When people are accused of a crime in North Carolina, prosecutors and even judges and juries often rely heavily on the statements and testimony of police. Unfortunately, there have been multiple cases of wrongful convictions related to police misconduct, deception or outright lies during testimony. Advocates for criminal justice reform are urging district attorneys and prosecutors to refuse to work with police with records of lying and other forms of misconduct in order to prevent future wrongful convictions. They are also urging prosecutors to exclude testimony from cops who have made racist or violent statements.
The letters by these advocates came in response to exposure of Facebook posts and groups containing members of various law enforcement agencies. One group, The Plain View Project, screens the Facebook pages of police officers for violent or racist posts that call into question their ability to handle matters in an unbiased or objective manner. In addition to Facebook posts, the advocates noted that histories of discipline for misconduct, bias and racism are also relevant to police testimony in criminal cases. For example, corrupt police could have a history of falsifying testimony in exchange for money, drugs or other benefits.
Some prosecutors’ offices do maintain exclusion lists that usually involve police officers who have been caught lying on the stand or presenting falsified documents. If these cops testify, defense attorneys may use evidence of their misconduct to challenge their statements. However, many police with a history of making racist statements under their own name are not included, even though their statements are highly relevant to their credibility.
Police misconduct can be a major issue for people facing criminal charges, especially when police information is a cornerstone of the allegations. A criminal defense attorney may work to challenge unreliable, untruthful or inaccurate police evidence and testimony before trial and in the courtroom.