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Dallas DA Ignores Criminal Court Judge’s Orders to Reveal Dallas Police Officers’ Criminal Histories to Defense Attorneys

When police officers take the witness stand, do jurors assume that these members of law enforcement have no criminal record?  Most people would probably answer that question “yes,” but whether or not we should all assume that someone in uniform has no criminal history is the real question.

Because here in Dallas County, there is a big fight between a Criminal Court Judge and the Dallas County District Attorney not on whether or not cops are hired with criminal histories, but instead or whether or not the District Attorney’s Office should check and then share with defense counsel the criminal history of any police officer who takes the witness stand to testify in a criminal case.

Think about that for a minute.

Here’s the story.  Dallas’ Criminal Court Judge Julia Hayes has ordered not once but twice since the New Year began the Dallas County prosecutors trying cases before her (1) to find out the criminal histories of police officers that are being called to the witness stand and to then (2) share those findings with the attorneys for the defense.

Dallas County District Attorney Craig Watkins has nixed his prosecutors doing this, despite the court order.  Watkins’ argument? Texas law blocks this information being shared with the defense.

And, therefore, the jury – because if the police officer has a criminal history, then any defense attorney worth his or her salt is going to bring that criminal record up in cross-examination so the jury can know about it and weigh how much credit they are going to give to that officer’s testimony.

Now, this isn’t just a standoff.  The Judge hasn’t just ordered this to happen, and then done nothing after the D.A. resisted.  Nope.  The Criminal Court Judge has held one of the Dallas County prosecutor in contempt of court already.

So Watkins has appealed her contempt order to the Court of Appeals.  Fight, fight!

Next, the Texas Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit will either (1) uphold the judge and force the prosecutor to turn over the info on the police officers or (2) order that the judge withdraw her contempt order.

So, for now lots of people are watching and waiting to see how the Appellate Court is going to rule.  Follow the Appellate Court’s docket online here.

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