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Homicide trial delayed by lost remote control

Weary cops unable to copy CCTV footage

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A homicide trial in Stamford, Connecticut was delayed by up to eight months by incompatible CCTV videos and a lost remote control, The Advocate reported today.

Benton Dawes, 46, stands accused of killing 34-year-old Vaness "Boo-Boo" Ford in a Stamford bodega (or corner-shop) last July. According to Stamford cops, the two had quarrelled previously in a bar. When they encountered each other in the shop, a fight broke out. Ford apparently "pummelled" Dawes with bottles of baby food. Dawes supposedly responded harshly, shooting his adversary fatally in the throat.

The battle was captured by the store's CCTV, but it seems that this was an old-fashioned time-lapse system which recorded a few still images each minute. Such tapes don't play well on ordinary VCRs, and so the Stamford cops purchased a specialist machine. Richard Conklin, the chief of detectives, said that this cost "hundreds of dollars". Investigators, prosecutors and defence lawyers then watched the footage together, successfully.

The problems started later, when the defence requested their own copy of the tape. Apparently the cops used a regular VCR to make the copy, which corrupted it. The copy was described in court records as "useless".

Only the newly-purchased machine could make a useable copy. But the police had lost the remote control that went with it.

Prosecutor James Bernardi told a judge that police were "getting funds to buy a new remote, but they had to go through whatever red tape you go through".

"We should not be bogged down on these rinky-dinky issues," responded Judge Robert Devlin. "I mean, for the cost of the lawyers in this hearing already we spent more than to go to a Circuit City and buy a remote to fix this thing."

Bernardi and Conklin later told The Advocate that they did not know why the police needed a new remote. Neither commented on any likelihood of the special VCR perhaps having been placed on a very high shelf, or of footsore plods being unwilling to operate it manually.

Dawes has been free on bail since the day after his arrest. The charges against him have since been reduced from homicide to manslaughter, "about the time defense lawyers filed a motion requesting copies of the tapes," The Advocate notes. ®

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