Candidates vow to change how cops with credibility issues are tracked in Hennepin County
The two candidates vying to be the next top prosecutor in Hennepin County promise to change how the office tracks police officers with credibility issues if elected this November.
5 INVESTIGATES reported earlier this year that the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office currently does not keep an actual list of officers who may not be trusted to testify in court.
But that will change when Mike Freeman leaves office, according to the two lawyers trying to replace him.
Mary Moriarty, the former chief public defender in Hennepin County, says if elected, she will start keeping a physical list of such officers that will be accessible to every prosecutor in the office.
“If that is coming to our attention, and there are police officers who have done those things, they simply won’t be called as witnesses,” Moriarty said in an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES.
Her opponent, Martha Holton-Dimick, a former judge and prosecutor, says she also plans to develop a better system of tracking officers.
“We’re looking at doing a Brady list,” she said. “That’s one of the considerations that we have to take into account.”
The term Brady comes from a Supreme Court ruling in the 1960s that requires prosecutors to disclose damning information about officers involved in the cases they have charged.
It’s also why prosecutors across the country often keep what’s known as a Brady list — but not in Hennepin County.
“We don’t keep a Brady list,” retired Judge Dan Mabley said during an interview with 5 INVESTIGATES earlier this year. Mabley oversees the Brady Committee at the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office.
Instead of a list, Mabley said officers are “flagged” in a computer system only after they receive formal discipline from their employer that involves their credibility.
“We only get discipline, police discipline records,” he said.
But that process can take years and is part of a “systemic failure” with Brady issues in Minneapolis and Hennepin County, according to a recent report by the Minnesota Department of Human Rights.
Accused of a cover-up. Allowed to testify.
Moriarty and Holton-Dimick say one case in particular highlights the need to change how officers with credibility issues are tracked in Hennepin County.
In May, 5 INVESTIGATES reported that former MPD officer Luke Eckert was allowed to testify in a case even after he was accused of engaging in a cover-up.
A prosecutor said Eckert fabricated his testimony to protect another officer who was later convicted of assault in 2016.
The Hennepin County Attorney’s Office reported Eckert to internal affairs at MPD.
However, he was not formally disciplined for another three years.
During that time, another prosecutor called Eckert to testify in a different case.
“It’s problematic, and it shouldn’t happen,” said Moriarity about the Eckert case highlighted by 5 INVESTIGATES. “That’s part of not having a Brady list.”
Holton-Dimick also called it “the wrong decision to make.”
“That’s not right, and it shouldn’t have been done,” she said.
A spokesperson for the Hennepin County Attorney’s Office has repeatedly defended the decision to allow Officer Eckert to testify and its overall Brady policy.
But retired Judge Kevin Burke recently added to the criticism.
“You’ve got to change that,” Burke said. “Somehow, you can’t end up saying, ‘Well, we don’t know.’ That’s just not gonna work.”
Moriarty and Holton-Dimick said changing the Brady policy is one way to uphold their campaign promises on police accountability.
“It does have to be changed. I think sometimes things happen culturally that just don’t get challenged,” said Moriarty.
Holton-Dimick added: “I want to find out exactly how the police department is dealing with that issue of misconduct and how they’re categorizing it and what are they doing to improve the system of discipline.”
Moriarty and Holton-Dimick emerged as the top two candidates from a crowded primary election in August.
The winner will take over for longtime County Attorney Mike Freeman, who announced his retirement last year.