Robert Higbee trial on May 28th

The defense case continued today.  Geoffrey Loftus, a really great expert, testified on the issue of memory and attention to support the defense’s theory that the stress of chasing the speeder resulted in Robert Higbee forgetting about the stop sign and then not seeing the sign.  I was a little concerned about Loftus getting a little long winded but  the TruTv reporter indicated that the jury was paying attention.  With these cases, the attorney and the expert need to have some type of code words that indicates that the jury is falling asleep and it is time to speed things up.

If I’m William Subin, Higbee’s attorney, I hammer the fact that the State did not even get into Higbee’s possible memory and attention issues and that the jury would have never leaned about this if it wasn’t for the defense. In addition, the State had the ability to call its own expert and they didn’t.  Of course, Loftus could not say that Higbee had issues with his memory when he made the statement.  Instead, he could only say that Higbee could have developed a false memory due to the events of the case. 

If I’m the prosecutor, I focus on the fact that Higbee is not a rookie; in fact, he teaches rookies.  In addition, it is not as if every state trooper or police officer crashes into other people every day when 1000’s of speeders are pulled over all across New Jersey.  Thus, what is so stressful about  pulling over a speeder, something that he has done 1000’s of times, that would prevent him from seeing a stop sign?  After all, state troopers more so than anyone else, are concerned with safety, traffic controls at intersections, etc. Thus, they should be looking to make sure that the intersection is safe before going through it at 60+ mph.  As a result, I would argue that Higbee could have seen the sign and/or should have known the sign was there and that he blew right through the intersection and then covered it up either intentionally or unintentionally a few weeks later.  

So, there are good issues on both sides.  For all the back and forth, I think this comes down to what the jury thinks about Higbee.  If they like him a lot, they will probably vote not guilty.  If they like the victims more, they will probably vote guilty.  As a result, it is quite possible that this will end in a dead locked jury because opinions about character or a personal attachment to the victims or Higbee  are unlikely to be swayed by factual or legal arguments.  In fact, the more each side is challenged, the more they may dig into their own positions.  Of course, if the juror are more analytical, they will probably say that the State came close, but not close enough and thus, vote not guilty.

Posted on May 29, 2009, in News and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. Hi, I just discovered your blog about the trial and it is very interesting to hear your perspective. I’m hoping your can post comments about the last few days — Higbee’s testimony, and the memory expert from yesterday (Tue.). I thought he damaged the defense’s case by admitting under cross that Higbee was not under any particular stress during the chase — ergo, sort of negates the excuse for missing the stop sign. I thought last week’s memory expert (Loftus) said Higbee’s “tunnel vision” was heightened because he was focused on the speeder’s taillights, causing a more stressful situation. There was even a chart depicting the body’s reaction to various levels of stress. Maybe I’m not “getting it”, but I thought the stress played into the reason for the tunnel vision. Now there’s an admission there was no stress, until right before impact when he apparently saw the girls’ van.

    • whitecollarcrimenews

      Thank you so much for your comment. I only saw part of the second expert because TruTv cut out for another trial. I really didn’t understand the reason to call another expert. I think it was a little too much which could only blow up on them.

      My take on Loftus’ testimony is that he said that Higbee’s attention could be impacted by this or that. As he cannot read Higbee’s mind, he cannot say for sure what exactly happened. Since the State has nothing to really counter Loftus, they had to be careful in how they cross him. As I said in my latest post, the prosecutor should have really focused on the fact that a routine speeder is not so stressful that an experienced trooper throws all common sense and training out the window to do something he has done a 1000 times.

      Regardless, this trial is so unfocused that the jury will likely be so confused that it will come down to how much they like Higbee. A mistrial seems like a safe bet but we still need to see summations which I am sure will be incredibly lengthy and mostly boring.

  2. While I am sorry for the death of 2 young women, I agree with the verdict. Robert Higbee was doing his job and does not deserve to criminalized. He will forever live with the knowledge that his actions caused the lives of these sisters–and the grief of their family and loved ones.
    My own sister was hit, on her motorcycle, by police car during a highspeed chase and I blame the criminals that the police were chasing. To me, they are the ones who have no regard for human life.
    I’m not defending all cops but this was a horrible accident and not a crime.

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