothing but corroborate our case against the city. Jessie was charged with harassment by the SPD, but that was later dismissed. There was another time when he was cited for not having his license. His wallet was in his gym bag in the back of his vehicle but the officer would not let him retrieve it. Another time he was stopped and asked to provide his insurance information. He had just gotten an updated card and accidently handed the cop his expired card. He told the cop he knew it was current. He then found his current card and tried to give it to the officer, but he said it was too late, he had already started writing the ticket.”

3.  Do you think this was a case of racial profiling?

“It certainly looks like it, but that’s what we’re working to find out. We’re trying to find out if others have been subjected to similar incidents with the Surprise Police Department.”

 4.  The demographics of Arizona show that the state is 57% white, but in Surprise it’s 86% white. Have you heard of or dealt with any other cases involving the SPD that had similar racial implications? 

“There has been a lot of racially charged cases involving the Hispanic community and immigration laws. Judge Snow recently ruled that some police departments were illegally stopping people they thought were undocumented immigrants.”

Mr. Victor was referring to the recent ruling against Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arapio and his department. The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Department was sued over alleged racial profiling against Hispanics. Judge Snow found that Arapio and his department violated the rights of Hispanics through illegal detentions and racial profiling. The department has been forbidden from using race as a reason to stop a car and detain its passengers in order to verify citizenship unless there is “reasonable belief” that a crime has been committed.

5.  How is the case proceeding against the city? What stage are you at?

“We have filed a notice of claim, and we intend to file the lawsuit by the end of the year.”

In addition to speaking with Appelman Law Firm, Mr. Victor directed us to an interview he did on the Double Wide Radio Network with Jessie.  It’s an enthralling interview that allows Jessie to share his side of the story. Check it out.

We’ll certainly be following the case as it plays out, and we wish the best for Jessie and Marc. We’d also like to thank Marc Victor and his firm at Attorney for Freedom for speaking with us about the incident.

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Avery Appelman

Avery Appelman is a criminal defense lawyer and the founder of Appelman Law Firm. While his practice is primarily recognized for its work with DWI and related offenses, he has 16 years of experience working with clients on drug, assault, theft, traffic, criminal sexual conduct, and prostitution charges.

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