Challenges Planned After 'Expert' Resigns
The fallout continues after the discovery that Johnny St. Valentine Brown Jr., a D.C. police narcotics expert, could produce no proof to back up his claims that he had a doctorate in pharmacology from Howard University.
Brown testified as an expert witness in thousands of cases over the past 20 years, helping prosecutors win drug convictions. Now the U.S. attorney's office is investigating statements he made in court, and defense lawyers are preparing to challenge convictions.
During court proceedings, Brown testified that he had a doctorate in pharmacology from Howard, a claim that routinely went unchallenged by defense lawyers who took for granted his expertise. But last summer an opposing attorney checked with the university, which reported that Brown hadn't attended the school.
Police officials put Brown on administrative leave in July and were contemplating further action when he submitted his resignation.
A.J. Kramer, the federal public defender in the District, said he intends to seek new trials for some clients, possibly filing the first such motions this week. But not every case in which Brown played a role is tainted, he said.
"It's a combination of what he said and how substantial the evidence was without his testimony," Kramer said.
Brown, 56, who uses the nickname Jehru, did not return a call seeking comment. But he apparently has not ruled out a return to the courtroom.
Christine Freeman, who heads the federal public defender's office in Montgomery, Ala., said she was unaware of Brown's recent problems and contacted him within the past several weeks to determine whether he could testify as a defense expert in a drug case there. According to the office's investigator, Johnny Johnson, Brown, who has done defense work, seemed eager to appear.
"He told me he had been an expert witness all over the country," Johnson said. "He asked me to send him some information on the case. Naturally we asked him to follow up with a [resume] and give us places he had testified."
When the background materials didn't turn up, Johnson checked with Brown last Monday. According to Johnson, Brown promised to send the information that day but didn't. Johnson said he then made further inquiries about Brown in Washington and learned of the credentials problem.
Johnson said he is looking for someone else to help with his case.
-- Bill Miller
Pr. George's Officers Cleared in 2 Deaths
The Prince George's County police department has cleared seven officers of wrongdoing in the deaths of two men who suffered fatal heart attacks while they were in police custody last spring.
Investigations remain open into the cases of three other men who died this year after struggling with Prince George's police, including two men who were shot and another who passed out while he was left alone in a holding cell, authorities said.
Spokesman Royce D. Holloway said internal investigators and county grand jurors found that officers acted properly in the arrests of Charles Ivy Huddleston Jr., 29, of Oxon Hill, and Robert Fulton Silver Jr., 35, of Clinton.
Huddleston, a suspected carjacker, went into cardiac arrest when he was shackled to a stretcher in a hospital emergency room shortly after he was chased and arrested by two county police officers near Andrews Air Force Base April 26. Police said they took Huddleston to the hospital because he suffered a bump on the head during the arrest. Hospital officials said Huddleston resisted violently and had to be restrained by several people in the emergency room.
Silver, who had a history of mental illness, suffered a fatal heart attack as he was being taken into police custody May 23. Police said it took five officers to subdue Silver after he used karate-style kicks to the side of a passenger van full of preachers at Mount Ennon Baptist Church in Clinton. Authorities said Silver stopped breathing as he was handcuffed.
Investigations are continuing into the deaths of three other men. The most recent incident occurred Sept. 22 when Elmer Clayton Newman, 29, of Suitland, was arrested. Police said they took Newman, accused of fighting with police officers, to the Oxon Hill station, where they placed him in a holding cell.
While alone in the cell, police said, Newman screamed profanities, banged his head against the wall and flailed around. Officers called paramedics, but by the time they arrived, Newman had passed out, police said. He was taken to Fort Washington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead about two hours after his arrest.
The Maryland chief medical examiner's office has not issued a ruling on the cause or manner of death in Newman's case. Five officers have been placed on administrative leave.
Holloway said police are investigating the death of Howard N. Robinson III, 27, of Laurel, who was shot twice by Cpl. Brian Rumsey on June 28 after Robinson allegedly pulled a knife and fought to avoid arrest during a traffic stop.
Also under investigation is the death of Justin Avery Hurley, of Forestville, who was shot once by Cpl. Trudy L. Dodd on May 28 in Lanham. Police said Dodd acted in self-defense after Hurley assaulted her, pinned her to the hood of her patrol car and tried to grab her gun.
-- Craig Whitlock