This month marks the one year anniversary of a great case from the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. I’m referring to Milke v. Ryan, 711 F.3d 998 (9th Cir. 2013) – a landmark decision in which the court ruled that you have an absolute right to know if the officer or detective testifying against you is a dirty cop. Specifically, if the law enforcement officer in your case has a history of lying or dishonesty, excessive use of force, or anything that calls in to question his or her credibility, then you have the right to know about it.
Since we are in Nevada, so getting these records isn’t that easy. I have to fight for them! Since this decision came out last year, I have been fighting to force the prosecutors to turn over this information. It’s been a long fight but fortunately I’m making progress. I have gotten one judge to agree that I’m right and that the prosecutor should at the very least review the personnel files of the testifying officers and detectives. If there is anything in those files that shows the officer is dirty and has a history of lying or deceit, the prosecutor should inform the judge. This is important because if the law enforcement officer or detective has a history of lying, you won’t know about it because the prosecutor won’t know about it either because he or she doesn’t even bother to look at the personnel file of these dirty cops – much less tell you about it!
Prosecutors have a duty to seek justice – not convictions. Furthermore, prosecutors have a duty to tell the truth and turn over exculpatory evidence they have or in the case of law enforcement personnel files, they can easily obtain by contacting Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), Nevada Highway Patrol (NHP), Henderson Police Department, or North Las Vegas Police Department. A prosecutor who doesn’t do this can be sanctioned or punished for acting in “bad faith” if he or she refuses to comply with the judge’s order to get these files.
The Milke v. Ryan case involved a lady named Debra Jean Milke. She was someone who was accused by Detective Saldate, a dirty detective, of confessing to killing her young son. Ms. Milke swore all along she didn’t confess to anything. The detective, unfortunately, was believed by the jury and she was found guilty of murdering her child. She was sentenced to death and spent 24 years on death row before her conviction was thrown out because of what was found in Detective Saldate’s personnel file.
After Ms. Milke was found guilty and sentenced to death, her lawyers found out that the Detective Saldate had a history of lying and that the prosecutors never turned over this information. The prosecutors stuck their heads in the sand and said they were unaware of Detective Saldate’s history of discipline and internal affairs reports that were substantiated. This, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals said, was inexcusable. From now on, according to this court, prosecutors have a duty to disclose this kind of information when asked by a defendant’s lawyers if there’s anything in the cop’s internal affairs files that shows he or she is a bad cop. The prosecutor can no longer say “I don’t have access to the file and haven’t seen it.” Well, that prosecutor now has to get the file, review it, and turn it over to the defense.
I’ve been fighting to force the prosecutors to review the files of their testifying officers and detectives and turn them over to me. This has involved numerous pre-trial motions, petitions for writs of mandamus, and countless hours of work. I’m pleased to see that my work for my clients is paying off.
If you’ve been accused of a crime by an officer or detective whom you know is lying about you, call me and let’s discuss how I can help you at (702)966-5310.