Detective Cleared By Jury Put On Prosecutors' 'Do Not Call' List

April 16, 2009|By PETER HERMANN

Baltimore Police Detective Terry W. Love Jr. won his court case and lost his career.

A city jury acquitted him of assaulting a man outside a Govans barbershop, but the very same prosecutors who failed to put him in prison added his name to a list of officers they refuse to put on the witness stand in court, believing he lied even if jurors felt otherwise.

That means police can't put Terry Love in any position in which he might arrest a suspect, investigate a case or handle evidence because he wouldn't be able to testify. He could spend the rest of his career shoveling paperwork or on the warrant squad arresting other cops' criminals. He can't be a homicide detective any more.

And that has got his lawyer, the police union and some top police commanders irate over a list State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy has compiled of officers she has decided are untrustworthy.

Some officers on the "do not call" list have been found guilty of crimes or administrative charges, but many have not. Reasons Jessamy's office listed for do-not-call status include: "falsifying charging documents; drunk, off-duty officer provoked fight; planting drugs on innocent 18-year-old; lied about warrant; perjury on witness stand; punching suspect; stole debit card, $8,000 spending spree."

Love's attorney, Clarke Ahlers, hinted at suing Jessamy's office. He said prosecutors wrongly condemned his client as a liar and continue to pursue him even after jurors have spoken. "I think the Police Department ought to have a 'do-not-trust' prosecution list," he told me. "Obviously they are not very persuasive with juries."

Said Margaret T. Burns, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office: "Police officers are the state's attorney's professional witnesses. The expectation is that they are above reproach in their testimony and that they testify truthfully and accurately on the facts."

Prosecutors say Love lied in a report and in court when he described fighting a man who had interrupted his haircut by shouting obscenities. The detective testified that during the struggle the man escaped, ran away and couldn't be found, even though three people called 911 to report the man was beaten and kicked and then abandoned on a sidewalk until an ambulance came.

That contradiction could be used by lawyers representing anyone Love later arrests to impeach the detective as a liar, rendering his testimony virtually useless.

So if Love is put back in homicide, arrests a murder suspect and testifies in court, the attorney for the accused could persuade a judge to allow him to question Love on whether he had previously lied in court and argue that prosecutors once refused to believe him, so why should a jury believe him now? And if prosecutors present a witness whose integrity has been questioned, especially by them, judges have ruled they must disclose that to the defense.

Given the distrust jurors have of city cops, no prosecutor is going to risk putting someone they themselves have called a liar on the witness stand.

It should be noted that prosecutors took over the investigation of Love because they didn't trust cops to do it right. And given the latest turmoil at police headquarters, who can blame them? The day Love was acquitted, Tuesday, police fired the official in charge of internal disciplinary trial boards and the police union now wants cases she handled thrown out, arguing parts of documents were fabricated or altered. The official who investigated racial discrimination cases is under fire for moonlighting as a bankruptcy attorney and representing suspects that cops in her own department had arrested.

Michael Davey, an attorney for the police union who represents cops in disciplinary hearings, said he might seek next week to get even more cases against cops tossed because he says the wrong official signed off on charging documents.

"It's as bad as I've ever seen it," Davey said.

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