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How witness testimony can influence a criminal proceeding

Minnesota residents could be harmed if a police officer engages in misconduct. In some cases, misconduct could include lying on a witness stand or otherwise providing inaccurate information in a criminal matter. Recognizing this possibility, groups in Florida, California and Texas have sent letters to authorities in those states. The letters ask that police officers who engage in misconduct not be allowed to testify in criminal cases.

Many communities have Brady lists of officers who are not used in a criminal prosecution. In California, the district attorney in Orange County placed four officers on his Brady list. This occurred after information came to light that they solicited statements from suspects through jailhouse informants. The statements were made by the suspects without having access to legal counsel.

Most jurisdictions do not make their Brady lists available to the public. Instead, they are given to defense attorneys who can use them to create doubt as to an officer's credibility. On Jan. 1, a law took effect in California that would make information about certain types of past misconduct public. However, police unions are challenging the law citing privacy concerns. They say that only misconduct that occurs after the law took effect should be available for interested parties to see.

Individuals who have been charged with a crime are entitled to a zealous defense. A criminal defense attorney may be able to help a defendant obtain a plea deal or an acquittal. This could be done by casting doubt on testimony used at trial or suppressing evidence such as statements made in jail or at any other time without counsel present.

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