Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Judge Manners: Propensity evidence on steroids

Judge Michael Manners has issued a new order concerning the Reginald Clemons case. It's not earth-shattering, though it counts as a setback for Clemons and his attorneys.

Their discovery request had been contested on three points by the St. Louis Metropolitan Police Department. The STLPD did not think it should surrender:

* records of complaints against the officers that arrested and investigated Clemons from August 28, 1998 through the present,

* or all documents about any use of force or coercion by any City cop from Jan. 1, 1986 through Dec. 31, 1996

* or or all documents about any fabrication of or tampering with evidence by any City cop from Jan. 1, 1986 through Dec. 31, 1996.

Judge Manners notes that the dispute over the first of these disputed points had been worked out between the legal teams in a teleconference call. I need to get clarification on this point, but it seems the request was amended to apply records of complaints against the officers that handled Clemons pertaining to misconduct committed before August 28, 1998 but not reported or alleged until afterwards.

On the other two points - pertaining to the more sweeping respects in the discovery subpoeana - Judge Manners sided with the STLPD's Internal Affairs lawyers. Asking for evidence of other, similar complaints, Manners notes, is at times permissible in that it can show a "propensity" for misconduct. But the judge reasons that it is asking too much to ask for all records of coercion or evidence-tampering for all City cops, not just the ones who handled Clemons.

"This is propensity evidence on steroids," Judge Manners notes, in a winning turn of phrase.

Judge Manners is the Special Master appointed by the Missouri Supreme Court to review the case of Missouri death row inmate Reginald Clemons, who had been scheduled for execution on June 17, 2009, before a federal stay of execution opened the door for the historic turnaround by the Missouri Supreme Court in reopening the case to independent review.


Judge Manners' order regarding contested discovery request

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