CHICAGO (CN) – A man’s arrest for murder was supported by probable cause, even if it also served as an exciting finale for a police reality show, the Seventh Circuit ruled.
“Allowing a reality television program to film an ongoing murder investigation is a recipe for trouble,” the Aug. 17 decision begins. “It is easy to imagine a detective with a looming television deadline cutting a corner to ensure that a suspect is arrested in time for the final episode. Without an arrest, the show has no resolution to satisfy the audience.”
This is exactly what happened to Carlton Hart who was arrested for a deadly November 2008 home invasion in Indianapolis that was the focus of a reality television show called “The Shift.”
Cameramen followed detectives for weeks before Hart’s December arrest, which became the centerpiece of the final episode of the show’s first season.
“As it turned out, though, Hart was the wrong man,” Judge David Hamilton wrote for a three-person panel of the Seventh Circuit. “After he had spent nearly two years in jail awaiting trial, the charges were dismissed and Hart was released. The audience of ‘The Shift’ was none the wiser.”
Multiple witnesses identified Hart as the shooter, but no DNA evidence connected him to the crime scene, and he proved that his cellphone was at his recording studio at the time of the crimes.
The Seventh Circuit conceded Monday that the circumstances surrounding Hart’s arrest were trouble, but reluctantly affirmed the dismissal of his claims that he was arrested without probable cause, and that lead detective Christine Mannina made false statements.
“The central issue in this appeal is whether police had probable cause to arrest Hart,” Hamilton wrote. “The undisputed facts show that they did because four witnesses identified him as one of the shooters. Hart’s efforts to undermine those identifications or otherwise to avoid their decisive effect are not supported by evidence.”
Though Hart claimed that Mannina was false or misleading in the probable-cause affidavit she filed, Hamilton said there is “no evidence that she knew or should have known that the November 22 identifications were unreliable.”
Mannina was paid at least $14,500 for her appearance on the television show. Three other detectives split approximately $10,000. The city of Indianapolis itself received $1,000, and the television company paid for window tinting on the detectives’ quad cars, and new badges for the detectives.
“There are many troubling aspects of IMPD’s investigation, and this case should warn police departments about having their detectives moonlight as television stars,” the decision states. “But on this record, we must affirm. Even the troubling aspects of the investigation do not add up to evidence of a violation of Hart’s constitutional rights.”
Hart did not spend much time as a free man. He was convicted in 2014, along with five other men, of killing a man at his recording studio as part of a rap feud.
Hart’s cousin had been murdered four days before the killing.
Though Hart said he knew nothing about the killing at his record studio when he spoke with police, he soon turned up on video surveillance, buying the zip ties and duct tape used to bind the victim.
Hart was sentenced to 65 years in prison.