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How mobile video is changing the way we witness crime

  • Published at 04:49 pm January 7th, 2017
  • Last updated at 04:55 pm January 7th, 2017
How mobile video is changing the way we witness crime
Mobile video is changing the way we witness crime, from live footage of a mentally disabled man tortured by four assailants, to a recording that led to the manslaughter conviction of an Israeli soldier, to the body cameras designed to keep police accountable, reports the Associated Press. In theory, such videos should make it easier to hold criminals, including police officers who violate the law, accountable. In practice, that hasn’t always worked out the way proponents had hoped, although smartphone video played a big role in elevating public awareness of police violence.

Video evidence

The head judge, Colonel Maya Heller, said that Azaria was an “unreliable” witness and that his defence witnesses were also problematic. She called the shooting “needless.” Charges were brought against Azaria after footage emerged last March showing the soldier shooting a Palestinian man in the head as he laid on the ground, injured and already subdued. The Palestinian, Abdel Fattah al-Sharif, 21, was one of two men accused of stabbing another Israeli soldier in Hebron a few minutes earlier. The second Palestinian suspect had already been shot dead. Azaria was serving in the mostly Palestinian-populated Hebron when he shot Sharif. The Israeli soldier who had been attacked suffered a minor injury. The video, a critical piece of evidence, was shot by Palestinian activist Imad Abu Shamsiyeh, who lives in Tel Rumeida next to the site of the shooting. Abu Shamsiyeh said Thursday that he been receiving death threats and that the threats have increased since Wednesday’s verdict. “I have been receiving threats to my life since the moment the video was released, but yesterday the amounts of threats increased. I fear for my life and my family’s life,” Abu Shamsiyeh said, adding that he received threatening pictures to his phone and Facebook account.

Ready for your close-up

Online crime footage has been around much longer than live streams. While live broadcast gives them a sense of immediacy, many live videos only go viral well after the fact. So it may not really matter whether a video is live or not, just that it’s a concrete record of a crime that happened, visible to all who dare to click. Even then, video evidence doesn’t necessarily lead to criminal convictions. In South Carolina, a white police officer was charged with the 2015 shooting of an unarmed black man after a traffic stop. A video shot by a bystander clearly shows Keith Scott being shot eight times in the back. But the jury was unable to reach a verdict and forced a mistrial.
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