NEW HANOVER COUNTY, NC (WECT) – A new policy from the District Attorney's office will make sure law enforcement officers keep no secrets from prosecutors that could affect a court case in New Hanover and Pender counties.
District Attorney Ben David notified all law enforcement agencies that they will need to comply with a new policy pertaining to testimony. It's based on the 1972 Supreme Court Case Giglio v. United States, which calls for disclosure of any information that could affect a witnesses credibility, including law enforcement.
David first mentioned the policy publicly at a press conference for a botched undercover sting by the vice-narcotics unit of the Wilmington Police Department. The district attorney said this is not a reactionary move because he's been working on the policy since October, long before he learned of the WPD investigation.
Ralph Evangelous, Chief of Police, made it known at that press conference that a "code of silence" was responsible for the time it took for the department to investigate the operation. David said this policy will break any culture based on that kind of code.
"The foundation of the justice system rests on the core principle that there has to be trust," he said.
New Hanover County Sheriff Ed McMahon recently relieved an evidence technician from her position because she violated the agency's policies. He notified David of the situation, but no court cases were affected.
Cases connected to the officers involved with the WPD sting have been continued pending an investigation by the State Bureau of Investigation.
The Giglio policy will have law enforcement agencies disclose details from any incidents that could call into question an officers credibility in the last 10 years. A committee of three prosecutors will review the information and decide what needs to be shared with the defense and what can be kept out of court.
Tom Old, an Assistant District Attorney and former judge, is on the review committee. He said the purpose of the policy is not to be morality police for law enforcement officers.
"By and large, they are all people that I trust implicitly," Old said. "But there are those situations where, if we learn those things, we have an affirmative duty to disclose them to the defense."
Prosecutors have just as much of a duty to protect the officers. David said the Giglio process will separate the actual incidents that affect an officers character and the baseless words circulating around the rumor mill.
"If it's just gossip, innuendo or hearsay, we're going to make sure that that witness has their reputation protected," said David.
Training sessions for this new policy start this week, with David planning to meet with every agency in New Hanover and Pender Counties.
Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved.
322 Shipyard Boulevard