Undisclosed Evidence Calls Des Moines Murder Conviction Into Question

Withheld evidence could have changed the verdict in David Flores' murder trial from guilty to not guilty. The Des Moines Register reports:

Prosecutors and judges have acknowledged that the case against David Flores, now 31 and serving a life prison sentence, was weak at the time he was convicted in 1997. One element that will be central to Flores' hearing is whether police had access to an FBI report that pointed to [Rafael] Robinson as another suspect in [Phyllis] Davis' death.

Flores' defense first learned in 2003 that the report existed — after his appeals were exhausted. But it took them years to discover the contents of the report.

Davis was inadvertently caught in the middle of an exchange of gunfire. Three witnesses say Robinson shot her. Robinson was shot three months later. Flores' lawyers want to examine the police reports concerning Robinson's unsolved killing, but the police and prosecution are resisting, claiming the examination could compromise an ongoing investigation. That excuse would be more persuasive if the investigation had actually produced a strong suspect in the last 12 years. [more ...]

Prosecutors are at least willing to allow a judge to review the file to decide whether anything should be disclosed to Flores' lawyers. They are less inclined to let the press have a look.

In addition to requesting all police records related to the deaths of Davis and Robinson, the newspaper asked to review all records related to another murder and the criminal case of Jermaine Allen, another man convicted in connection with the Davis shooting. But Assistant City Attorney Douglas Philiph, after a meeting with police and prosecutors, denied the newspaper access to all but basic facts surrounding the cases. He said each case was open and ongoing.

What could be compromised in a 12 year old investigation that has gone nowhere?

Nothing in Iowa's open-records law precludes police from releasing the police records. Indeed, police sometimes choose to release records in so-called cold cases so the public can help detectives discover the truth about old, unsolved crimes.

There's a competing explanation for the desire to avoid public scrutiny.

[S]ome legal experts say it is not uncommon for police to try to conceal information in alleged cases of wrongful conviction, even in the face of evidence that another suspect could have been to blame.

"Police and prosecutors are usually reluctant, even if their predecessors might have been responsible for any mistakes," said Steve Weinberg, an investigative reporter who helped create the "Innocence Project" at the University of Missouri School of Journalism. "What I've found in looking at these kinds of cases is that they tend to worship the great god finality."

In other words, as long as it's done, it doesn't matter if it's done right. That's finality in a nutshell.

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  • Display: Sort:
    It's a mixed bag (none / 0) (#1)
    by Claw on Fri Jun 13, 2008 at 09:57:40 AM EST
    in Des Moines.  Some of the prosecutors are extremely honorable people.  Others, who, I guess, think they're putting themselves on the fast-track or something, are terrible.  And I mean they knowingly convict innocent people.  I was helping a lawyer who was defending a client who could not (for reasons I can't disclose) possibly have committed the crime, who could identify the perp, and, here's the real kicker, the guy confessed to us, THE DEFENSE, that he was guilty.  All this was pre-trial.  All this was brought to the prosecutor's attention.  The prosecutor went ahead against our client and won.  Ego disclaimer: I know this makes us sound like crappy lawyers but the jury didn't get to hear any of this.