FARMINGTON — Davis County Attorney Troy Rawlings predicts that within a short time, every prosecutor in the nation will be asking police officers and other expert witnesses if there have ever been any allegations made that reflect on their truthfulness.
It’s a practice Rawlings’ office is putting into place, following the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Los Angeles Police Department. The LAPD has Brady review teams, set up to insure witness testimony is credible, Rawlings said.
The teams are named for the 1963 Brady vs. Maryland Supreme Court ruling in which the prosecution withheld evidence from the criminal defendant. The defendant challenged the conviction and the Supreme Court ruled the defense has the right to examine evidence that may be of an exculpatory nature.
Recently the Supreme Court has enforced the ruling to include evidence in a police officer’s personal files, according to the policechief.org, an online publication for law enforcement.
The Davis County Attorney’s Office will begin sending out a questionnaire with four questions relating to expert witnesses’ truthfulness with subpoenas to testify. The Salt Lake City prosecutor’s office has also begun sending a questionnaire to police who serve as witnesses.
Once a police officer or other expert witness fills out the form, they will subsequently only be asked if anything has changed since their last court appearance, Rawlings said Tuesday morning.
“As prosecutors, we have an obligation to turn over (to the defense) evidence favorable to defendants, whether it proves them innocent or lessens their punishment,” Rawlings said.
That evidence may reflect on the credibility of witnesses’ testimony. Any dishonesty on their part in offering testimony, even in the past could impeach a witness, Rawlings said.
“In the past we’ve relied on police agencies and POST (Peace Officers Standard and Training) to provide that information, Rawings said. If the county attorney’s office is not in possession of that information, or cannot get it, they are still obligated to demonstrate they did what they could to obtain it.
“We want to be on the forefront of how to handle these issues,” Rawlings said.
The county attorney’s office has yet to receive feedback from law enforcement agencies within the county.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office has been asking such questions of witnesses for some time, Rawlings said, leading to his prediction that all prosecutors will soon be putting similar policies into practice.
“It’s a wise policy to have in place.”