THE PROSECUTION OF GARRETT SMITH: TRIAL BY KABUKI THEATER
Kabuki Theater is a traditional Japanese play in which the actors wear flashy costumes and masks. In American politics, Kabuki has become a metaphor for “posturing” or a “performance in which nothing substantive is done.” The mask symbolizes a suggestion that the audience, or public, is being deceived.
In the case of State v. John Garrett Smith, Vancouver Police Department’s Detective Sandra Aldridge built her case on a foundation of “Kabuki Theater”. There is no better way to control a narrative and manufacture an airtight case than to author multiple reports to substantiate your own. That is exactly what Aldridge did.
VPD Officer Ly Yong was first to arrive at the Smith home at 11:27 PM on June 2nd, 2013. According to case records, Yong was heavily involved in locating, arresting and transporting Smith to jail in the early morning hours of June 3rd, and was not cleared from booking until approximately 3 AM.
By 7 AM, Detective Aldridge had arrived at work, been assigned the Smith case, and had allegedly reviewed a six-page single spaced police report submitted by Officer Yong complete with crime scene photos. The report demonstrated an unusually detailed knowledge of the events leading up to and during the altercation that night and included commentary on Mr. and Mrs. Smith's relationship and history. In a later taped deposition interview, Officer Yong stated that she had very limited communication with Smith’s wife or step-daughter that night.
By 9 AM on June 3, Detective Aldridge was at the jail conducting an unrecorded interrogation of Garrett Smith with no witness or lawyer present. She chronicled her observations and belief of Smith’s guilt, heavily weighted with opinion statements, in a 9-page police report as a companion piece to the one alleged to have been written by Officer Yong. The third in the trilogy of police reports was submitted weeks later in the name of Aldridge’s immediate supervisor, Sgt. Andy Hamlin with 7 single-spaced pages of detailed narrative credited to, but not written by, Sgt. Hamlin.
While Detective Aldridge built a cohesive drama in three parts to enter into record as the corroborating testimony of three law enforcement officers, the fabrication created a bumpy road during deposition interviews and at trial. Sgt. Hamlin and Officer Yong were not able to accurately testify to what had been written on their behalf by Kabuki performer, Detective Aldridge. The Prosecuting Attorney called Aldridge back to the stand 7 times during trial –more than any other witness for prosecution or defense—to “rehabilitate” testimony made by her colleagues that conflicted with the narrative she had provided in each of their names.
This is just one of a long list of behaviors in the State’s case against John Garrett Smith that raises ethical questions. It may be common practice for officers to write police reports for other officers. Public records disclosure revealed that Detective Aldridge has authored a probable cause statement for another officer before. She sent it completed and ready for his signature through email after which he thanked her for the favor. However, the example here demonstrates an escalation of dishonesty that qualifies as subornation of perjury and fraud upon the court. This bad act, and others, effectively deprived Garrett Smith of his right to a fair trial.