Sunday, January 24, 2010

Why guilty criminals sometimes go free -- a price of police perjury in drug cases

Gene Weingarten, a long time reporter and columnist at The Washington Post, has an excellent report in the Sunday Outlook section on his jury service last week in the D.C. Superior Court. Even though he was convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused was guilty of selling $10 worth of heroin to an undercover officer, he was going to vote to acquit. But he was excused as an alternate. There was a mistrial because the jury could not agree and he learned that the jury split 10 to 2 to acquit.

Why vote to acquit if the defendant was guilty?

Because the cops lied. "...the willingness to cheat, I think, is a poisonous corruption of a system designed to protect the innocent at the risk of occasionally letting the guilty walk free...I think a police officer willing to cheat is more dangerous than a two-bit drug peddler."

This is a decades old problem with the police and their crusade against drugs.
It is a problem that I spoke about on PBS FRONTLINE's "Snitch" in January 1999.

This is problem that could be corrected by police managers and prosecutors. If prosecutors referred lying police officers to grand juries, and police managers cared, they could win some cases they are losing. But too often they blame losing cases on witness intimidation rather than the public's disgust with police perjury.

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