Friday, August 18, 2006

What's in the personnel file?

Sarah Johnson won a remand in State v. Griswold, No. 94,835 (Kan. App. Aug. 18, 2006)(unpublished), involving a Butler County drug conviction. The COA directed the district court to review two detectives' personnel files. If the district court finds any impeachment evidence, the Butler County drug convictions are reversed and the matter ordered to a new trial. The detectives had been recently suspended from the Butler County Drug Task Force and one was being investigated by the KBI.

Trial counsel included the personnel files in the discovery request, specifically noting that the "veracity of these detectives may be at issue." Counsel also asked alternatively that the district court conduct an in camera review of the personnel files. "Counsel conceded, however that he did not know the basis for the detective's termination from the task force or whether the termination had anything to do with their honesty or credibility."

The COA agreed that the files could contain impeachment evidence and that Ms. Griswold could not be required to show materiality of the personnel files when she could not obtain them. So the COA applied State v. Shoptaw, 30 Kan. App. 2d 1059, 56 P.3d 303 (2002) for imposing a remedy of requiring the district court to conduct an in camera hearing.

You should remember that it you get an in camera hearing like this and the judge says "Well, I looked at it and there was no impeachment evidence," see if you can get the judge to seal them so that the appellate court can look at them too. (And maybe the appellate lawyer--it's happened).

[Update: the state did not file a petition for review and the mandate issued on September 21, 2006]

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