Philly DA Asks Court to Hold Philadelphia Police in Contempt for Failure to Provide Officer Misconduct Information

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PHILADELPHIA, PA — District Attorney Larry Krasner and Conviction Integrity Unit Supervisor Patricia Cummings on Wednesday filed six motions for an order holding the Philadelphia Police Department (PPD) in Contempt for failing to comply with subpoenas for information about police officers’ credibility, including PPD disciplinary and investigative materials that are necessary to properly maintain the Police Misconduct Disclosure (PMD) Database and to ensure police and prosecutors meet their constitutional obligations.

The motions were filed in the Philadelphia County Court of Common Pleas, and are an unprecedented action taken by the District Attorney’s Office (DAO) to address long-standing failures in the criminal legal system that have resulted in convictions of innocent people, numerous lawsuits against the City of Philadelphia, vacated convictions of people whose rights were violated by the PPD and prior DA administrations, as well as an untold number of convictions jeopardized by failure to properly disclose information to judges and juries.

The motions for the PPD to be held in contempt for failing to provide information as required by Giglio v. United States were filed after the department failed to properly comply with subpoenas served on May 21, 2021, in ongoing criminal cases being prosecuted by the DAO.

“After three and a half years of good-faith efforts to obtain the Philadelphia Police Department’s cooperation in transmitting potential Giglio information to the DAO, and after taking the unusual step of subpoenaing records from the PPD, my office is requesting judicial intervention and monitoring of our partner in law enforcement, so that we may fulfill our oaths as prosecutors and meet our obligations under the U.S. Constitution,” DA Krasner said. “Police officers and detectives are vital members of the prosecution team acting on behalf of the Commonwealth. But they are not attorneys, and therefore the burden has always been on prosecutors to ensure that the constitutional obligations of both police and prosecutors are met. [Wednesday’s] actions must be properly construed as a necessary effort by my office to make sure all members of the prosecution team are working cooperatively and effectively in pursuit of justice and accountability for people who commit crimes and inflict harm. I have kept PPD Commissioner Outlaw apprised of our actions, and after a recent, constructive conversation am hopeful that she will collaborate with the DAO to fix this problem even before a hearing in court.”

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“In keeping with our oaths as prosecutors, we are seeking a contempt remedy from the Court to avoid the need for further motion filings and litigation, and to help us resolve more promptly the tens of thousands of criminal cases the DAO prosecutes annually,” CIU Supervisor Cummings said. “After three and a half years of inconsistent, untimely, and insufficient transmission by Philadelphia Police of potential Giglio material to our office, it is clear that judicial intervention and monitoring of PPD compliance will be necessary until such time as these issues are resolved. The Conviction Integrity Unit to date has secured 23 exonerations of 22 people who were wrongfully convicted decades ago, many due to Brady, Giglio, or Napue violations. The extraordinary actions taken… are necessary to achieve the aims of criminal justice: to hold guilty persons accountable and to not convict the innocent.”

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The DAO has also conceded vacatur of 26 murder and rape convictions where police and/or prosecutorial misconduct, including failure to disclose information, occurred (not all of which were exonerations).

The DAO also filed a motion to consolidate the six contempt motions for the PPD’s failure to comply with subpoenas seeking potential Giglio material concerning officers who may be called as witnesses for the Commonwealth. The subpoenas at issue in the motions are a sample of many more subpoenas served upon the PPD on May 21st. The PPD did not move to quash the subpoenas, nor did the department contest the subpoenas to the DAO in writing or verbally.

Instead, the PPD responded to the subpoenas with legally inadequate information, likely resulting in the DAO’s failure to comply with its constitutional obligations in an unknown number of criminal cases. For example, the DAO identified 16 criminal cases involving a PPD officer whose disciplinary record includes sustained charges of falsification of documents that were not disclosed to the DAO, thereby making it impossible for prosecutors to properly disclose the potential Giglio information to defense counsel and the court as is required by law.

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In another sample case, a PPD officer was the lone eyewitness in a VUFA firearms possession case. The PPD disclosure of the officer’s record to the DAO indicated he was given a penalty of “Training and Counseling” by the Police Board of Inquiry (PBI), but does not disclose the formal PBI charge against him; nor were departmental violations leading to an Internal Affairs Division abuse allegation involving the officer identified, which left the DAO in the impossible position of not knowing the nature of the misconduct committed by the officer.

The six ongoing cases involving police officers as potential witnesses for the Commonwealth and for which the DAO filed contempt motions against the PPD are:

  • Commonwealth v. Gilliam (MC-51-CR-0019780–2020)
  • Commonwealth v. Gonzales (CP-51-CR-0001197–2020)
  • Commonwealth v. King (CP-51-CR-0008689–2019)
  • Commonwealth v. Mendozza (CP-51-CR-0001330–2020)
  • Commonwealth v. Monroe (MC-51-CR-0008125–2021)
  • Commonwealth v. Watson (CP-51-CR-0008632–2018)

The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office states that copies of the motions are available upon request. The CIU accountability report that includes a section on the PMD Database can be found here: tinyurl.com/CIUreport. You can also watch yesterday’s press briefing here.

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