Future of Cases Uncertain After Officers' Arrests

February 5, 2009 12:18:38 AM PST
Now that several Fresno Police officers are facing criminal charges, some are questioning their credibility as investigators and witnesses. A few criminal cases have already been dropped and attorneys say more dismissals could follow. "Some of these people that were prosecuted because of these officers and confidential informants' actions, maybe they're completely innocent. Who knows?" said Fresno attorney T.J. Richardson.Richardson says he's troubled by what appears to be going on in the Fresno Police Department's Major Narcotics Unit. Richardson's client had his case dismissed in November after Richardson raised questions about the use of a credit card following his client's arrest on drug charges.

That's about the same time investigators raided an auto shop in southeast Fresno owned by a Fresno narcotics officer who is now under an internal investigation. Richardson believes the officers in the unit felt they were above the law. "It's almost like they held themselves out to a position that they dared people around them to stop them," said Richardson.

Richardson is now reviewing 8 or 9 other cases to see what role the officers may have played in hopes of getting the cases dismissed. ABC 30 Legal Analyst Tony Capozzi says the officers' credibility certainly could be the grounds for an appeal or even the dismissal of pending cases. "That is a defense attorney's dream," said Capozzi.

But while Richardson says hundreds of cases could be affected by the officer's actions, Capozzi says attorneys would have to prove the officers' involvement had a substantial effect on a guilty verdict. Still, both attorneys agree the fallout is just beginning. "This is something that may involve the civil rights of the defendants, the people involved in these cases. I can see where the federal government, perhaps the F.B.I., the U.S. Attorneys Office would get involved. This could lead to a lot more than what's happening right now," said Capozzi.

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