Part Two: Officer Credibility on Trial in Drug Cases, Rightly So
Our last post left off discussing how a Maryland officer’s inconsistent testimony led to 2003 drug charges being dismissed by a judge. That same officer whose mistakes crippled that possession case has recently tried to provide testimony in support of another drug offense conviction.
The officer is having trouble doing so without the defense attacking him based on his past behavior. In fact, the defense has used the officer’s history as a way to create doubt surrounding the guilt of the defendant involved in the case.
In his attempt to solidify a guilty verdict for a 2008 drug crime, a prosecutor went out of his way convince a jury that the testifying officer is a trustworthy, “honorable,” man. He argued that his past should have no negative impact on the drug case at hand. That argument, along with the officer’s testimony, went far in the initial trial, and the court found the defendant guilty.
But that verdict was soon challenged based on the defense’s claim that the prosecution went too far vouching for the officer’s credibility during the trial. It is up to the court to decide whether the officer was telling the truth in a case, and, as confirmed by the Court of Appeals, the prosecutor can’t force that opinion on a court.
Police testimony is a powerful aspect that can work toward convictions. That is why it is of utmost importance that a court not only hears police testimony, but also learns insight into the credibility of testifying officers.
For an officer to feel victimized by the court because attorneys have a history of irresponsibility to use against him does not matter. It is the future of defendants on the line in the courtroom, and an officer’s reputation can be best protected through solid, honest police work.
The Baltimore Sun: “Crime Scenes: Police Integrity at issue in drug arrest,” Peter Hermann, 18 Dec. 2010