Baltimore public defenders want police ‘credibility’ list

Prosecutors have sparred with defense attorneys over the list of more than 300 police officers found to have potential integrity issues

Justin Fenton
Baltimore Sun

BALTIMORE — Public defenders in Baltimore are asking a judge to compel the release of a list of city police officers with possible integrity issues that is maintained by the Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office.

In recent court filings, prosecutors and public defenders have sparred over State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby’s public comments about a list of more than 300 officers with potential integrity issues.

Prosecutors and public defenders have sparred over State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's comments about a list of more than 300 officers identified as having potential integrity issues. (Photo/TNS)
Prosecutors and public defenders have sparred over State's Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby's comments about a list of more than 300 officers identified as having potential integrity issues. (Photo/TNS)

Defense attorneys say their requests to see it have been denied.

“The Baltimore State’s Attorney’s Office’s practice of prosecuting people without disclosure of its secret compromised integrity list constitutes malicious, bad faith prosecution,” wrote public defenders Sarah Gottlieb and Deborah Levi.

In a Feb. 7 reply, Assistant State’s Attorney Matthew Pillion wrote that “the ‘list’ at the heart of the defense motion is nothing more than an internal disclosure matrix containing the names of officers about whom there exists discoverable, specific ... material, if that officer will testify as a state’s witness in a case.”

Pillion, the assistant state’s attorney, wrote to defense attorneys that they are entitled to view materials of individual officers if they pertain to a defendant’s case. They aren’t entitled to a list of all officers flagged, Pillion wrote.

“Defendant fails to explain even remotely how a list of several hundred officers with no nexus to his case would make it less likely that he committed the crime of which he is accused or change the punishment he would receive upon conviction,” Pillion wrote.

The dispute is set for a hearing on Feb. 20 in the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.

The specifics of a possible “do not call” - a list of officers who wouldn’t be be called to testify - have remained unclear since last year, with some media reports going so far as to describe it as a “blacklist.” Mosby has said her office had identified 305 officers “with integrity issues and or allegations of integrity issues that would in essence put them in jeopardy from testifying.”

The office has since clarified that it is not, however, a list of officers who the prosecutors’ office will not call, but rather officers for whom disclosures must be made to defense attorneys.

Police in turn have brushed off the significance of the list. New deputy commissioner Brian Nadeau, a retired FBI supervisory agent, said that he believed that only 22 officers among the hundreds flagged should be precluded from testifying. Of the others, Nadeau said: “Nobody on that list that I wouldn’t have working on the street, making cases."

Commissioner Michael Harrison said on WBAL radio’s C4 show that Mosby had was merely “making us aware of all the officers who they have to potentially do a little homework on” before calling them to testify.

It’s the latest salvo in an ongoing battle over access to police misconduct files between defense attorneys and city prosecutors, in a state where police records continue to be tightly restricted from the public. Critics say prosecutors often vouch for the credibility of officers with checkered pasts, helping them to remain on the streets.

Former State’s Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who was the city’s top prosecutor until 2010, maintained a “do not call” list of officers whose cases would be automatically dropped. It numbered about 30 officers. Her successor, Gregg Bernstein, campaigned on the issue of abolishing the list, saying officers and their work should be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Mosby’s office continued that practice, and has since expanded the types of internal affairs complaints that were “discoverable" to defense attorneys. Prosecution officials say they have one of the most transparent policies in the country, though it continues to draw complaints from defense attorneys.

Mosby has said since 2017 that she was considering creating a more formal “do not call” list of officers whose cases would not be taken forward.

Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner maintains such a list, which the Philadelphia Inquirer reported contained the names of more than 60 officers. A lawsuit filed by the Fraternal Order of Police over the list was thrown out by a judge. In New York City, the Bronx District Attorney released its list of problem officers.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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