You’ve probably seen plenty of “frame-ups” on television crime shows and in the movies, but the sad truth is that innocent people can also be framed or “set up” for crimes in real life. Ordinary, law-abiding citizens are framed most frequently for drug crimes or for crimes of violence that they did not commit. “Framing” is a frightening reality for many criminal defendants. Yes, you really could be framed for a crime, and it happens more frequently than we would like to admit.

The cops who investigate crimes are human, and in most cases, they try to use logic and “follow” the evidence wherever it leads. Sometimes they make mistakes, but when someone is acting behind the scenes to manipulate the evidence, and the cops don’t know it, they are even more likely to accuse the wrong person of a crime. Sometimes, it may even be the cops who are doing the framing. If you are charged with a crime but you believe that you are being framed – or if you have no idea where the evidence against you is coming from – you must speak at once with an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Those who have lived in the Long Beach area for a few years may remember the case of Brian Banks. Banks was framed for the crime of rape, and the five years he wrongly spent in prison probably ruined his chances for a career in the NFL. In 2002, during his senior year in high school, Banks, a young football star with great prospects, was accused of rape by a classmate named Wanetta Gibson. Rather than face the possibility of more than forty years in prison, the young Banks offered a false confession and served a five-year sentence. After Banks left prison, he was unexpectedly contacted by Ms. Gibson, who personally admitted to Banks that she had fabricated the entire story. What Ms. Gibson did not realize during her own confession was that Banks was recording her. Banks’ conviction was finally reversed, ten years after he was first accused. Banks now works for the NFL Department of Operations and as a spokesperson for the Innocence Project.

As difficult as that five-year prison ordeal was for Brian Banks, at least he wasn’t framed for a capital offense or wrongly sentenced to die. In 1977, Randall Adams was found guilty of murdering Dallas police officer Robert W. Wood. Adams spent the next twelve years in prison and came within three days of being executed in 1979, but U.S. Supreme Court Justice Lewis F. Powell, Jr., ordered a stay of execution, and in 1980, Adams’ death sentence was commuted to life in prison. In 1988, the real killer of Officer Wood, a man named David Harris, admitted to the murder, and Adams was finally released from prison in 1989.

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HOW MANY ARE WRONGLY CONVICTED?

The Innocence Project is a national litigation and public policy organization founded in 1992 and dedicated to exonerating wrongly convicted individuals and reforming the criminal justice system to prevent future wrongful convictions. The organization says that between two and five percent of all inmates currently incarcerated in the United States are innocent. That means that possibly more than 100,000 people in the U.S. have been falsely convicted or framed for crimes that they did not commit. With such stunning statistics, it is imperative for everyone to understand what steps to take if you believe that you are being framed for a crime.

If you are under investigation for a crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer at once. Your attorney may be able to intercede in the investigation before any charges are filed or may even be able to keep charges from being filed. In many cases, if you are being framed for a crime and you retain an attorney immediately, the frame can be exposed early, especially if there is little or no evidence to support it. If you are arrested and charged with a crime that you did not commit, you have the right to remain silent while being questioned by law enforcement investigators, and you have the right to have your lawyer present during any and all questioning.

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WHAT MUST YOU DO IF YOU ARE FRAMED FOR A CRIME?

Always be friendly to investigating police officers and express a cooperative attitude, but always firmly insist on your rights. Do not consent to any search of your person, vehicles, home, or place of business. Even if you have nothing to hide, make sure that officers obtain a warrant before they conduct a search. Never directly confront someone that you believe is framing you for a crime. Instead, put your case completely in the hands of an experienced defense lawyer, and in southern California, in the hands of an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

The case currently in the public eye that involves a possible frame-up is the Wisconsin case of Steven Avery, the subject of the recent and controversial Netflix documentary Making a Murderer. For the few who haven’t seen this blockbuster film, Avery is currently in prison for the murder of a young woman named Teresa Halbach, but the filmmakers present powerful evidence suggesting that Wisconsin police planted evidence and framed Avery for the murder. One investigator goes even further. He claims that Avery was not only framed by the police after Ms. Halbach’s murder, but he says that a third party set up Avery from the beginning.

That investigator is named John Cameron. A retired police detective from Great Falls, Montana, Cameron has worked on FBI serial killer task forces, and his cases have been featured on America’s Most Wanted and Dateline NBC. He believes that Teresa Halbach was killed and Steven Avery was framed by a man named Edward Wayne Edwards. Cameron also believes that Edwards committed dozens of murders and framed dozens of innocent people for those crimes in a killing career that lasted for more than half-a-century.

It’s the ultimate conspiracy theory. In his book It’s Me, Edward Wayne Edwards: The Serial Killer You Never Heard Of, Cameron describes the life of Edward Wayne Edwards and theorizes that Edwards was responsible for dozens of well-known murders over the last half-century. Cameron makes a remotely-plausible case that Edwards was the Zodiac killer, the Atlanta child killer, and that he also killed Jimmy Hoffa, Jon-Benet Ramsey, Chandra Levy, Teresa Halbach, and dozens of others while framing the supposedly innocent – like Steven Avery and Wayne Williams in Atlanta – for those murders. By the time you finish Cameron’s book, you may wonder why he didn’t blame Edward Wayne Edwards for the Kennedy assassination and the Lindbergh kidnapping too. Edward Wayne Edwards died in prison in Ohio in 2011. There is no doubt that Edwards murdered five people: two in Ohio in 1977, two in Wisconsin in 1980, and one in Ohio in 1996. Cameron’s theory is spectacular and wild, but the problem is – it’s possible. Cameron does not prove that Edwards committed any of those more famous murders, but he proves that Edwards could have committed the crimes and framed the suspects. And if Cameron is right about even one of the murders where he implicates Edwards, it’s frightening.

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IS “I WAS FRAMED” AN EFFECTIVE DEFENSE?

If you are charged with a crime, whether it’s drug possession or some other charge, and your defense is that the police planted evidence to frame you, you must present strong and persuasive evidence, because the courts presume that law enforcement officers generally act in good faith in the performance of their duties. The reality is that “I was framed” is more likely to be a successful criminal defense when it is offered by a defendant with no significant criminal history. Defendants who have previous criminal convictions will probably have a much harder time persuading a jury that they were set up.

Remember, however, that if you are charged with any crime, you cannot be convicted unless the state can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and that’s not always easy. An experienced criminal defense attorney will examine every detail of the case and the evidence against you, and if there is any flaw or error in the state’s case, your attorney will exploit that flaw or error to cast doubt on the charges against you. If your rights were violated during an interrogation, a search, or during your arrest, tell your attorney. If you believe the evidence against you was planted or has been corrupted, again, tell your attorney. Most frame-ups fall apart when they’re thoroughly investigated, and alleged “criminal masterminds” like Edward Wayne Edwards are more apt to ply their trade in movies and conspiracy theories than in real life.

If you are charged with a drug crime or a crime of violence, whether or not you suspect that you are being framed, you must have high-quality legal representation at once. Don’t try to act as your own lawyer – far too much is at risk. Don’t confess, admit, or agree to anything until you’ve consulted with an attorney. As soon as possible after any arrest, contact a good criminal defense lawyer, and in southern California, get the legal help you need immediately and contact an experienced Los Angeles criminal defense attorney.

By: Douglas Miranda

Los Angeles criminal attorney Douglas Miranda graduated with honors from California State University, Los Angeles, and earned his J.D. from Western State College of Law in Fullerton. Since his admission to practice law in California, he has received special training and certification in forensic science, jury selection, and sex crime defense. Mr. Miranda also helps clients terminate their probations early and expunge their criminal records.

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