Concerned by the Chronicle’s explosive report on how, they say, about 80 SFPD officers “have criminal histories or misconduct records that the Police Department withheld and prosecutors did not disclose to defense attorneys in cases in which officers testified”?
You’re not the only one: Public Defender Jeff Adachi has, understandably, called a press conference for 11 AM today to, in the words of his release, “comment on San Francisco District Attorney Kamala Harris’ failure to disclose criminal convictions and evidence of misconduct of more than 80 police officers.” Calling out the aspiring Attorney General by name? ZING.
The Chronicle says that the fallout from this revelation could be even more severe that that from the SFPD drug lab scandal. Adachi agrees, saying that this issue “will make the problems at the crime lab look like small potatoes.”
Here’s the deal: legally, it’s a prosecutors’ responsibility to let defense attorneys know when a witness at a trial (like a drug lab employee or a cop) has been arrested, convicted, or even accused of some types of crimes. This is so, like you’ve seen on TV a zillion times, defenders can go after a witnesses’ character in an overall move to discredit their testimony.
In San Francisco, the police department’s been expected to volunteer this information to the DA’s office, but if the Chron report is accurate, the SFPD wasn’t volunteering, and the DA’s office wasn’t asking.
This Don’t Tell, Don’t Ask policy could result in the overturn of hundreds of felony convictions, but we’re sure Adachi will have more details on how he wants all that to go down at 11 today.