That's the core issue raised with the recent release of prosecutor assessments of alleged police officer testilying in Tarrant County DWI cases. In a story titled "Officers accused of lying, "winging it" by Tarrant County prosecutors, documents show" (6/20):
[Tarrant County District Attorney Sharon] Wilson said that though she could not confirm the allegations, she believed that handwritten notes on 19 of the forms potentially rose to the level of being Brady material — information that under the law must be turned over to the defense. Accordingly, her office as sent out some 4,000 Brady notices to defense attorneys who had cases in which the officer was in any way involved.Rather than formalize the assessment process, though, or assigning a supervisor to monitor content, the DA will simply cease having prosecutors fill out the forms. Seems like the wrong message.
The 16 officers and three Breathalyzer operators whose credibility was questioned in the forms were unfairly maligned, were never given a chance to defend themselves and their agencies were never alerted, according to both a police union leader and an attorney for two of the officers. ...
Two Fort Worth officers and a former civilian breath test operator with the department were among those accused of lying, many times in testimony, during misdemeanor trials dating to 1993.
Nine other law enforcement agencies also received notice from the DA’s office that a former or current employee’s credibility had been questioned by prosecutors, including an Arlington sergeant who now serves in a high-ranking position.
The misdemeanor chief who authorized the memos, Richard Alpert, who is an appointee to the statewide Texas Forensic Science Commission, was demoted over the episode - for either not monitoring the contents of the memos (the stated reason) or for recording such opinions in the first place (a reasonable subtext) - and no longer manages other employees.
Grits continues to believe that access to documents about law enforcement misconduct for impeachment purposes will be the next big hurdle to full implementation of the Michael Morton Act and open-file discovery in Texas. Usually when I've said that I'm talking about police department disciplinary files, particularly in civil service cities. But this event reminds us that front-line prosecutors often are privy to testilying when it happens.
Shouldn't there be a requirement that they record it when they see it instead of eliminating the mechanism by which the DA's office discovered the problem? And now that the forms are gone, are prosecutors relieved of an obligation to disclose that knowledge just because they didn't write it down?