San Francisco Public Defender Jeff Adachi anticipates that criminal convictions spanning more than a decade will be affected by the district attorney's identification of dozens of officers who have criminal or disciplinary backgrounds that could have hampered their investigations and testimony.
In an interview with SF Weekly this week, Adachi said his office is busy reviewing cases that could be affected by the disclosure of 76 San Francisco Police Department employees who have problem backgrounds. The disclosures were made under D.A. Kamala Harris' new policy of complying with Brady v. Maryland, the U.S. Supreme Court case that requires exculpatory evidence -- including details of arresting or testifying police officers' past misbehavior -- to be handed over the to the defense.
"The problem that we're having with these most recent disclosures is
that some of them go back five, 10, 15 years," Adachi said. By contrast,
the cases affected by the scandal over drug-skimming crime lab
technician Deborah Madden
went back only a few years. In the Madden cases, Adachi said, "We did
have a substantial number of clients who wanted their cases reviewed. In
most cases, the DA would offer a better disposition."
Adachi also disputed past statements from the DA's office that only instances of police dishonesty would be relevant to challenging officers' credibility as witnesses. Citing one recent disclosure of a California Highway Patrol officer who allegedly assaulted another law-enforcement officer, Adachi said the information could be used to undermine the officer's testimony. "That would be admissible in any criminal prosecution," he said.
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