Life Sentence for Drugs Thrown Out By Federal Judge

A federal judge vacated a man’s life sentence for a drug conviction. U.S. District Judge James H. Payne yesterday threw out the life sentence being served by Demario T. Harris, 30. An investigation into police corruption put Harris’s conviction in doubt.

Demario Harris was convicted of possession of cocaine with intent to distribute, and being a felon in possession of a firearm in April of 2005. He had a previous conviction for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute in 2001 and possession of marijuana in 2004 and had served time in prison.

The ongoing investigation of police corruption in Tulsa, where Harris was arrested, has so far brought to light evidence that police officers falsified reports, planted drugs, stole drug money, committed perjury and violated civil rights.

Six former or current Tulsa police officers and a former federal agent have been charged in the corruption probe. Two officers have already pled guilty.

The U.S. Attorney has supported the vacation of Harris’ conviction. The judge’s order said: “The government has filed a response conceding that the defendants’ conviction was obtained in violation of the defendant’s due process rights.”

Police officers under investigation apparently used a fabricated confidential informant and a falsified search warrant to obtain Harris’s arrest.

One of the methods used by the police under investigation was to obtain “John Doe” search warrants. The warrants were nearly identical in their wording, indicating that the officers sought the warrants without having actual evidence to support them. They also used information from “informants” that did not exist.

Twenty other people have been freed from prison in addition to Demario Harris as a result of a grand jury investigation led by U.S. Attorney Jane W. Duke, a special prosecutor from the Eastern District of Arkansas.

Harris is the second person to have a life sentence reversed as part of Duke’s corruption probe.

Source: Tulsa World “Tulsa man’s life sentence vacated” 10/28/2010