August 12, 2012 | By: John Pretti Of Examiner.Com
A settlement has been reached for the false arrest of Mr. Keith Griffin in 2010 against the city of Tallahassee. Mr. Griffin was arrested on the charge of burglary of a church and apprehended in front of his family based on his fingerprint being found on a personal check at the scene. The Tallahassee Police Department (TPD) investigator and the evidence technician never talked to each other, nor communicated where the print was found. The TPD investigator obtained an arrest affidavit based on her probable cause belief that Mr. Griffin committed the crime.
In the process of preparing to take the case to trial, an assistant state attorney noticed that the fingerprint was on a personal check made out by the church to Mr. Griffin several years ago. The investigator never questioned Mr. Griffin during her so-called investigation and claimed that her attempts to locate him were unsuccessful. Mr. Griffin is employed in Tallahassee and works for the state and it should have been easy to locate him either at work or at home. After being contacted by the state attorney’s office and shown the check, Mr. Griffin explained that the check was given to him by the church for being a musician the church hired 14 years ago.
It is believed that the fingerprint “lifted” from the check by the TPD evidence technician was put on the check at the time the check was cashed by the bank. The TPD investigator never saw the check and only went with the information that Mr. Griffin’s print was “found” at the scene. In the haste to charge Mr. Griffin with the crime, the TPD investigator assumed the print was placed on the check at the time of the burglary. This action certainly borders on misfeasance or the performance of an official duty in an improper manner.
Mr. Griffin sued the city for false arrest and the city had offered several settlements, but their attempts were rebuked as not sufficient for the harm done to him. This examiner was asked to appear as an expert witness on behalf of Mr. Griffin since it appeared that the case was headed to a civil trial. This examiner is a certified fingerprint examiner, but had to withdraw the request due to a possible conflict of interest with TPD. This examiner, however, was able to provide written expertise to the case. This examiner’s review of the case management clearly revealed that there were no communicatins between departments or any attempt to contact Mr. Griffin prior to the arrest.
Last week the city agreed to settle the pending law suit for payment of $35,000 and a letter signed by the Tallahassee Chief of Police stating “that subsequent investigations and events totally exonerated Mr. Griffin.” The investigator was moved to a different position within the department; however no disciplinary action has been taken or is being contemplated according to sources within TPD. TPD sources did state that changes have been made concerning crime scene investigations and evidence communications. They added that the original charges faced by Mr. Griffin were felonies that could have earned him decades of prison time and that this was a serious mistake in current procedures or lack there of.