Big Brother is watching you.
In Connecticut most arrests are made when the police show up on-site and make an immediate arrest. In many states the other method would be by a grand jury indictment, but not Connecticut. The second method here is where police ask a Superior Court Judge to approve an arrest warrant.
That’s how Raymond Clark was arrested. New Haven police detective Scott Branfuhr applied to Judge Roland D. Fasano for approval of a warrant charging Clark with the murder of Yale graduate student Annie Le. The warrant had originally been sealed, but last week Judge Fasano approved its unsealing and it is a foreshadowing of what the state’s case against Clark will look like.
Like many modern murder cases, the case against Clark is circumstantial; there is no eyewitness or confession. This case is highly dependant on scientific DNA evidence, analysis of blood, hairs and fibers found on clothing and other items to connect samples collected to the humans they belong to.
What is most striking about this case, however, is how dependent it is on two forms of electronic surveillance. Clark and Le’s physical movements at the time surrounding the alleged murder were recorded on video cameras posted inside and outside of the Yale Animal Research Center located at 10 Amistad Street in New Haven. Their movements around the interior rooms of the lab are documented by Clark and Le’s swiping of electronic key cards at interior doors as they moved around the rooms of the lab.
This double whammy of surveillance is noteworthy for a number of reasons. The video surveillance shows the clothing Clark wore when he was in the building where police say he committed the murder. That allows prosecutors to link the evidence of what they claim is Le’s blood found on the boots, for example, to be the boots actually worn by Clark during the commission of the crime. The key card swipes not only place Clark and Le in the rooms where the evidence was found, but put them there at the important times.
How often are our whereabouts documented by electronic surveillance? How often are our movements electronically traceable by our use of a host of the variety of modern day centralized cards we all use like credit cards, toll systems like E-Z Pass, commuter system cards like Metrocard; not to mention e-mails and text messages sent?
Video cameras are everywhere now, in office buildings, stores, parking garages and on street corners. Our comings and goings are taped wherever we go. The combination of the video and the key card evidence New Haven prosecutors have in the Clark case are law enforcement tools I did not have available to me when I was a state prosecutor in the late 1980’s and early 90’s. That, combined with the other electronic footprints people leave behind, are a significant change in how people’s movements will be proven in courtrooms across America.
And it is a sobering reminder that Big Brother is watching. Act accordingly.