- The David Seaton manslaughter trial: Why we found him guilty
- The David Seaton manslaughter trial: Why we sentenced him to fifteen years in prison
I thought this tidbit was particularly interesting because it points the way to investigative tactics for identifying other officers who speed excessively on routine calls:
Patrol cars are also equipped with a special GPS system (called an AVL/MDT) that pings the vehicle every ten seconds and records it's position and speed. This information is transmitted to a computer located at police headquarters where the data is stored. According to the MDT records at 9:44:53pm on the night of November 28, 2008, Seaton's patrol vehicle was traveling at 102 mph. That was the last record recorded for Seaton's vehicle.The jury used that data to look back at Seaton's history in a way, apparently, that his supervisors never did:
We decided to look specifically at Seaton's speeds on Potranco Road that has a posted speed limit of 45mph. Each file represented a shift's worth of records, so we decided to go backwards from the day of the accident. We had already been notified by the prosecution of a record at around 3:45 to 3:50pm in the afternoon on Novemeber 28, 2008, the day of the accident. According to the assistant DA the call was for shoplifting at Home Depot for $50.00. The MDT records showed that the defendent had been traveling 95mph on Hwy 151 on a Code 1 call. A Code 1 call is low priorty and officers are supposed to follow all traffic laws and go without lights or sirens. When we searched the MDTs on November 27, 2008 (Thanksgiving Day) we found that his speed reached 80mph on Potranco Road at one point in the day. The day before that, November 26, 2008 we found another instance of Seaton driving between 80 and 90mph on Potranco. We felt this was as far back as we needed to go, Seaton was an habitual speeder.This tells me that, in addition to Officer Seaton's personal culpability, this was an instance where San Antonio PD failed to adequately supervise its officer. They were in possession of evidence Seaton was routinely speeding on low-priority calls, yet he was never disciplined for it until he killed somebody. One wonders how many other officers engage in the same behavior? Seaton's attorneys argued that SAPD's protocols against speeding are routinely ignored. None of that excuses Seaton's actions, but it does point to broader "pattern and practice" issues that go beyond the defendant's culpability to call into question the lack of supervision by his superiors at SAPD.