Baltimore Cop Still on The Job After Being Caught Giving False Testimony in Court

On the witness stand, Baltimore Police Detective Sharod Watson was clear: He’d seen the defendant, Isadore White, on the same Southwest Baltimore block “on a daily basis” for 18 months before witnessing him make a drug sale there and chasing him into a nearby “stash house.”

“Just about every day?” asked John Cox, White’s defense attorney.

“Yes, sir,” Watson said.

White, 20, was charged with possessing a bag of heroin capsules he’d allegedly tossed during the chase, as well as possessing drugs and a gun found in the house on South Calhoun Street that he allegedly used as the base of his drug operation.

The detective’s testimony went to the core of the state’s case, helping to establish White’s link to the address over time.

But it wasn’t true. White was actually in jail for a year of the 18 months in question, awaiting trial on an attempted murder charge that was later dropped.

Confronted with that information, Watson acknowledged his testimony was “factually impossible.”

“Watson lied to you!” Cox bellowed later to the jury. “Unequivocally, bald-faced lied.”

The jury deliberated less than an hour before acquitting White of all charges.

Watson gave that false testimony Dec. 1. Seven weeks later, he remains on the job. He has continued to make arrests as part of the Southern District’s “action team,” one of the special squads Police Commissioner Kevin Davis created last year after he disbanded the corrupt Gun Trace Task Force following the indictment of its members on federal racketeering charges.

T.J. Smith, a police spokesman, said the Police Department learned of Watson’s testimony only when a Baltimore Sun reporter asked about it Jan. 11.

The Police Department has since launched an investigation, Smith said, declining further comment while the review is underway.

Watson declined to comment.

Meanwhile, prosecutors have continued to list Watson as a witness in other criminal cases. The state’s attorney’s office began to notify defense lawyers about his testimony in White’s case only in the past week, according to the Baltimore public defender’s office. Prosecutors are still planning to argue in court next month that, despite the false testimony and acquittal, White’s arrest violated his probation in a 2015 robbery case.

The prosecutor in White’s case reported the problem with Watson’s testimony to the state’s attorney’s Police Integrity Unit on Dec. 11, according to Melba Saunders, a spokeswoman for State’s Attorney Marilyn J. Mosby. That prompted an internal review of the testimony and “the circumstances surrounding” it, which is ongoing, Saunders said.

She declined to answer questions about why the prosecutor, Laura Sambataro, waited 10 days to alert the Police Integrity Unit and would not make Sambataro available to answer questions. Saunders also said the state’s attorney’s office had notified the Police Department about the testimony, but could not say when and offered no details.

Deborah Levi, director of special litigation for the Baltimore public defender’s office, said the incident is the latest example of a Baltimore police officer showing a lack of credibility on the witness stand, and of police and prosecutors’ failure to prevent and disclose such testimony.

Levi and other members of the local defense bar have raised the issue for months, saying state privacy laws protecting police personnel records allow city officers to act with impunity on and off the witness stand, while those with access to personnel files and an obligation to prevent abuses don’t always notify defense attorneys as they should.

Even when officers prove themselves to be dishonest in one case, critics say, often nothing is done to prevent them from continuing to take the stand in others.

Cox, a former prosecutor under former Baltimore State’s Attorney Pat Jessamy, said there was a “do not call” list for prosecutors during his time that would prevent police officers with known credibility issues from continuing to testify against defendants. No such list exists today.

“Now everyone gets recycled back onto the stand, and it’s at the peril of potential defendants,” Cox said, calling the current process “infuriating.”

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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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