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TO SEE OR NOT TO SEE

In Tulsa, Oklahoma, a man was arrested in connection with a robbery/homicide that occurred in a convenience store. Based on a description given by a witness on the street, the police picked up a man who lived several blocks away from the store. During questioning, the accused man told police that he was innocent and was nowhere near the store at the time the crime took place. But since he had been alone at the time he had no witnesses that could back him up.

At deposition, the defense attorney questioned the witness about how clearly he was able to see the man leaving the store. The witness stated that he had a “clear shot” from where he was standing, and was able to see “everything”. After hearing this, the attorney contacted COMPUWEATHER. The forensic meteorologist in charge of the case performed an analysis of the weather for the entire day with added emphasis on what was occurring at the exact time that the crime took place. His research determined that it was cloudy at the time. Very cloudy in fact, with low-hanging, dark clouds overhead. In addition, a thin layer of fog and haze had been present. Visibility was the key issue. The meteorologist estimated that at the time the crime took place, “good” visibility would have occurred at a distance of 150 feet or less. From 151 feet to 225 feet, visibility would have been “fair”. At distances beyond 225 feet the visibility would have been extremely restricted. The witness was approximately 350 feet from where he saw a man leave the store.

The defense attorney presented this evidence to the Assistant District Attorney handling the case. With little in the way of additional evidence, the testimony of the witness was critical for the prosecution’s case. With that testimony now of questionable credibility, the DAs office dropped the charges against the man. More than two years later a man already in prison for another crime was charged with the robbery and murder at the convenience store. He had made the mistake of bragging to his cellmate about the crime. The cellmate turned him in.