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Flaws in the Metropolitan Police Department could have caused prosecutors to withhold information from defendants in criminal cases, according to a letter sent yesterday by U.S. Attorney Ron Machen. The problem has the District’s law enforcement agencies scrambling to review thousands of cases, according to Machen.
The problem centers on I/LEADS, the police department’s data management system. In the letter, sent to leading District defense attorney groups and obtained by LL, Machen writes that police could enter information into the system, only to have it never appear in reports. That meant that prosecutors never got the missing information, which could then never be turned over to defense attorneys for potential challenges.
“It was possible that in pending and past cases MPD was in possession of information that should have been disclosed to the defense,” Machen writes.
In his letter, Machen claims that reviews so far have only revealed minor withholdings that, from his descriptions, probably wouldn’t affect defenses. Still, U.S Attorney’s Office staff worked over last weekend to review cases, while MPD’s IT staff ran through “thousands” of potentially affected cases. Prosecutors are focusing on cases set for trial or sentencing this week, but Machen writes that the review will eventually extend to cases that are past sentencing.
The review could cover cases going back as far as 2012, when I/LEADS became MPD’s only data management system, or 2011, when the department first adopted it. A spokesman for Machen declined to comment, while MPD and the District’s Office of the Attorney General didn’t return requests for comment.
Update, 3/19: According to a letter to defense attorneys from attorney general Karl Racine provided by OAG spokesman Ted Gest, OAG attorneys are working to provide defenses with data that could have gone missing in I/LEADS. The agency is reviewing all of its cases since Jan. 1 2012, according to Racine’s letter.
Photo by Darrow Montgomery