Isaiah Obet had been acting erratically and was in mental distress when Auburn police officer Jeff Nelson ordered that his dog attack Obet and then shot Obet in both the torso and head. Obet fell to his death. Nelson fired another round, shooting Obet in his head. Officer Obet had been high on drugs and was carrying a knife, according to police. Obet’s family was later able to reach a $1.25million settlement with the city.
Joseph Allen crossed in front Nelson’s patrol vehicle the next year when an officer swerved, pinned him against a fence and broke both of his ankles. He argued that Allen was a dangerous criminal.
After trying to arrest Nelson for disorderly conduct, Nelson got into a fight with Jesse Sarey in 2019. After seven punches to Sarey, Nelson shot him in his torso. Nelson shot Sarey in the forehead with another round after he fell to the floor. Nelson shot Nelson twice in the forehead after Sarey fell to the ground. Witnesses and video later disproved his claim that Sarey was “ready to spring forward.”
The Associated Press obtained eyewitness accounts and a criminal complaint detailing Nelson’s actions in each case. Nelson was investigated in over 60 cases of use-of force. These included choking suspects to death, dog bites and other physical force that required medical attention. He was not listed on the King County Prosecuting Attorney’s list, which flags officers whose credibility has been questioned due to misconduct. This designation must be shared with defense lawyers.
After Sarey’s murder, Nelson was added to the Brady List’s “potential impeachment disclosing” list. The trial is scheduled for February 2022. Mohammad Hamoudi is a federal public defense attorney who said that Officer Nelson’s past should be considered and all his cases reviewed. He hopes that his story will inspire prosecutors to investigate excessive force cases involving police officers.
He said, “It has something to do with respecting the rules, laws, and other.” You can question the way an officer investigates cases if he lacks impulse control and/or the ability to make informed decisions.
A Minneapolis police officer killed George Floyd and triggered a national discussion about police reform. This included defunding police departments and improving training. Reform activists and civil rights advocates argue that prosecutors have the ability to use Brady Lists to highlight troubled officers and refuse to present cases against officers with tarnished pasts.
The Associated Press found that prosecutors don’t always compile the lists. Wide disparities in the offenses that land officers on the lists are common across the country. Excessive force is often not worthy of inclusion.
The AP also discovered that many prosecutors, police unions and other law enforcement agencies have taken great measures to prevent Brady List information becoming public.
While defense attorneys, public Defenders, civil rights groups, and some prosecutors call for an increase in Brady Lists use and a broadening the offenses that can land a police officer on them while police unions resist those efforts,
Amy Parker, King County Department of Public Defense, stated that it was imperative that officers with violent pasts be exposed.
She stated in an email that she was a career public defense attorney and had heard prosecutors argue that defendants who have been convicted of crimes of violence or unlawful force use are more likely to commit violence. “If prosecutors intend to apply this standard to defendants then that same standard should be applied to police officers in judging their conduct.”
Dan Satterberg, King County prosecutor, argues that excessive force does not make an officer less trustworthy. He stated that an officer accused of using excessive force in unrelated arrests does not make them less credible.
Brady Lists are a result of a 1963 Supreme Court ruling, Brady v. Maryland. It mandated that prosecutors hand over all exculpatory evidence and information to defense attorneys. This includes information that could be used against officers’ credibility. However, the ruling didn’t specify the steps that prosecutors and police departments should take to ensure defendants were informed. It also did not say whether any lists of troubled officers should be kept.
Critics claim that the result is a mix of policies from different states and jurisdictions.
According to the AP, Atlanta, Chicago and Tulsa prosecutors said they don’t keep track of officers with disciplinary issues. Milwaukee prosecutors listed only officers who have been convicted.
There were 192 names on the Dallas County district attorney’s roster. Infractions ranged from making false statements to convictions of theft, assault and driving under the influences. The Suffolk County prosecutor’s file, Massachusetts, included Boston officers who falsified their timesheets and embezzled money. The Orleans Parish district attorney in Louisiana tracked officers who were convicted of crimes, lied or drove dangerously but did not make any violent arrests.
Honesty can land an officer on the Detroit, Denver and Seattle list, while excessive force doesn’t.
The AP discovered that the Phoenix district attorney and prosecutors in Orange County Florida, Los Angeles and Florida included excessive use of force cases on their respective lists.
“It’s almost like there’s an endless continuum, and the result is that you don’t have identical procedures being followed not just across the country, but also within individual states,” stated Will Aitchison, an Oregon attorney at Labor Relations Information Systems (Portland, Oregon), which represents officers who appeal discipline orders.
Some states have tried to pass legislation to address this lack of consistency. This includes the Washington State Legislature which approved a bill this summer requiring county prosecutors develop written protocols to collect potential impeachment information before July 2022.
Last year, the California Legislature approved a bill that required prosecutors keep a list of officers who had been “sustained finds for conduct of morality or group bias.” But Gov. Gavin Newsom vetoed it because of the “significant state mandate” that it entails.
After Larry Krasner was elected Philadelphia District Attorney in 2017, his staff discovered that a previous prosecutor had compiled a “do-not call” list of officers.
They had a history in lying, bias and excessive force, and were prohibited from testifying without the express permission of the highest ranks of the district attorney’s offices.
Krasner shared this list with defense lawyers, who used it to challenge convictions of those imprisoned for testimony from officers. He also continued to provide Brady material to public Defenders.
Bradley Bridge, Philadelphia public defender, stated that “when my client goes to a preliminary appearance in court where he or she sets bail, the prosecution might disclose 20-30 or 40 pages of materials they’ve generated about a specific police officer.”
Bridge filed motions to dismiss approximately 6,000 convictions for officer misconduct using Brady List information. More than 2000 convictions have been thrown out.
Bridge admits that some of the released may be guilty.
He said, “The problem is that there’s no way for me to know.” “I don’t know how to determine whether they are guilty or not because of the officer’s conduct in the cases.”
Bridge has filed over 500 petitions to reopen convictions related to Christopher Hulmes, a Philadelphia Police Department’s Narcotics Strike Force officer who admitted falsifying records. He was originally charged in 2015 with perjury as well as tampering and altering public records. Bridge stated that 357 of these convictions have been vacated, most of which involved drugs and guns.
Krasner stated that prosecutors have a moral and legal obligation to use Brady Lists. However, Krasner claimed that the local police are resisting this.
He asked that the Philadelphia Police Department be held in contempt because they did not cooperate with him when he requested officer disciplinary material.
Kym Worthy is the Wayne County prosecutor, Michigan. She also handles Detroit.
Worthy has created a list of officers who were convicted of theft, dishonesty fraud, bias, or bribery. This list states that officers who are guilty have lost their credibility, and will not be called to testify.
Kim Gardner, St. Louis Circuit Attorney, has also stated that she will not accept criminal cases filed with untrustworthy officers. She has an “exclusion” list of more than 50 names.
Gardner stated that the union’s over-the-top reaction to attempts to distinguish honest officers from those who are dishonest is one of the reasons why the community relations with the people they serve have become so frayed.
In the heated Los Angeles race for the Los Angeles District Attorney Race between Jackie Lacey (now Vice-President Kamala Harris) and George Gascon (ex-San Francisco District Attorney), police misconduct records were at issue. Gascon was the San Francisco Police Chief when Kamala Harris was the City’s District Attorney and later became the DA as she ascended to the position of state attorney general.
Gascon had joined forces with Harris and the police union in order to create a “do-not call” list which became the standard for the state. After winning the Los Angeles election, Gascon sent letters to local police agencies asking for the names of those officers who were involved in 11 types of misconduct: bribery and theft, evidence tampering. Dishonesty.
Gascon stated, “If the history of the officer is such that we don’t believe him, period, then we won’t use him.”
Many police union contracts and settlement agreements prohibit the release of names of officers in disciplinary records. However, Brady Lists are able to open up those doors.
For example, the contract between Seattle’s police department and Seattle prohibits the release of names of officers who have been disciplined. The Brady Lists, however, were sent to the AP from the King County prosecuting lawyer and included 51 Seattle officers.
Seventeen officers were charged with criminal offenses, 26 received findings of dishonesty and six showed racial bias. One officer also violated department’s ethics policy.
The Office of Police Accountability conducted an investigation and found that a Seattle police officer had posted offensive comments on social networks in 2019, violating policies against biased policing. Although the office was forbidden from naming him, it referred to him as Named Employee #1 in its report. However, the Brady List identified him at Ron Smith.
Smith made a comment on social media that “the Islamic religion was not one that promotes peace”, which suggested that Smith and all of its 1.57 billion followers were in support of violence, according to the OPA report.
Another post was directed at Gov. Jay Inslee (a Democrat) stated that “you weak-kneed lefties don’t want border security… and you want votes to maintain your anti-American party at power.”
Smith resigned but OPA investigations found that Smith engaged in “bias-based police work.”
Salvatore Ditusa was another Seattle officer on Brady List. He was doing a side job flagging traffic when Ditusa approached three workers. “Encouraging in a diatribe which included multiple racial insults towards African Americans,” OPA stated. Ditusa also resigned. He was also accused of biased policing, according to the OPA.
Los Angeles was the final state to decide whether or not to disclose information about misconduct by officers.
Jim McDonnell, the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department’s chief, wanted to share the list with the prosecutor’s offices of the officers accused of misconduct. However, both sides were concerned about the possibility of a state law, the peace officer’s bill-of-rights, prohibiting the move.
The police union had filed an injunction against any sharing. The case was then taken to the state Supreme Court. It ruled that the list could be given to prosecutors in 2019.
Daniel Morris, homicide detective, was one of those named.
A car theft suspect claimed that Morris and other officers punched and kicked him in 2003. Morris refuted the accusation to three supervisors. He eventually admitted to the beating and was suspended for 30 days.
This information was not shared until 2019 with the office of the district attorney.
Ten years earlier, Morris was investigating the murder of a Paramount, California gang member and obtained a search warrant to search Filipe Angel Acosta’s home.
Morris testified that Acosta had no criminal record and was involved with a group. He was charged with drug possession with an enhancement.
After being admitted to hospital and getting sick, Acosta declined a deal that would have required him to admit to gang involvement. However, he changed his mind and entered into a plea of not guilty.
The district attorney did not reveal at any point that Morris was being disciplined for dishonesty.
Acosta filed a motion for the reversal of Morris’ conviction due to the Brady violation by his prosecutor. The charges were dropped.
A 2013 report by the Office of Independent Review on the sheriff’s office stated that “Deputies lying during investigations or in reports does not only affect the immediate case.” They may also influence the outcome in every case where the deputy’s testimony has been considered.