(Page 2 of 2)

In candid email, Bernstein criticizes police in officer misconduct case

Memo to staff 'tongue in cheek' but raises ethical issues, expert says

June 02, 2011|By Justin Fenton, The Baltimore Sun

She said Bernstein might have found it valuable to explain to his staff the setbacks he faced, "but I'm not sure it was necessary. It's going to be dissected and will look like he has as much disdain for the Police Department as his predecessor," Croyder said.

Hellen's attorney, David B. Irwin, who maintained during trial that prosecutors had no evidence to charge his client, declined to comment on the memo.

"We continue to be glad that the right verdict was rendered by the judge," Irwin said.

Bernstein, who pledged a better working relationship with police than his predecessor, derisively describes the lead investigator on the case as a "'crack' [internal affairs] detective" who "neglected to tell us about recorded interviews of three witnesses that we discovered during trial."

Jessamy frequently pointed to flaws in police work as the reason for cases needing to be dropped, which Bernstein characterized during the campaign as "refusing to accept any responsibility for the inability to effectively prosecute."

The officer, Detective Lakishna DeGraffinried, seemed to have little grasp of the case at trial, repeatedly saying she never testified before a grand jury, when there was a lengthy transcript of her testimony, then saying the testimony was prepared by someone else and given to her to read. She couldn't explain what happened to certain evidence, and in an unusual move said she provided documents in the case to the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

"I stand by what I said about the detective's performance," Bernstein said in an interview. The officer could not be reached for comment.

Croyder, the former prosecutor, said his assessment was "best kept in house."

Bernstein, who vowed during his campaign to get in the courtroom and personally try cases, picked this case as his first, to the chagrin of some of his police supporters.

Defense attorneys for Francis and Smith argued at trial that they were interviewing the teens and dropped them off where they asked to be let out. They said the boys made up the stories about being abducted for fear of being labeled neighborhood "snitches."

Michael Belsky, an attorney for the Fraternal Order of Police's law firm who represented Francis, said during the trial that the case should have been handled as an internal disciplinary case. In a trial that at times became confrontational, Belsky and Smith's attorney, Kenneth Ravenell, repeatedly accused Bernstein and Assistant Prosecutor Michelle Martin of misconduct and inappropriate remarks.

On Wednesday, Smith and Francis were sentenced to 18 months' probation and 250 hours of community service. Belsky said of the email, "It's a lot to digest." Ravenell had no comment.

Bernstein acknowledges in the email that the case was flawed. "The case [how should I put it?] had some issues," he writes, describing inconsistent statements given by the juvenile victims during multiple interviews. Later, he writes, "I could go on and on, but I suspect most of you are thinking, 'Welcome to the State's Attorney's Office.'"

Referring to how the case was charged, Bernstein writes that there were "some rather novel charging decisions." But he did not refile or adjust the charges before trial, which prosecutors have the option to do.

The email concludes: "Your boss … was trying his first case in a long, long time. Hopefully, I did not embarrass those of you who have been doing this for a while."

It adds: "Can't wait for the next one."

justin.fenton@baltsun.com

twitter.com/justin_fenton

Excerpts from Bernstein email

"The case (how should I put it?) had some issues … Our 'crack' IID detective neglected to tell us about recorded interviews of three witnesses that we discovered during the trial. She also began her examination by defense counsel (we certainly did not call her) by denying she had testified in the grand jury. … Michelle told the detective 4 times to read her friggin' file, which she refused to do. I could go on and on, but I suspect most of you are thinking, 'Welcome to the State's Attorney's Office."

"Judge Doory (who otherwise ran an excellent trial; very impressive) stated, in essence, that he did not believe police officers were capable of ever being guilty of kidnapping, false imprisonment and assault, because by definition, this is what they do every day (I am not making this up)."

Speaking of two fellow prosecutors who helped with the case:

"Michelle Martin and Paul Pineau did a superb job of making your boss look good (and isn't that what this is all about?) who was trying his first case as a prosecutor in a long, long time. Hopefully, I did not embarrass those of you who have been doing this for a while."



>> Most recent updates

Baltimore Sun Articles
|
|
|
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.