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Wednesday, October 27, 2010

DA Kamala Harris' Office Has ID'd at Least 76 Police Employees With Problem Backgrounds

Posted By on Wed, Oct 27, 2010 at 5:35 PM

D.A. Kamala Harris
  • D.A. Kamala Harris

The San Francisco District Attorney's office has so far notified Public Defender Jeff Adachi in writing of 76 police department employees with criminal or disciplinary backgrounds requiring disclosure.

The letters come in response to a judge's order that D.A. Kamala Harris move quickly to identify police officers with problematic backgrounds and provide the information to defense attorneys. The decision came in the wake of a scandal at the SFPD. crime lab, in which prosecutors knew about criminal behavior by lab technician Deborah Madden but failed to disclose it to defense lawyers.

Under the U.S. Supreme Court case Brady v. Maryland, prosecutors are legally obligated to provide defendants with evidence that can aid them, such as information that can be used to challenge witnesses' credibility -- including police officers and lab technicians who testify at trials.

Harris and Police Chief George Gascon have said they will compile a "Brady list" of officers whose backgrounds require disclosure, though Gascon recently said that the number of people on the list would not be released until mid-November.

The exact number of officers on such a Brady list has been the subject of much speculation, with news reports indicating that anywhere between 30 and more than 80 officers could be affected. If the police department employees testified in past trials, hundreds of convictions could potentially be at risk.

Adachi spokeswoman Tamara Barak Aparton told SF Weekly today that a total of 76 individuals have been identified through so-called "Brady letters" to the public defender's office since the crime lab scandal. Of those, however, seven are retired, two have been fired and one has resigned. Three of the remaining people identified are "civilian" employees who are not sworn officers.

Aparton said the public defender's office is not yet releasing the names of the SFPD employees identified, since that information might not be a matter of public record. She added that the letters are continuing to come in: "We're waiting for a full list."

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Peter Jamison


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