Cascade of Overturned Cases May Emerge In Wake of Philly DA’s ‘Bad Cop’ List

In 2012, Gilbert Narvaez was convicted on drug-dealing charges and sent to a Pennsylvania prison for a three- to eight-year sentence. Narvaez maintained his innocence and argued that he was the victim of a bad cop named Christopher Hulmes, who claimed that in 2011 he had seen Narvaez in Philadelphia’s Fairhill neighborhood peddling narcotics.

“He was just standing on the corner,” said Narvaez’s lawyer, Christopher Jay Evarts. Narvaez told the Philadelphia City Paper that he bumped into a friend, who he suggested was likely dealing drugs, and stopped to chat. But the word of a young man with a rap sheet, who has admitted to drug dealing in the past, didn’t hold up against an officer with the Philadelphia Police Department.

Unbeknownst to Narvaez at the time of his conviction, however, Hulmes had openly admitted to committing perjury in an unrelated case in 2011. This should have caused the officer to be criminally charged and banned from providing testimony in court. But the Philadelphia Police Department allowed Hulmes to continue making arrests, and the district attorney at the time, Seth Williams, who is now serving a five-year federal prison sentence for accepting a bribe from a local businessman, continued to call him to the witness stand. A 2014 investigation in City Paper (now defunct) exposed the perjury incident, and ultimately Hulmes was forced to resign but spared a criminal conviction.

After Hulmes’s perjury was revealed, Narvaez’s lawyer petitioned the court to have his client’s conviction thrown out. On May 14, 2015, Narvaez’s conviction was overturned. But during Narvaez’s more than two years of imprisonment, he missed his baby daughter grow into a toddler — he will never get that time back.

Narvaez’s case is one of over a hundred cases involving Officer Hulmes that have been thrown out by Philadelphia courts since 2014, according to Bradley Bridge, the attorney in charge of police misconduct at the Defender Association of Philadelphia. And there could be more, Bridge said, because his office is still in the process of unraveling Hulmes’s dubious legacy.

The discovery of one bad cop, especially if their misdeeds were known by prosecutors yet hidden from defense attorneys, can result in a cascade of dismissed cases. In December, Deborah Katz Levi, the head of the Baltimore City Public Defender Special Litigation Section, said that she identified 2,000 cases that she described as “irreparably tainted” because of their connection to the corrupt Baltimore Police Department’s Gun Trace Task Force which saw eight of its nine members indicted in federal court (six later entered guilty pleas and two were convicted at trial).

In Philadelphia, the previous district attorney, Williams, did little to root out police misconduct. But in January, Larry Krasner, a long-time civil rights attorney, was sworn in as the city’s new DA after a campaign in which he promised major criminal justice reforms, including tackling police misconduct. Krasner’s promises, however, face a significant challenge: a police disciplinary system that rarely punishes officers for misconduct that has allowed a large number of cops with questionable records to continue to make arrests, about which they ultimately may have to testify in court.

The scope of Krasner’s challenge was highlighted last month when, under court order, he released a “do not call” list, compiled by Williams’s office, comprising 66 officers who the Police Board of Inquiry said had committed misconduct, including brutality, drinking on duty, and lying to investigators. The “do not call” list was compiled in March 2017 by top aides to former DA Williams. Of those who have been publicly named, only one is still working in the DA’s office, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. About half of the officers on the list appear to still be on the force; nine are on active duty and collectively made 41 arrests last year. In the past five years, the 29 officers restricted from taking the witness stand have made more than 800 arrests.

In reality, the “do not call” list is a misnomer: The list either instructed prosecutors to seek a top official’s approval before allowing 29 officers to take the stand, or, in the case of other listed officers, to allow them to testify but disclose their record to defense attorneys, or for the prosecutor to simply be aware of the misconduct. Instead of barring the 29 officers from taking the stand, prosecutors simply dismissed cases to ensure that the officers did not do so, according to the Inquirer. Yet there are “thousands” of possible cases involving officers on the entire list, says Bridge. He and his colleagues are in the process of reviewing them, and potentially asking that they be thrown out.

For full story visit: