Police Who Lie On the Witness Stand: Did You Know Prosecutors Keep Lists of Their Names?
It wasn’t until 1963 that the U.S. Supreme Court forced prosecutors to do the right thing and share all the facts about a case with defense lawyers before they tried someone for a serious crime and tried to get a conviction. In the case of Brady v. Maryland, John Brady had been convicted of murder but the High Court overturned that conviction because the prosecutors decided not to share a letter with the defendant and his lawyers that was written by the man who actually committed the crime.
That’s right: the prosecution had a written confession and they went right on and with their case against an innocent man. So did the appellate lawyers — this case went all the way to the Supreme Court, after all.
As a result, John Brady had his conviction overturned and we got “the Brady Rule.”
The Brady Rule is simple: prosecutors have to share exculpatory evidence with the defendant and his attorneys. If they don’t do this, then it’s a violation of the defendant’s constitutionally protected due process rights.
The Brady Rule deals with bad acts by District Attorneys, U.S. Attorneys, etc., — prosecutors who are lawyers trying to get people convicted of crimes. It doesn’t cover police officers and law enforcement.
For that, we have the case of Giglio v. United States. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors have to share with defendants and their criminal defense lawyers information regarding the credibility of their witnesses, specifically police officers and law enforcement who are providing testimony in the case.
Under Giglio, if a police officer is known to have done bad things on the job, including lying under oath, then the defense lawyer is supposed to be told about this guy’s questionable trustworthiness as a witness for the prosecution.
These police officers are known within District Attorney Offices (county prosecutors); Offices of the Attorney General (state prosecutors); and Offices of the U.S. Attorney (federal prosecutors). There’s a list of their names which must be kept according to federal law — it’s called a “Brady List.”
Secret Stuff, These Brady Lists
So, we know that there are Brady Lists out there because the Highest Court in the land has ruled they have to be there. Plus, a good prosecutor will want to know the weak links in his case, and a police officer with questionable integrity taking the stand is a weak link in the conviction evidence chain. It’s smart for prosecutors to have that list.
But they don’t like you to know about it.
And they don’t like to share it. You’re not going to go online and find all these “Brady Lists” with police officers names organized by city, state, or county. Nope.
Police Officer Perjury
It’s a serious concern, the idea that police officers take the stand and lie. Cops lying in criminal cases to help prosecutors get convictions which send people to years behind bars on things like felony drug convictions, homicides, and sex crimes.
And it happens all the time in this country. Consider the scandal over in Los Angeles where it was only after a huge number of cops were discovered to be “testilying” along with planting evidence and other bad things that a procedure was actually put in place to keep and maintain a Brady List. Lawsuits from that one scandal totalled over $125 Million.
It happens in New York City. Read the 2013 coverage of testilying by NYC police officers in “Testilying: Cops Are Liars Who Get Away with Perjury.”
And it happens in Dallas, Texas, too.
Police Perjury in Dallas
A few years ago, there was a big scandal in our part of the country when a news story broke about a Dallas police officer who was labeled a liar by a judge and ordered not to testify in court in the future. Thing is, DPD Officer Randy Sundquist remained employed by the Dallas Police Department and eventually got a big promotion. Sundquist new job? Oversee the police deployment unit that dealt with serious felonies like drug crimes.
The expose by the Dallas News didn’t stop with Sundquist — it delved into the DPD overall and found that there was a pattern of bad acts by the entire unit of patrol officers that Sundquist supervised. Meanwhile, Sundquist had testified anywhere between 50 and 100 times in criminal prosecutions since that judge issued that order in the ten years that passed between the ruling and the news story expose.
Sure, the prosecution put his name on a Brady List right after the judge labeled him a liar and determined he should never take the witness stand. Didn’t stop a thing.
Read Tanya Eiserer’s reporting for the Dallas Morning News which includes full text copies of the 1994 letter sent by the Dallas District Attorney’s Office to the Chief of Police for the Dallas Police Department regarding Sundquist lying and therefore not being a credible witness as well as the 2009 letter sent by another assistant district attorney to the Chief of Police for the Dallas Police Department.
Read them here:
Oh, and Dallas Police Department Sargeant Randy Sundquist? Looks like he’s still on the job and making a good salary.
Austin American Statesman Tries to Get Brady Lists Under FOIA
This month, the Austin newspaper reported that they have been trying to get Brady Lists from prosecutors around the state for months. They wanted copies of the Brady Lists as well as copies of letters written by prosecutors internally which name a particular police officer as being so notoriously untrustworthy that they cannot be used in prosecution matters.
- Some prosecutors ignored their requests.
- Some prosecutors gave them the NUMBER of officers on their Brady Lists but nothing else.
- A few prosecutors agreed to let the journalists see their Brady Lists.
Read their coverage in “District attorneys’ system for tracking untrustworthy cops chaotic.”
There is a continuing danger in all criminal defense matters to have police officers perjuring themselves on the stand. Brady v. Maryland may have set a legal requirement on prosecutors having lists of these wrongdoers, but how helpful can a Brady List be if no one monitors them, no one is allowed to review them?
We cannot trust prosecutors here. Ask Michael Morton.
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