Eight Detroit police officers were acquitted yesterday of violating the constitutional rights of suspected criminals by planting evidence and writing phony reports, says the Detroit News. The eight are among 19 officers accused of lying in more than a dozen cases from 2000-03 to justify the arrests of suspected drug dealers and prostitutes. U.S. Attorney Jeffrey G. Collins has not decided whether to go forward with the prosecution of seven other officers scheduled to go to trial in October. Three others pleaded guilty and charges were dismissed against one officer. One juror told the News that the jury didn’t believe many of the government witnesses, who had lengthy criminal records for drug dealing, prostitution, and gun possession. The juror said two or three jurors initially wanted to convict the officers, but ultimately agreed to acquit them. The jury deliberated 17 hours over four days.
Wayne State University Law Professor Peter Henning, a former federal prosecutor in Detroit, said the government had a tough case to prove. “All the cop shows on TV show the criminal justice system as a roadblock to police protecting honest citizens,” Henning said. “The jury (may have) thought, ‘They wrote false reports to accomplish what? To get money? No. To get a bad guy off the streets?’ ”
“This malicious prosecution smacked of McCarthyism and the Salem Witch trials,” said Officer Matthew Zani, 37, who spent six days in jail before he was released on bond last year.
The FBI investigation began in 2002, when a convicted felon arrested by Detroit police was referred to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for federal prosecution.