- Associated Press - Tuesday, July 7, 2015

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) - The California Supreme Court ruled that prosecutors aren’t required to help defendants fight their criminal cases by reviewing the personnel files of police officers serving as witnesses.

The ruling Monday upholds the review process San Francisco and about a dozen other California counties use when preparing for criminal trials. Police review boards - rather than prosecutors - are tasked with reading investigating officers’ personnel files for evidence of misconduct or bias that could help exonerate criminal defendants.

The case at issue involved a San Francisco man accused of domestic violence. Prosecutors told defense attorneys that information in the files of two police officers being called as witnesses may contain evidence of misconduct or bias.

The defendant, Daryl Lee Johnson, and his attorneys argued in court that prosecutors should be required to review the files to determine if there is evidence relevant to the case.

A San Francisco judge and state appeals court agreed, ruling that prosecutors should have the responsibility to review the files.

The unanimous Supreme Court overturned those decisions, saying that giving prosecutors unfettered access to police personnel files could jeopardize officers’ privacy.

Justice Ming Chin, writing for the court, said “a police officer does not become the target of an investigation merely by being a witness in a criminal case.”

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