Criminal justice reform advocates in Texas and across the country are calling on district attorneys and prosecutors’ offices to exclude more police from giving testimony in criminal cases. While juries and judges often give great weight to evidence presented by the police, there have been multiple cases of wrongful convictions involving false, inaccurate or deliberately misleading police testimony. In an effort to prevent further wrongful convictions, advocates have written letters to officials across the country urging them to expand the lists that they use to exclude police testimony that may be biased, corrupt or based on lies.
These lists typically involve police with a record of corruption or other misconduct, including those who have been caught lying on the stand or involved in corruption probes in the past. These police may have their testimony impeached by criminal defense attorneys on the basis of their previous lies or corrupt behavior. However, the letters are asking that these lists be expanded to include police with a record of racist or violent rhetoric in public that may point to bias or prejudice.
The letters came in response to the disclosure of a range of racist posts by current police officers on Facebook and other social media sites. The Plain View Project monitors law enforcement pages and groups for these types of posts, which point to obvious problems with a police officer’s ability to conduct work in a fair, unbiased manner. The advocates point to the need to include a larger view of bias, racism, misconduct and abuse when evaluating whether police testimony serves the public interest.
People who are facing criminal charges may be dealing with police misconduct or misrepresentations in their cases. A criminal defense lawyer may work with clients to shape a defense that challenges inappropriate police behavior and works to avoid a conviction.