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Private Investigators: Tools of the Trade

Gilberto Torrez

By Gilberto Torrez

A brilliant professor I admired and respected, periodically reminded us about his observation concerning medical doctors. He would say that in every medical school graduation class there was someone at the top of their class and there was someone at the bottom of the class. My professor was proud of his field and he would make the point that not all professionals of the same discipline have the same skill sets or talent. In my experience, the same is true for police officers, federal agents, county investigators, private investigators, and just about any professional involved in the investigation of crimes, to include forensic and evidence personnel. When private investigators work on a complex case or a case where the stakes are high for a client, there is no substitute for commonsense and old fashion grunt work, reviewing every step of the government’s investigation.

Budget cuts, low salaries, doing more with less, plague some of our local police agencies at all levels and they, on occasion, miss many crucial details and sometimes just miss the boat all together when they conduct and manage their investigations. I do not believe that law enforcement personnel intend to fail or overlook important facts in the course of an investigation, but they are not flawless men and women. They’re human beings and will make mistakes from time to time, as they may have had to deal with multiple cases in a single day and just made an innocent error. This is primarily due to the fact, that once some police agencies finish or clear an investigation, they do not necessarily go back and review their work. Because they move on to the next case, there could be a lack of completeness in their investigation. Unfortunately for the government, that error may violate the defendant’s rights or prejudice the case in a way that will benefit our client. That error just needs to be found, and if an investigative procedure is overlooked or ignored, this could be a nugget that could benefit the accused.

In a state murder case a few years ago, it was found that some case evidence had been contaminated when an evidence specimen from a different case ended up, “bagged and tagged,” with the evidence in our case. While the elements of the case did not change, it would have been a huge professional embarrassment for the assistant DA and investigative agency to deal with situation at trial. This mistake precipitated a sweetheart plea offer, that the defendant accepted. Obviously, this outcome was far more palatable for the defendant than the unknown outcome of trial.

In a federal case that I participated in, the defendant had been arrested because his name was “José.” The federal agency arrested our client based on an informant’s one-time voice recording of a subject concerning drugs. The subject arrived as agreed and the user quantity drug transaction is consummated. Then the agents check of the telephone number and license tag, both come back to an individual we’ll simply call “José One.” Months later José One is found working at his commercial lease space where he repairs cars he buys for resale and he is arrested.

Our investigation finds that our client has a brother-in-law whose name is also José, and who we will call “José Two.” José Two had recently returned to Texas from his native country, after being deported, and comes back to live with his brother-in-law José One. José Two then borrowed family telephones to make phone calls and used his brother-in-law’s vehicles to get around. All are subscribed to or registered by José One. After a few months, a voice expert is hired to evaluate the only audio recording in evidence. The expert found that José Two had a stutter in his speech, that eventually cleared our client. The Feds had arrested the wrong man and the charges against our client were dropped.

Seasoned attorneys well know the value of a talented and tenacious private investigator. For new attorneys to the profession, I would tell you that the right private investigator on your case, could afford you a wide range of services, saving you valuable time and money on the long run. Private investigators can assist you with trial preparation, jury selection, evidence review, and case strategy, not to mention finding witnesses and persons of interest, service of subpoenas and tracking down those leads government investigators did not bother to pursue. Many private investigators are expert in a sundry of areas that can greatly help your case and maybe hit a homerun for your client. As a final thought for attorneys and your private investigators, keep your eyes open and be leery of everything. It just could be that your vigilance will make your case.

Gil Torrez is a licensed private investigator in Texas and a retired FBI special agent. He assists attorneys defend their clients accused of high level state and federal felony offenses. Gil conducts mitigation and person locate investigative work throughout the Americas. Gil is a graduate of Southwest Texas State University; a Fox News contributor with respect to criminal, national security and terrorism matters; a member of the Texas Association of Licensed Investigators, and the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI. For more information about Gilberto ‘Gil’ Torrez, and Taurus Investigations LLC, please call (817) 210-6042 or visit www.tauruspi.com.