Pinal County Attorney's Office compiling list of cops with questionable integrity
The Pinal County Attorney’s Office is creating an easier and more efficient way to comply with a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring prosecutors to disclose evidence to defense attorneys.
Similar to a practice at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, the local attorney’s office is compiling a list of police agency personnel who have been investigated for misconduct, convicted of a crime or exhibited other improper behaviors while on the job – especially incidents in which the law enforcement official was found to be untruthful.
At government attorney’s offices that maintain such a database, it is commonly referred to as the “Brady List” – named after the Supreme Court ruling Brady v. Maryland, which requires prosecutors to disclose any evidence that could be favorable to the defense, including evidence that calls into question the integrity of a witness. In this case, the office is interested in law enforcement officials.
“The whole point here is just to be open with the defense attorneys so they can adequately represent their client,” said Pinal County Attorney Lando Voyles.
PCAO will have a panel of nine senior prosecutors and a law enforcement liaison that will choose whether to place an officer or a civilian who works with a law enforcement agency on the list.
Voyles said he expected to have a working list within the next two weeks.
Letters were sent to the heads of police agencies around the county requesting summaries of internal and criminal investigations involving officers and civilian personnel.
These investigations include misconduct involving untruthfulness, an incident of bias or prejudice toward a particular group or class of people, criminal convictions, improper use of force or an allegation of misconduct being investigated.
An officer or civilian whose case is reviewed by the panel will receive a letter informing them a review will take place and they can submit a written statement to the panel with information they wish the panel to consider before a decision is made.
The officer or civilian will later receive another letter informing them whether they have been placed on the list. Anyone placed on the list will have a chance to appeal the decision in writing.
Law enforcement agencies are asked to send cases to the attorney’s office as they happen.
There is a “very, very small percentage” of law enforcement personnel in the county who will be placed on the list, Voyles said. Currently, prosecutors with the county inform the defense when they already know or suspect integrity issues with an officer.
The list will make it easier for the office to comply with Brady v. Maryland and not overlook any problems with law enforcement witnesses, he said. Voyles said he was not aware of how the office complied with the rule before he took over in December.
Voyles added maintaining the list helps ensure a fair trial and avoids circumstances in which a defense attorney files a petition to reverse a ruling.
The county attorney said some details of the list might not be made public.
“In the end, there’s probably going to be a portion of it that will have to be made public,” Voyles said.
The list maintained by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, which includes the officer’s name, agency and date of the offense, can be obtained through a public records request. Last month, MCAO told InMaricopa.com a former Maricopa police detective currently facing six felony charges in Pinal County was placed on the list related to an incident in May 2007 when he worked for the Mesa Police Department.
InMaricopa.com made a records request through Mesa police for all documents related to the internal investigation that placed Jose Lizarraga, 46, on the list. After the department could not find such documents, InMaricopa.com asked MCAO how Lizarraga ended up on the list.Office spokesman Jerry Cobb said he was placed on the list when he was found to be untruthful to a defense attorney. The incident was then reported internally within MCAO.
Many people often think the county attorney’s job is to get rid of bad guys, Voyles said. But it’s more than that.
“My job is to administer justice, and in administering justice, we want to make sure we don’t convict the innocent,” he said. “And if there’s a dirty cop, heaven forbid, that has committed an offense to cover up their offense – they’re accusing an innocent person – I want the defense attorneys to be able to root them out.”