Perjured Police Expert Testimony (Cont’d)

Posted by Lawrence Taylor on March 18th, 2006

The San Diego Police Department's script for its phlebotomists to recite as "testimony" mentioned in the previous post is not an isolated situation — not even in San Diego. The following, involving a San Diego Sheriff's crime lab forensic toxicologist, is from a news story appearing just three days ago:


FALSE WITNESS

An expert's problematic résumé and court testimony could jeopardize hundreds of convictions

San Diego, March 15. A DUI specialist with 30 years at the San Diego County Sheriff Department's crime lab, it was Raymond Cole's job to explain to judges and jurors how alcohol and drugs impair drivers and how the police measure levels of intoxication. That was before authorities found out Cole wasn't who he claimed to be'a revelation that could mean a sizeable number of the convictions he helped secure may be overturned….

According to a report written by Richard Debevec, a crime-lab supervisor, a mid-January audit of employee records revealed a discrepancy in Cole's résumé. Cole, who claimed to have obtained a premedical degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in 1957, had actually graduated from Berkeley with a bachelor's degree in political science…

Earlier this month, City Attorney Mike Aguirre's office began sending letters to lawyers who may have defended clients in cases in which Cole testified. A spokesperson for District Attorney Bonnie Dumanis said her office is in the process of drafting a similar letter…

Actually locating those cases is a different matter. According to testimony from a 2003 DUI trial, Cole estimated he'd testified 'well over 4,000 times' during his career, but representatives of Dumanis, Aguirre and the crime lab all say they have no way of tracking those cases. Instead, they put the responsibility for unearthing the trail of their expert witness on defense attorneys…

'That's always the heart of perjury'that you don't know where it stops and where it starts,' said retired Superior Court Judge Victor E. Ramirez, who said he presided over hundreds of cases in which Cole testified. 'Looking back on it as a judge, the only real redress that we have is that you have to prosecute Mr. Cole for his [allegedly] perjured testimony, if in fact it can be proved.'

Ramirez and others who have worked with Cole in the past described him as a difficult witness with a history of problematic testimony…

With crime-lab supervisors present, Ramirez expressed 'serious concern about Mr. Cole,' who he'd previously admonished for attempting to take evidence from the courtroom. 'The best that I can say' is that he has given less than complete' answers or less than thorough answers in his presentation.'…

According to a transcript of a hearing held to sanction [attorney Michael] Freemont for calling Cole a liar, Superior Court Judge Richard Mills, who previously faced Cole as a prosecutor and a defense attorney, declined to make a ruling regarding Cole's testimony but said it was 'at least, intentionally misleading'. I've been troubled by his testimony more than once'. I just can't have this type of testimony again'. Somebody's got to, at least, consider that it's time to do something, if not past time.'

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