Sure, everyone knows that our criminal justice system isn’t perfect. But we’re told it’s still the best in the world. On the other hand, “not perfect” is a far cry from gross incompetence. The following example shows just how incompetent the system can be.
In September 2013, an argument over drugs took place outside a Phoenix apartment complex. It didn’t go well, and one of the men was stabbed. The stabbing victim walked around the complex banging on doors and trying to find help, to no avail. He eventually collapsed on the sidewalk and died. Before he lost consciousness, however, the police arrived and asked the man who stabbed him. He replied, “Frankie.”
Now there are people who live in the apartment complex near where the homicide took place – plenty of them. Two of those people told police they believed that Frankie lived in unit A-11. The problem was that the occupant of that unit was Denny Joseph Rizzo. His name was not Frankie. Or Frank. Or Franklin. Nor was that his nickname. But the cops persisted. They burst through the man’s door with guns drawn, and they proceeded to curse at Mr. Rizzo, and told him he was guilty of murder, and that he was “going to jail forever.” Well, you know how these things go. After a while, they realized that Mr. Rizzo, a former bank officer with no criminal record, was not a likely suspect in the case. In fact, there appears to have been no evidence at all linking him to the crime. No weapon, no blood, no relationship with the deceased – nothing. So most of the officers were content at that point to leave Mr. Rizzo alone and move on to try to catch the man responsible for the crime. All, that is, except an officer whose name we won’t repeat – he’s probably suffered enough embarrassment already – we’ll just call him “Officer H.”
Officer H had a hunch that Rizzo was their man after all. So he arrested Rizzo, who continued to deny involvement, and offered to take a lie detector test. Rizzo languished in jail for more than seven months, with the cops trying to get him to agree to a plea bargain, at which point he was released with an admission that they got the wrong man.
Rizzo says that in the meantime, his home and belongings are gone, he can’t get a job because of the allegations that were made by the police, and his life is ruined. He’s suing the City of Phoenix and the Phoenix PD for false imprisonment and gross negligence, among other things. We’ll be interested to see the outcome of the civil case, and how the PPD will attempt to get out from under what appears at this point to be a glaring case of incompetence.
Law Offices of David A. Black
40 North Central Avenue #1850
Phoenix, AZ 85004