st. Louis’s criminal justice system is fraught with arrest mistakes and lacks adequate tools to fix them, say depositions of insiders filed in federal court this week and reported by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The sworn statements were taken in a lawsuit seeking damages for Cedric Wright, who claims he was wrongly held in jail for 62 days. His attorneys, Jim Hacking and Jennifer Shoulberg, will seek to expand the case into a class action suit.
Wright’s attorneys identified 82 people they say were mistakenly arrested and jailed a total of 1,397 days from 2007 through mid-2013. That parallels results of a year-long Post Dispatch investigation finding that mistakes — many simply a failure to check fingerprints closely or read emails — put 100 people behind bars for a total of more than 2,000 days over seven years. Mark Garanzini, a coordinator of the police unit that processes people arriving at the jail, testified in a deposition that sometimes officers book someone of uncertain identity to see if the charges “stick.” He said he spends about 15 percent of his time correcting mistakes on the arrest reports his staff relies upon, and that a lack of trained employees has been a problem for the 20 years he has worked there. Police Sgt. Vic Paciorko said officers believed that “although sometimes they may not be 100 percent positive, they thought there was a safety net” that would catch misidentifications.