Westchester DA Issues List of Cops With Credibility Problems
Westchester District Attorney Anthony Scarpino made public a list of police officers who have credibility problems in terms of court cases. District attorneys across New York and elsewhere have reportedly kept lists of cops who can't be trusted in court, and these lists are more often being made public. District attorney’s offices use these lists to alert their prosecutors to potential problems with police witnesses. Sometimes, they’ll turn over information on individual officers to the defense, based on the defendant’s right to know. This information is maintained because it allows to disclose this to a defendant and his or her counsel pursuant to our legal and ethical duties. However, a charge is merely an accusation; a person is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
Our Westchester criminal defense attorneys and New York false arrest lawyers find it unconscionable that rather than prosecute police officers who lie and oath and commit perjury, they look the other way, even though they actually keep a list of police officers that are know to lie. Not only should these police officers not be on the job, they should be totoally prohibited from any type of investigative function that requires integrity. When police officers lie to or fudge the evidence to get a suspect convicted, that is a fundamental constitutional problem because the system relies on fair presentation of evidence as the cornerstone of the criminal system. Our Westchester criminal defense attorneys know that when people facing criminal charges are playing into a stacked deck, the fundamental fairness of our criminal justice system is at stake our NYC malicious prosecution lawyers have successfully sued police officers that have engaged in perjury and tainted evidence.
Prosecutors in all five boroughs of New York City are quietly building internal databases to track police officers who may have credibility problems as witnesses at trial. They are already in use in Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx, and the Staten Island DA’s office is also developing one, as stated in one of the news online. The databases can include civil lawsuits, past criminal records, substantiated misconduct allegations and determinations by judges that an officer’s testimony was not credible.
In Philadelphia, where the DA’s office released their list last year, public defenders have petitioned the DA’s office to re-examine over six thousand past convictions. The notion that district attorneys in New York are aware of police officers who have perjured themselves in criminal prosecutions, have put them on a list of people not to be called in cases as witness, is a public scandal. However, Legal Director of the New York Civil Liberties Union stated that “We cannot have a criminal justice system that allows for police officers to perjure themselves, and then for that to be a secret.”
Historically, courts have not forced prosecutors to turn over such credibility information before plea negotiations, the method by which the majority of felony cases have been resolved. New York’s new Discovery law, going into effect in 2020, is supposed to speed up such disclosures.
Our New York criminal defense attorneys and malicious prosecution lawyers believe that transparency will help the public develop a more nuanced understanding of the officers with credibility records. Their release would allow for a review of past convictions based on testimony by potentially tainted officers.