The California Supreme Court made it easier Thursday for criminal defendants to obtain evidence of past misconduct by police to try to prove that officers lied or rigged evidence, reports the Los Angeles Times. In a 5-2 decision, the court said judges must order police to turn over any records of officer misconduct that could support allegations of improprieties in a defendant’s case. The decision is expected to lead to greater use of police personnel records, which include citizen complaints and discipline matters, by defendants who challenge police statements and evidence. In recent years, many courts have denied defense motions for review of police records.
Once a judge reviews the pertinent records, he or she must give defense attorneys information that could help support their contentions of officer malfeasance, such as the names and addresses of people who complained about the officers in the past and the officers’ discipline records. In the case before the court, Los Angeles police arrested Donald Paul Warrick in 2002 on suspicion of possession of cocaine for sale. When the officers approached him, Warrick fled, dropping lumps of crack cocaine on the ground, police said. Warrick pleaded not guilty to the drug charge, saying someone else had dropped the cocaine.