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Tuesday, May 4, 2010

S.F. Cops' Criminal Pasts Could Overturn Convictions

Posted By on Tue, May 4, 2010 at 7:15 AM

This kind of behavior needs to be reported to a defense attorney. In San Francisco, it hasn't been.
  • This kind of behavior needs to be reported to a defense attorney. In San Francisco, it hasn't been.
The District Attorney's office -- already reeling from cocaine-skimming crime lab tech Deborah Madden and her cohorts tossing narcotic evidence into an "unsecured cardboard box" -- now has a new problem that may make everything to this point look quaint.

The Chronicle, in an A-1, bomb-tossing corker of a story of the sort complainers bemoan the Chron can't do anymore, uncovers another disturbing scandal that may lead to convicts waltzing out of the jail -- and this one has to do with the convicts who put them there. It turns out, more than 80 San Francisco cops have criminal backgrounds or misconduct offenses the police department failed to disclose to prosecutors, who, in turn, failed to inform defense attorneys -- thus putting scads of criminal convictions in doubt.

"It will make the problems at the crime lab look like small potatoes," Public Defender Jeff Adachi promised the Chron

click to enlarge Deborah Madden
  • Deborah Madden
The details from the story appear to conform to an unfortunately common pattern; in San Francisco one can only exclaim "how could this happen here?" so many times before realizing that, you know, things like this happen here.

The law stipulates that defense attorneys must be informed when any witness -- including police officers -- have been convicted of a bevy of criminal or misconduct charges. While other municipalities have come up with written rules regarding this situation with police and police experts, San Francisco has not, simply allowing the police to volunteer what information they saw fit. 

This reliance on the police to police themselves already bit the DA's office in the rear on the Madden scandal. Now it has latched on to the other cheek; while the cops were at fault for not telling, the final responsibility was the DA's. And they weren't asking.

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About The Author

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi

Joe Eskenazi was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. "Your humble narrator" was a staff writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015. He resides in the Excelsior with his wife, 4.3 miles from his birthplace and 5,474 from hers.


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