North Carolina has grappled with some tough criminal justice issues over the past few years. The enactment and repeal of the Racial Justice Act and the State Bureau of Investigation crime lab scandal top the list, but there have been other issues. It is with a mix of relief and sadness, then, that we note that we are not alone in our struggle.
The New Orleans Times-Picayune reported this week that the parish district attorney dismissed the charges against a man convicted of murdering a police officer’s wife. In his statement, the DA admitted that both the police and the prosecutors involved in the case were guilty of “shameful” misconduct. The accused was freed after spending 34 years in prison for a crime he did not commit.
The officer’s wife was murdered during what looked like a burglary of her home. Her husband was a suspect at one time, but charges were never filed against him. Police picked up the accused, though, and subjected him to an unsettling interrogation.
According to the accused, he was given both drugs and alcohol as police questioned him for four hours. He did confess to the crime, and the two officers took that confession to the DA’s office. They did this in spite of some glaring contradictions in the accused’s statement.
For one, the accused admitted to shooting a man, not a woman. He did not know how many times the victim was shot. He could not say which door he had used to get into the house.
The misconduct did not stop at the interrogation, though. Police were able to locate a murder weapon, and they traced it to two people, neither of them the accused. In addition, officers reported that one of them was in possession of jewelry taken from the victim’s home. This report was put in the file of another investigation. Neither the police nor the prosecution informed the defense attorney of the report.
It didn’t stop there, either. We’ll continue this in our next post.
Source: ABA Journal, “Man is freed after 34 years in prison; DA agrees to vacate sentence based on ‘shameful’ misconduct,” Debra Cassens Weiss, May 13, 2014