A Montgomery County Circuit Court judge has ordered the county police department to attend a trial Monday prepared to provide the Public Defender's Office with the names of several officers who were found to have lied.
Both prosecutors and public defenders expect county attorneys to challenge the order, handed down by Judge D. Warren Donohue in the pretrial motions for a burglary trial that starts Monday.
The police department's Office of Internal Affairs had determined that six officers had lied on the job but still remained on the force. Police Chief Charles A. Moose, who expressed outrage at the situation, nonetheless said the department would not disclose the names, or the circumstances, because of state law protecting officers' privacy.
County prosecutors had expressed concern about the credibility of officers' testimony during court cases and have been given the files on the officers.
"We have an obligation to know if there is a police officer who is making cases and testifying in court who lacks credibility," said Deputy State's Attorney Katherine Winfree.
Defense attorneys said they have the right to that information so they could respond to police witnesses on the stand whom they know to have lied, or possibly even challenge convictions that were based on the officers' testimony or arrests based on their search warrants or traffic stops.
"We want to get the list of people who lied, because potentially they could be testifying in my trial," said Assistant Public Defender Jeff Blumberg, lawyer for burglary defendant Anthony Hodge. "If they've lied in the past, that's important for a jury to know."
Earlier this week, defense lawyers asked Donohue, who was presiding over the pretrial motions in Hodge's case, and judges in two other cases to force the police department to provide the list of officers in question. They also said they would continue to press the police department for the information in every upcoming case.
Donohue granted their motion Thursday.
Winfree said that she did not see anything in the officers' files that would affect past prosecutions and that if, in the future, she knew of something about an officer that might have bearing on a case, "we have an obligation to provide exculpatory information to the defense."
Public Defender Eugene Wolfe said prosecutors should not decide whether an officer's history of lying is relevant. "What the state decides is minor may not be for a trial of fact," he said. "I think that determination has to be made by the jury."
Representatives from the county attorney's office did not return calls for comment yesterday.