- Associated Press - Sunday, June 21, 2015

FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) - Internal comments that question the credibility of nearly 20 Fort Worth-area police officers and evidence experts have led prosecutors to alert defense attorneys in more than 4,000 misdemeanor cases dating back to 1993.

The comments were made on handwritten forms that sought prosecutors’ personal observations about officer attitudes before trial and during testimony. The forms were kept on file by Tarrant County prosecutors and obtained by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (https://bit.ly/1fqKDMZ ) under a public records request.

One prosecutor wrote “this guy is a chump” in accusing a Willow Park officer of lying on the stand.

A Watauga officer’s testimony prompted a prosecutor to write “I thought he was making stuff up or just winging it.”

District Attorney Sharen Wilson is reviewing the cases. Wilson says she can’t confirm the allegations about 16 officers and three Breathalyzer operators, but believes they warrant alerting attorneys in any cases those officers were in any way involved with.

“We are continuing to recover the transcripts from as many of the cases as possible to review the testimony, however many of the forms didn’t include the name of the defendant - which is how the cases are recorded - and in some instances the cases have since been expunged, which means the record no longer exists,” Wilson told the newspaper in an email.

Rick Van Houten, president of the Fort Worth Police Department Police Officers Association, said the comments were “unsubstantiated opinions” and were never sent to the department’s internal affairs to investigate

Terry Daffron Porter, a lawyer with the Combined Law Enforcement Associations of Texas, called the forms “the equivalent of a high school burn book, but instead it’s being done with prosecutors about police officers. Just because it’s written in there, doesn’t make it true.”

Wilson, who took office in January, said the forms were apparently created as part of an “ill-advised training exercise.”

The assistant district attorneys who completed the forms were, in most cases, directly out of a law school and their supervisor believed that the notes would be a useful internal tool to help young attorneys prepare cases.

“The inherent flaw was that the supervisor did not follow up by reading them for content, which would have alerted the management to the seriousness of some of the observations,” Wilson said.

In a 2000 DWI trial involving an Arlington sergeant, the prosecutor wrote: “Jury did not think he was credible. He tries to be too much of an advocate for state. Lied on the stand.” The form gave no details.

Other prosecutors were more specific. One accused a Watauga officer of giving an entirely different account of an arrest during a DWI trial than testimony given during a pretrial hearing.

Another prosecutor accused a Fort Worth officer of lying on the stand because he testified that there was a strong odor of alcohol after previously telling prosecutors he didn’t smell any alcohol or couldn’t remember.

In only one of the 19 forms does a prosecutor indicate that a defense attorney was alerted by prosecutors to the perceived lie.

Tarrant County Sheriff Dee Anderson said the department will study the documents but he has not decided whether to launch a formal investigation. Anderson expressed frustration that law enforcement officials were not told of the problems when they occurred.

“I assure you in 2008, had I been notified we had a deputy lying on the stand, we would have investigated,” Anderson said.


Information from: Fort Worth Star-Telegram, https://www.star-telegram.com

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