Criminal Justice

Making Up Evidence an "Honest Mistake"

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It's a few months old, but here's a pretty crazy case of prosecutorial malfeasance from Santa Clara County, California.

San Jose Det. Matthew Christian created a fake DNA report signed by a fictitious lab technician to use as a prop while interrogating a man under investigation for sex crimes against a developmentally disabled neighbor. Police are allowed to lie to suspects in an effort to extract information or confessions, so Christian hadn't violated any laws in actually creating the report.

The problem is that the fake report somehow made its way into Deputy District Attorney Jaime Stringfield's file, along with a real report stating that no DNA could be found on the blanket in question.  At a preliminary hearing, Stringfield then proceeded to question the Det. Christian about the fake report.  Christian obliged with false testimony.

"This blanket that you seized, did you submit it to the crime lab for analysis?" she asked.

"Yes," Christian said.

"Are you aware of any results?" she asked.

"Yes. There was semen found on the blanket," Christian said.

Superior Court Judge Gilbert T. Brown ordered Kerkeles to stand trial. Stringfield listed Roberts, the fake analyst, among her trial witnesses.

Stringfield blamed the defense attorney for not pointing out the discrepancy in the two reports.  But according to the article, defense attorneys twice asked for more information on the reports.  Stringfield declined their requests.  The defense finally made a third request, this time for the resume of the fictitious lab technician who signed the fake report, at which time Det. Christian remembered that he had made the whole thing up.

An "internal committee" of prosecutors later concluded that Christian's fake report, false testimony, and memory lapse, and Stringfield's failure to notice the fake report, failure to notice the real report, and failure to distinguish between the two—were all "honest mistakes."  

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  1. “Honest mistake …”
    This shit-sampler needs to be tied down and bukkake’ed by a baker’s dozen of male porn stars.
    Maybe then, with a river of salty dick snot running down his fuck-head face, he’ll remember the difference between “honest mistake” and lying.

  2. Why do I even come to this goddamn site?
    It just pisses me the fuck off every time.
    Hey Balko, how do you cope? Kicking poodles?

  3. Ho-Lee Shit.

    “Oh yeah! I forgot I made that tech up, since I used the name of some waitress I picked up and banged a couple nights before. I usually don’t get their names, but it was on her uniform, so I remembered it since I saw the name tag while I was banging her and choking her at the same time. She acted like she didn’t like it, but, sh-eeeee-it, we know all chicks love that shit ‘cuz cutting off their air makes everything better for them, right? Yeeeeaaah, right. So yeah, since I used a real name, I forgot I used it for a made up person. Just forget I testified about it, OK? I mean, fuck, the guy’s guilty right?”

    “What? He’s not? How come?”

  4. This is just the latest example, the upteenth, in just the last few weeks, of the harvest sown by the monopolization of the administration of justice.

  5. An “internal committee” of prosecutors later concluded that Christian’s fake report, false testimony, and memory lapse, and Stringfield’s failure to notice the fake report, failure to notice the real report, and failure to distinguish between the two-were all “honest mistakes.”

    Looks like the DA did make an honest mistake, and repeatedly tried, and eventually succeeded, at getting the truth. Not sure why you’re apparently taking a swipe at her.

  6. Since I am fortunately not a lawyer, isn’t this perjury?

    Regards,
    TDL

  7. No, it’s not perjury cause when he testified he had “forgot” that he made it all up. So it was the “the truth to the best of his knowledge” at the time. That’s because he’s a cop of course. If anybody else tried to get away with it, yeah, it’d be perjury.

  8. Looks like the DA did make an honest mistake, and repeatedly tried, and eventually succeeded, at getting the truth. Not sure why you’re apparently taking a swipe at her.

    I believe it was the defense attorneys who were pushing for more information, not the DA.

  9. prolefeed,

    The DA should have figured out the problem when he couldnt contact the lab tech for a deposition.

    Not realizing it was fake at first = honest mistake. Sometime between the 1st and 3rd request for info = dishonesty.

  10. Maybe his testimony wasn’t perjury, but what about putting the fake results in the police file with no indication that they were fake? What about sending that file to the DA with no “Fakey Fake Shit” disclaimer?

    If I filed a false tax return with the IRS, and my defense was that I “accidentally” filed a fake return that I made up to amuse a friend of mine, I would still be charged with filing a false return.

  11. Almost, prolefeed. The DA erred in failing to provide the defense attorney with information about the contradictory lab reports. That’s a serious lapse in judgment–certainly unethical, and possibly illegal. I can’t really fault the DA too much for the rest of her conduct. If you’ve ever worked a criminal case, you know that the files are rarely complete and often contain inconsistent information. It sounds to me like the DA exercised acceptable diligence in discovering the error, given that the sleazeball investigator was willing to back up his fabricated report with fabricated testimony.

    The investigator, however, is indeed a swine. Justice demands that he spend a decade in prison for rape based on fabricated evidence.

  12. yeah, libertymike, because in a competitive legal system, nobody would have any motive to lie.

    What?!

  13. The trustees and guardians of the administration of justice monopoly usually can be counted on to cover for each other-particularly where, as here, it serves a very real, personl purpose: the avoidance of suddden unemployment, disbarment or incarceration.

  14. This is just the latest example, the upteenth, in just the last few weeks, of the harvest sown by the monopolization of the administration of justice.

    QFT.

  15. If the DA is so damned honest, why isn’t she prosecuting the investigator for perjury?

  16. Let’s all voice our support for a swift and sure death penalty.

    What could possibly go wrong?

  17. Elemenope-

    Diffusion of power necessarily limits the reach of corruption.

  18. THere is nothing divinely ordained about protection being a government monopoly.

  19. That’s because he’s a cop of course. If anybody else tried to get away with it, yeah, it’d be perjury.

    Well, of course.

    We have to remember that when the police lie under oat and commit perjury they’re doing for the greater good.

  20. how can the prosecution deny the defense request for more information on the lab reports? That seems like prima facie prosecutorial misconduct.

  21. OK, I’ve been thinking about the way that perjury charges for the cop have been laughed away here.

    The prosecutors appear to be saying that they believe the cop’s claim that at the moment he testified, he believed the report was genuine and had forgotten he made it up – and that therefore he did not wilfully perjure himself.

    At first I bought that, but on reflection I don’t. If I as a defendant made up a lie while being questioned, and then a year went by and I offered my lie again in court, it would not be a defense for me to say, “Well, I lied so long ago that I forgot I had lied, and when I testified in court the lie had become my actual memory of events.” The court would laugh in my face. My lie in court would just be the long tail of my lie during questioning. The passage of time would not justify my lie.

    Since the cop admits that when he first fabricated the report it was a lie, he should be estopped from later claiming that he thought it was true.

  22. In fairness, most prosecutors, investigators and forensic scientists all handle so many cases that they can’t remember what they actually did in each case. It’s the norm for them to basicly read their notes and casefiles on the stand. Unless there’s any evidence that the cop willfully lied, he should be entitled to the same presumption of innocence. On the other hand, there should be a remedy of damages for negligence.

    All that aside, I don’t think the police sould be able to engage in fraud.

  23. New World Dan,

    How do you disprove an “I momentarily forgot” defense? If this standard were applied to everyone, it would be impossible to convict anyone of perjury.

  24. I’ve said it before, I’m sure I’ll have reasons to say it again. Cops routinely commit perjury and in only an infinitesimal percentage of cases are they disciplined, much less prosecuted, for it.

  25. Let’s all voice our support for a swift and sure death penalty.

    What could possibly go wrong?

    Yes, because throwing someone in jail for life based on fake evidence is so much less heinous than putting them to death based on fake evidence. If the justice system is broken, fix the justice system, don’t nibble at the margins.

  26. You know, this may well be an honest mistake on the investigator’s part. He probably lies, bullies, and makes up fake evidence all the time, and can’t keep straight when he lied and when he told the truth to someone.

  27. See, I forgot exactly when I stopped lying.

    *smiles*

  28. It’s odd to me that Presidents can’t get away with lying under oath, but cops can. Clinton’s crime was lying under oath, not getting his cigar glazed. Same with Libby (minus said cigar-glazing). But this cop gets a walk?

    I am reading Healy’s “Cult of the Presidency”, a great read, but I’m starting to wonder if we’re not facing a bigger problem with the Cult of the Police Officer. If you go and get yourself called a cop, is anything illegal?

  29. Yes, because throwing someone in jail for life based on fake evidence is so much less heinous than putting them to death based on fake evidence. If the justice system is broken, fix the justice system, don’t nibble at the margins.

    Crimethink,

    No, just stop killing people till we fix it. You pose the goal, fix the justice system. That leads to an obvious question. How do we fix it? I’ve struggled with that for a long time and am uncertain if it can be fixed.

    For the most part, those who desire to be cops are not tempermentally suited to be cops.

    We reward DAs for convictions, not dropped charges.

    The wealthy face little chance of being caught up in the web that is the justice system. For every Martha Stewart* ther are dozens of Cindy McCains.

    It discourages me. The public demands scapegoats and the justice system is seemingly designed to serve them up. I’ve heard no solutions. Ways to minimze justice fuck-ups, yes. But no realistic solutions to the endemic problems with the system. The anarcho-capitalist private justice system concept is a non-starter. Any ideas? With a handle like crimethink, you should.

    *Yeah, she got mildly screwed. But it was nothing compared to what a poor young man faces when somebody in the system gets a hard on for them.

  30. No, just stop killing people till we fix it.

    …and then just shrug our shoulders at the fact that any innocent people whose lives were spared by doing away with cap-pun will now merely be spending the rest of their lives getting assraped in prison.

    The costs and benefits of capital punishment need to be considered separately from the problems with the justice system in general, which affect all the severe punishments that are handed out by that system. It seems to me that people who oppose the death penalty for other unrelated reasons try to make use of the imperfections in our justice system to advance their agenda.

  31. Our defense is that we’re fucking retards. Which, ironically, is what the defendant was accused of in the first place.

  32. The costs and benefits of capital punishment need to be considered separately from the problems with the justice system in general

    Uh…What?

    That would actually be the worst possible way to analyze those costs and benefits.

  33. THere is nothing divinely ordained about protection being a government monopoly.

    Yeah, that diffused power structure in Somalia is doing a cracking good job.

  34. San Jose Det. Matthew Christian needs to dance to Danny Deever.

  35. . . . and people always ask how it is possible that I would want to be a Public Defender.

  36. Just a thought?

    If the “good” guys are allowed to lie, cheat, and steal (etc) ?and they then do?are they still able to be called “good” guys.

  37. Contending he had been improperly prosecuted based on the false word of an unreliable witness, Kerkeles [the convict] went back to court this year to seek a finding that he was innocent of the charges. “[Detective] Christian’s explanation for his perjury was and remains fantastical,” the motion filed by Seibert states.

    But [prosecutor] Stringfield, in opposition, disagreed: “I in no way believe defendant is factually innocent,” she wrote.

    Judge Lee denied the request.

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