Contra Costa Public Defender wants names of Antioch, Pittsburg officers under investigation by DA

McDonnell issues statement about investigation, wants to conduct own review of cases; Becton hasn’t responded

By Allen D. Payton

In a letter to Contra Costa District Attorney Diana Becton on Monday, Contra Costa Public Defender Ellen McDonnell asked for the names of the Antioch and Pittsburg Police officers who are the subjects of an investigation into possible crimes of moral turpitude. The DA’s office announced last Friday the investigation which began last Wednesday and “a review of both active and closed cases involving these officers…to evaluate whether those cases are now compromised.” (See related article)

McDonnell is also asking for all the current, pending cases the involving the officers so her office can conduct a separate review. As of 5:00 p.m. Tuesday, McDonnell said she had not received a response from Becton.

“To date, I have not been provided with any information about what this investigation of the officers is about,” McDonnell later shared.

Following is the letter:

“March 28, 2022

Diana Becton

Office of the District Attorney

900 Ward Street

Martinez, CA 94553

Dear Diana,

In light of the recent media disclosures regarding conduct involving moral turpitude on the part of officers from Pittsburg and Antioch Police Departments, I am requesting that you identify all officers from those departments currently under investigation by your office. We believe that such a disclosure is mandated by the United States Constitution, XIVth Amendment, Brady v. Maryland (1963) 373 U.S. 83 & progeny, and California case law.

I am also asking that you identify all cases currently pending that include any of the involved officers, as well as all previous cases involving those officers. Please provide us with a list of such cases in which the client is or was represented by the Office of the Public Defender or the Office of the Alternate Defender.

While we understand from your press release that you intend to conduct an internal review of affected cases, we respectfully request that you identify those officers so that we can conduct our own review according to our own practices.

Thank you in advance for your assistance and cooperation with this matter. If you have any questions about this request, please let me know.

Sincerely,

Ellen McDonnell

Public Defender Contra Costa County”

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According to supreme.justia.com, in the case McDonnell cited, the court found, “The government’s withholding of evidence that is material to the determination of either guilt or punishment of a criminal defendant violates the defendant’s constitutional right to due process.”

McDonnell Issues Statement About Investigation

The Public Defender issued the following statement Tuesday evening:

“I am deeply concerned about these revelations.  Our office first heard about this investigation when the District Attorney’s Office issued a press release on March 25th.  We immediately requested that the names of any involved officers be released to our office so that we could begin the process of reviewing impacted cases and determining what role these officers played in any arrests or convictions.  Timely transparency is necessary to ensure due process of law and the fair administration of justice for our community and for those impacted by our criminal legal system, some of whom may be currently incarcerated based on the word of these officers.

This investigation into the conduct of officers from both the Pittsburg and Antioch Police Departments will potentially impact many hundreds of cases.  This includes not only current cases where these officers are witnesses, but also previous arrests and convictions involving these officers.  It is important to determine whether these officers were under investigation and suspected of committing crimes of moral turpitude while they continued to remain on the force and continued to arrest individuals, to author police reports, and to testify as witnesses in criminal court.”

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