A man convicted of indecent exposure and stalking a woman is appealing his conviction and claiming he is innocent.
Last year was a “unique” year for Ocean City Police. Every day there seemed to be a new case of indecent exposure, and each incident seemed to be trying to out-do the previous. James Eckenrode, a 60-year-old man from Baltimore, was one of men arrested for indecent exposure.
Back in August, police received a call from a woman that claimed a man was following her. She told police that a man found her in a midtown parking lot and began “pleasuring himself” right in front of her. She fled, but the man apparently kept following her. The woman rushed to a nearby Ocean City Fire Department Station and asked on-duty paramedics for help. She then called the police.
Ocean City Police responded to the scene at around 3:45 a.m. on August 22. After searching the area, they found a man and woman sleeping in a parked van 10 blocks away from the fire station. Officers believed that the man matched the victim’s description so they called the woman to the van to make an identification. She positively identified James Eckenrode as the man who was pleasuring himself in the parking lot and following her.
Eckenrode was charged with indecent exposure and disorderly conduct. His case finally reached the courtroom in February, and he was found guilty.
But James Eckenrode never admitted any of it and continues to plead his innocence. He claims that he was asleep in the van the entire time and that this is all a case of mistaken identity. He has appealed his conviction to the Circuit Court.
The case is an interesting one. Whether Eckenrode is guilty or not, it is pretty clear that the responding Ocean City police officers did not follow protocol for getting a positive victim identification.
Usually, police departments will have victims pick their attacker out in a lineup. Departments will bring in a bunch of similar-looking and similarly dressed individuals to see if a victim can positively identify the suspect.
In the heat of the moment, it can be difficult for victims or witnesses to remember key details, especially at night when visibility is limited. That is because when people are in danger or consumed by a dramatic event, they don’t usually focus on the details. Even the most credible witnesses can routinely misidentify suspects, which is why police officers use lineups to bolster this.
Police apparently brought the victim to Eckenrode’s van and asked her to make a positive identification. The victim said it was him, but that he must have changed his clothes because he wasn’t wearing the same clothes as the man who followed her. There is no mention in the blotter of officers finding the clothes originally relayed to police in the suspect description.
I don’t know whether Eckenrode is guilty. If he is, he should certainly be held accountable and a District Court has already convicted him. But I do know that police officers didn’t seem to do this by the book. If this really is all of the evidence that police have on him — a poorly executed and potentially biased late-night victim identification — he has a real chance of winning on appeal.
What do you think? Does this sound like there was enough for a conviction? Tell us what you think in the comment section below!