sfpd_cityhall.jpgPreviously: Public Defender To Speak On SFPD Officers’ Criminal Past Coverup At 11 Today

2:35 PM:San Francisco’s public defender said today that hundreds of criminal convictions may be called into question amid new allegations that the criminal or disciplinary backgrounds of dozens of police officers called to testify in court were never revealed to defense attorneys.

Police would not immediately “confirm or deny” the numbers today because the matter is still being investigated, but a spokesman said Chief George Gascon is aware of and is working on the issue.

“The chief’s fully aware of the implications of this allegation, and he’s currently reviewing our procedures, and ways we can better communicate with the district attorney’s office and those involved in the court system,” Officer Boaz Mariles said.

By law, prosecutors are required to disclose the criminal backgrounds of witnesses, including police officers or department employees, to the defense.

At a news conference this morning, Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the office of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris never turned that information over to his attorneys, who could have used such material to question the credibility of police testifying at trial.

Adachi said the district attorney’s office may have failed to release evidence of the prior convictions or misconduct of more than 80 officers. As a result, he said, convictions in “hundreds of cases” in which the officers testified could potentially be overturned.

“We don’t know who the officers are yet but we do know, if this evidence is true, it is explosive and it will have a tremendous impact on criminal trials and cases that we’ve handled involving these officers,” Adachi said.

The district attorney’s office has said the Police Department never offered information on the officers’ background to prosecutors–but acknowledged that prosecutors have the responsibility to check the criminal backgrounds of officers called to testify. There was no written policy in place to make sure that happened.

Harris said on April 23 that her office was now drafting such a policy, and would be one of “very few” in the state to do so.

District attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said today that the Police Department told prosecutors in a letter earlier in April that more than 30 officers had criminal or disciplinary backgrounds that may need to be disclosed. He said prosecutors have not yet received any more information, such as names and the specific convictions or misconduct.

Buckelew could not confirm whether the number has grown to more than 80 officers.

“That figure, and the details behind that figure, still have not been shared with the district attorney’s office,” he said.

Buckelew acknowledged the district attorney’s office’s role in the release of information and said his office has already set up an internal policy to identify and centralize any such material on the criminal backgrounds of witnesses.

“This is a very important issue,” Buckelew said. “And if there were mistakes made, they need to be fixed.”

The policy was brought to light because of the recent scandal involving former Police Department crime lab technician Deborah Madden, who is accused of taking cocaine from evidence and whose 2008 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence was also never disclosed to defense attorneys.

Madden, 60, is thought to have herself testified in hundreds of criminal cases over her 29-year career. She retired March 1.

“This is either a systematic failure, which would suggest gross malfeasance, or unethical behavior, if they knew that these police witnesses had prior convictions,” Adachi said.

Adachi today sent a letter to Harris requesting that her office provide evidence of prior convictions of all police witnesses.

“I am anxious to get my hands on that list,” he told reporters.

Should convictions be successfully appealed because of prosecutors’ failure to provide such evidence, Adachi said the result would likely be a new trial.

Adachi insisted the issue was not about “people getting out of jail for free.”

“This is about ensuring that everyone, including prosecutors and police, play by the rules,” he said.

12:58 PM: San Francisco’s public defender said today that hundreds of criminal convictions may be called into question amid new allegations that the criminal or disciplinary backgrounds of dozens of police officers called to testify in court were never revealed to defense attorneys.

Police could not immediately confirm the numbers this morning, but a spokesman said Chief George Gascon is aware of and is working on the issue.

“The chief’s fully aware of the implications of this allegation, and he’s currently reviewing our procedures, and ways we can better communicate with the district attorney’s office and those involved in the court system,” Officer Boaz Mariles said.

By law, prosecutors are required to disclose the criminal backgrounds of witnesses, including police officers or department employees, to the defense.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi said the office of San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris never turned that information over to his attorneys, who could use such material to question the credibility of police testifying at trial.

Adachi said the district attorney’s office failed to release evidence of the prior convictions or misconduct of more than 80 officers. As a result, he said, convictions in “hundreds of cases” in which the officers testified could potentially be overturned.

The district attorney’s office has said the Police Department never offered that information to prosecutors–but acknowledged that prosecutors have the responsibility to check the criminal backgrounds of officers called to testify. There was no written policy in place to make sure that happened.

Harris said on April 23 that her office was now drafting such a policy, and would be one of “very few” in the state to do so.

District attorney’s office spokesman Brian Buckelew said today that the Police Department told prosecutors in a letter earlier in April that more than 30 officers had criminal or disciplinary backgrounds that may need to be disclosed. He said prosecutors have not yet received any more information, such as names and the specific convictions or misconduct.

Buckelew could not confirm whether the number has grown to more than 80 officers.

“That figure, and the details behind that figure, still have not been shared with the district attorney’s office,” he said.

Buckelew acknowledged the district attorney’s office’s role in the release of information and said his office has already set up an internal policy to identify and centralize any such material on the criminal backgrounds of witnesses.

“This is a very important issue,” Buckelew said. “And if there were mistakes made, they need to be fixed.”

The policy was brought to light because of the recent scandal involving former Police Department crime lab technician Deborah Madden, who is accused of taking cocaine from evidence and whose 2008 misdemeanor conviction for domestic violence was also never disclosed to defense attorneys.

Madden, 60, is thought to have herself testified in hundreds of criminal cases over her 29-year career. She retired March 1.

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  • bloomsm

    Everyone should share. Sharing is caring.