In The News

Judge defines defense's access to documents in fake-drug case
1/18/05
By ROBERT THARP / The Dallas Morning News

Attorneys representing a former Dallas detective at the center of the 2001 fake-drug scandal should have access to any statements the officer made as they prepare for his upcoming trial but not to thousands of other prosecution documents, a judge ruled Tuesday.

Attorneys for Mark Delapaz argued last week that they needed access to the prosecution documents to prepare their defense, including files not directly related to the case against the officer.

Mr. Delapaz has been indicted on 12 felony charges of tampering with physical evidence, including securing search warrants by lying to judges. His Feb. 28 trial will center on one of those charges, but special prosecutor Dan Hagood has also given notice that more than 60 "extraneous offenses" - ranging from police policy violations to criminal acts such as stealing money and lying to officials - could also be raised during the trial.

Such extraneous offenses often are used for cross-examination when a defendant testifies on his own behalf, legal experts say.

Judge Mark Nancarrow's ruling grants only part of what Mr. Delapaz's attorneys sought in their court motions. The defense team had asked the judge to force Mr. Hagood to turn over seven boxes of prosecution documents, in addition to the four boxes turned over last month.

Lead attorney Paul Coggins has said that he believes the boxes contain information that could support their defense that Mr. Delapaz was not the only person duped by a group of crooked confidential informants who developed an elaborate scheme to plant fake drugs on innocent people.

In his ruling, Judge Nancarrow ordered the Hagood team provide a copy of the documents to the court. The defense will be allowed access to them after the trial if an appeal is necessary.

Mr. Hagood said Tuesday that he will comply with the order.

David Finn, one of Mr. Delapaz's attorneys, welcomed the order granting their disclosure of any statements by Mr. Delapaz, but said he's concerned that documents valuable to the defense could be discovered in the other boxes only after the trial concludes.

"The court has now ordered the prosecution to turn over evidence that they have tried to suppress," Mr. Finn said. "We will continue to vigorously pursue any and all evidence to ensure that justice is done."

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