Un-True Blue

The D.A.’s office won’t call some tainted cops to testify

AS VIVIDLY DEMONSTRATED IN the O. J. Simpson trial, the credibility of a police officer can make or break the prosecution’s case. While it hasn’t made Court TV yet, Dallas and some of its suburbs have their own potential Mark Fuhrmans, police officers carrying so much dirty laundry that prosecutors refuse to call them as witnesses.

Dallas County Assistant District Attorney Michael R. Gillett says that his office doesn’t keep an official list of tainted cops, but he acknowledges there are 12 to 20 officers prosecutors won’t call to trial, including at least one who has been indicted, fired, then reinstated. Gillett says he recently wrote Dallas Police Chief Ben Click a letter saying he wouldn’t call certain officers because Internal Affairs Division investigations had shown them to be untruthful- “We’re not going to put somebody on the witness stand that we can’t vouch for their credibility,” Gillett says.

Gillett declined to give D Magazine names of all the officers, saying that some are witnesses in pending cases, and if the accused “were actually guilty of the offense,” they might be reluctant to plead guilty if they or their lawyers knew that the arresting officers have credibility problems. But he confirmed that the following current and former Dallas police officers are among the untouchables: Randy Sundquist, accused of conducting an illegal search and lying to IAD; Dwayne A. Castille, charged with using unnecessary force, as well as theft and forgery; Terrence Thomas, indicted on charges of making a terroristic threat; and Rodney Smith, accused of shaking down a citizen.

Gillett isn’t the only one keeping track of police officers with credibility problems. Since 1991, defense attorney David Burrows has maintained a book he calls “The Blue-Print.” That year. Burrows accepted a plea bargain- probation and a fine-for a DWI client from an assistant DA. Later, Burrows discovered that at the time of the deal, the arresting police officer was no longer employed by the Dallas Police Department. That meant the prosecutor didn’t have a witness against his client.

Angry, Burrows put together a three-ring binder with newspaper clippings about officers who had been disciplined, fired, or had left the various police departments in Dallas County. He spread the word to other defense attorneys, who began sending him information about officers in trouble. To date, he’s had 20 cases dismissed by checking the book.

Burrows, who says he expects to be indicted on federal charges of tax evasion, may be a flawed messenger with an important message: Area police departments should watch out for Fuhrmans-in-waiting.

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