Suspect’s guilty pleas on drug charge tossed, given officer’s lies

Baltimore prosecutors and officials from that city’s police department thought that an investigation was behind them after a suspect was sentenced to 10 years in prison on a crack cocaine and handgun charge.

They were wrong, with a federal appellate court panel reminding them that it was egregious conduct committed by one of their employees that resulted in a reversal of the man’s conviction.

The material facts of the case are worth passing along to Georgia readers for a number of reasons, including their value as a cautionary tale denoting that misconduct by actors in the criminal justice system — sometimes prosecutors, in this case a police officer — occurs with regularity throughout the country.

The suspect’s home, car and person were searched pursuant to a warrant, with a conviction ultimately secured on charges of possession with intent to distribute cocaine and unlawful possession of a firearm.

There turned out to be a serious problem with virtually everything involved in the case. In the words of the federal circuit court opinion that vacated the conviction, the fundamental flaw was “an officer’s deliberate lie that led to the warrant that led to the discovery of the evidence.”

The discovery of that lie did not occur until a year following the suspect’s sentencing, when it was revealed that the information supplied by the officer in the warrant request was falsely provided by an informant who the officer was paying. In fact, and as the officer conceded, the informant had no connection at all to the case.

Because of that lie, the court regarded the evidence as tainted, vacating the guilty pleas.

Source: Courthouse News Service, “Cop’s lies cost government on appeal,” Dan McCue, April 3, 2013