This case involves a pair of individuals who were convicted of breaking and entering, along with armed robbery, in relation to a home invasion that took place in the early 1990’s allegedly perpetrated by the plaintiffs. The individuals, who have maintained their innocence since their original conviction, claimed that they were the victims of a police conspiracy framing them for the crime. The plaintiffs alleged that, while they were in the general vicinity of the crime scene shortly after the break-in took place, they did not perpetrate it. The plaintiffs also claimed that evidence used against them during the trial was fabricated by police, that a test such as ink dating would reveal that the police reports were retroactively written, and that an eyewitness to the crime who testified against the men had been coerced or threatened by law enforcement officials in order to provide false testimony that directly contributed to their conviction.
Question(s) For Expert Witness
- 1. Please describe your police experience as it relates to crime scene investigation.
- 2. Would you be able to review the documents of this case and determine whether or not the plaintiffs were wrongly convicted?
Expert Witness Response E-008363
I retired from a State Police department with the rank of major. During my law enforcement career I spent 14 years working in various investigative units. I served as an investigator on an auto theft conspiracy unit, assistant team leader on a narcotics conspiracy unit, commander of a rural narcotics team, and commanding officer of a narcotics task force comprised of several teams across 13 counties. As a commanding officer I was responsible for the judicial integrity of evidence collection, preservation, storage and disposition. As a task force commander I had the responsibility of overseeing an evidence storage room that at times contained millions of dollars in currency, hundreds of pounds of marijuana and several dozen kilograms of cocaine. Never was a piece of evidence misplaced or missed nor were any chain of custody issues identified at court proceedings. As a task force commander and later as a senior commander I was charged with inspecting the evidence management procedures at other investigative units across my state. There were several times where I discovered record and evidence errors that I documented in official inspection reports.
As a major I was selected to lead a team that was sent to assist State Police in reviewing and restructuring its investigative and evidence protocol for its drug units after several tragic incidents involving some of those units. My last 18 years in the State Police were in command level positions that required me to be proficient in investigative procedures, protection of evidence procedures and the management of confidential informants. Strict attention was paid to the protocol governing the use of confidential informants. Informants can be a tremendous asset to an investigation but they can also easily be misused. The MSP protocol required the informant and his/her work be documented. It required the presence of two officers for any informant contacts. It required the approval of a commander for payment. And it also required the commander to meet periodically with informants to ensure they understood the use protocol and to determine if the control officers were acting appropriately. Upon assuming the command of the local Police Department I conducted a change of command inventory of all evidence, weapons and records. I found that 23 pieces of seized property were either missing or improperly documented as released or destroyed. I reported this to the city manager in the form of a memo and tried to determine what had happened to the property and by whom. Most items were released or destroyed and improperly documented. This process took nearly two weeks. The previous police chief resigned abruptly when serious allegations of misconduct were made against him. No charges were authorized for the mis-management of the eveidence storage room.
Operating outside of policies and procedures certainly calls into question the motives and actions of those involved. If the review calls into question the actions of the officers based on violation of policies and procedures it may be helpful to review a number of other investigations conducted by the defendants. If their actions again violate policies and procedures that may be indicative of malicious intent on their part and/or a serious defect in the supervisory process at the department. I have lectured numerous times at state police and regional law enforcement conferences and training seminars on proper investigative procedures, evidentiary procedures, and confidential informant protocols. I have also lectured to supervisory staff and commanding officers on the processes to use to identify errant behavior whether intentional or not.