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Several Case Dismissals Could Result From LPD Mishandling Of Evidence

/ The Upper Cumberland's News Leader
Several Case Dismissals Could Result From LPD Mishandling Of Evidence

Every criminal case that has came through the Livingston Police Department in the past three years could be in question by the lack of evidence oversight.

That is according to Local Attorney Brett Knight who practices in Overton County. Knight said he and other local attorneys received a letter last week from the District Attorney’s Office. The letter advised that evidence could be in question.

“In criminal cases, it is essential that every piece of evidence is taken, handled and stored in such a way that when it is presented in a court or at trial that people, the jury, the judges can be ensured of its authenticity and credibility,” Knight said. “That’s what we refer to as the chain of custody.”

Knight said when that chain is broken such as the Livingston Police Department example, the evidence could no longer have value. Knight said often times without evidence, the case falls apart.

“Most of the time the District Attorney handling the case is left with no other choice but to dismiss the case rather than go forward on a case that they know ethically can not be won,” Knight said.

The letter was sent Thursday of last week following the State Comptroller’s Report on the department. Knight said it is called a notice of potential exculpatory information, which refers to evidence that tends to prove the innocence of a defendant.

“They have an ethical duty to notify us of this,” Knight said. “When you’re doing criminal cases because you’re dealing with people’s civil liberties and rights, it’s almost like playing poker with the cards up on the table. We don’t hide evidence. We don’t hide things from each other. We play with everything exposed. So, when the District Attorney found out about this, they did the right thing in notifying.”

Then as attorneys, Knight said they start identifying cases that happened in the area. Knight said he sees the situation ending with cases being challenged and dismissed.

“Cases that good officers worked really hard to build and now are just going to go away,” Knight said. “Members of the community who are victims who won’t get any kind of justice in our court systems. For example, I can see scenarios and hypotheticals where it begins with a motion to exclude evidence once you identify a case where evidence is poor and it was being stored by the Livingston Police, and then, it would be followed quickly by motions to dismiss.”

Knight said he can also imagine scenarios where a person is held in jail and an evidence issue is identified. Knight said he could see a quick motion being filed to reduce bonds or to release them pending on cases being dismissed.

“It would be a real miscarriage of justice to know that these cases are getting dismissed and that you’re keeping people in jail while we know what the end result is going to be,” Knight said. “Those are the things that I can envision happening.”

Knight said he also expects an additional tax payer burden. Knight said residents have already paid for inmate jail housing, investigating and prosecuting cases. Knight said now with the mishandling of evidence and possible dismissed cases, that money is wasted.


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