The Associated Press reported earlier this month that a case in the city of Plover, Wisconsin, is about to enter the third year of proceedings involving the alleged theft of hair ties worth $2.45 from a local grocery store. The case has cost the city an estimated $15,000 to date.
The defendant’s attorney says she was unable to properly defend herself because, rather than preserve the hair ties as evidence, the police took a picture of them and returned them to the store. The woman was convicted, but a judge threw out the conviction based on the argument about spoliation of evidence. The state has appealed.
According to the city administrator, the legal system is to blame. "It’s a shame that the legal system allows a defense attorney to request a jury trial for shoplifting a $2 item," he said. It sure is. It ought to just allow us to prosecute someone for shoplifting a $2 item, and stop there. Meanwhile, the defense attorney in question insisted that the physical preservation of the hair ties was vital to the prosecution’s case, and that failing to keep them was a "deliberate destruction of evidence in bad faith."
The court of appeals in Madison is expected to rule on the matter later this year.