Who is the Colorado Criminal Justice Reform Coalition?

Our mission is to reverse the trend of mass incarceration in Colorado. We are a coalition of nearly 7,000 individual members and over 100 faith and community organizations who have united to stop perpetual prison expansion in Colorado through policy and sentence reform.

Our chief areas of interest include drug policy reform, women in prison, racial injustice, the impact of incarceration on children and families, the problems associated with re-entry and stopping the practice of using private prisons in our state.

If you would like to be involved please go to our website and become a member.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Denver cops' credibility problems not always clear to defenders, juries - The Denver Post

Denver cops' credibility problems not always clear to defenders, juries - The Denver Post

City officials have identified one out of every 17 Denver police officers as having discipline issues serious enough that their courtroom testimony may be suspect.

Those officers were listed as witnesses in more than 1,100 cases in the past 12 months, a review of court data maintained by the Police Department shows.

The names of the officers show up on a list maintained by the offices of the city attorney and Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey. Prosecutors use the list to alert defense lawyers anytime one of the officers might be called as a witness on a criminal case.

But despite safeguards put in place that are meant to ensure defense lawyers know which officers have a history of deception or lawbreaking, the system is not always effective or efficient.

Attorneys say judges are inconsistent when it comes to letting them see the personnel files of officers on the list so they can determine how best to cross-examine them.

And no system is in place to alert defendants when an officer is under investigation for what the Police Department calls "departing from the truth," and notifications also aren't sent alerting a defense lawyer if an officer gets fired for such a violation. As a result, defense attorneys never learned about the seven officers who were ultimately fired this year for being untruthful. Meanwhile, even while under investigation for being untruthful, those officers were listed as witnesses in nearly 60 cases in the past 12 months and jurors were never told about the allegations.

"There is no uniform practice in Denver court as to how this information is conveyed," said Chris Baumann, head of the Denver trial office of the Colorado State Public Defender's Office. "It's very frustrating. You know the information is out there, and you know it is in the possession of law enforcement."

City officials began maintaining the list of officers in 2008 after a year-long debate among city officials over whether defense lawyers should be alerted to police discipline that could be favorable to a defendant.

The list is meant to put the city in compliance with the requirements of a 1963 court case, Brady vs. Maryland. In that case, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors are required to divulge evidence favorable to a defendant.

Despite the creation of the list, Baumann said defense lawyers remain frustrated. More often than not, a defense lawyer never will get to see the details of the case that ended up putting a police officer on the list, Baumann said.

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