San Francisco Superior Court Judge Anne-Christine Massullo last week ordered the district attorney's office to turn over more documents related to San Francisco's troubled crime lab, saying DA Kamala Harris should have done more to provide the defense with exculpatory material.
The judge's 26-page order (.pdf) roundly criticizes both the police department and the district attorney's office.
"The People failed, here, in two respects," Massullo wrote in the order, dated May 17. "First, the district attorney's office did not have in place policies and procedures designed to discover and produce exculpatory information regarding SFPD witnesses. Second, the people -- by which this court means both the police who investigate crime and the district attorney as the prosecutor -- failed to produce exculpatory information actually in their possession regarding [criminalist Deborah] Madden and the crime lab."
But Massullo also denied the defense motions to dismiss the 60 cases joined in the matter -- all related to the alleged misconduct of Madden in the now-closed San Francisco crime lab's drug unit. The motions cited Madden's 2008 misdemeanor domestic violence conviction in another county, which defense lawyers say they were not made aware of even though Madden testified in narcotics cases as a witness for the prosecution. Massullo said the cases are different enough that they must be decided on a case-by-case basis.
"The bottom line, really, is the judge didn't dismiss any of these cases because of Debbie Madden's conviction and the problems at the crime lab," said Erica Derryck, a spokeswoman for Harris. "We have some concerns about the legal analysis underlying [the order]. We're going to decide how to address those directly with the court."
The order stems from a two-month-long hearing on a motion to compel discovery in crime-lab related cases, and it comes a couple of weeks after The San Francisco Chronicle first reported that dozens of San Francisco police officers have criminal convictions or misconduct records that have never been turned over to defense attorneys.
That revelation prompted Police Chief George Gascon and Harris to hold a joint press conference to discuss their efforts to implement policies and procedures for Brady material related to police witnesses. At the time, Harris said the police department and her office have to follow state constitution and Government Code sections that protect police officers' privacy.
But Massullo's order said the DA's office is required to inform itself of exculpatory information about police department witnesses, whether it's in personnel files or not. "The district attorney cannot hide from her affirmative obligation behind a procedural mechanism designed for a separate and unrelated purpose."
Massullo denied the police and DA's request for a protective order related to Madden's personnel file. Massullo did grant the protective order as it relates to the criminal investigation surrounding the drug lab, though.
Public Defender Jeff Adachi said Massullo's order "completely discredits the district attorney's claim that she cannot run checks on police officers' criminal histories because of confidentiality rules."
Derryck said Adachi's take on the order amounted to "sour grapes."
"Once again, this is an example of him playing politics with public safety," she said. "He lost all of his motions to dismiss any cases."