New Hennepin County Attorney promised to fix a failing system. It hasn’t happened yet.

New Hennepin County Attorney promised to fix a failing system. It hasn’t happened yet.

New Hennepin County Attorney promised to fix a failing system. It hasn’t happened yet.

Seven months into her first year as the Hennepin County Attorney, Mary Moriarty says fulfilling one of her campaign promises is taking longer than she thought.  

Before being elected last November, Moriarty vowed to develop a more robust system to track officers with credibility issues.

It’s commonly known as the Brady list. Many prosecutors across the country keep those lists because a Supreme Court ruling from the 1960’s requires them to disclose potentially damning details about the police officers involved in their cases.

As a candidate, Moriarty stressed the need for a Brady list after 5 INVESTIGATES found the largest prosecutor’s office in the state was not maintaining one. But nearly a year later, there still isn’t a list. 

“We just aren’t at the place where we have a total system change in place,” Moriarty said in a recent interview with 5 INVESTIGATES.

While Moriarty expects to have a policy in place in the coming months, a Hennepin County judge appears to be losing patience.

In a ruling last month that ordered the county to address its Brady obligations, Judge Gina Brandt called the county’s policy “incorrect” and possibly a “violation.”

“This particular case fell through the cracks,” Moriarty said to 5 INVESTIGATES, admitting that some prosecutors are still leaning on old habits.

“It’s simply a case we missed,” she said.

Rachel Moran, a professor at the University of St. Thomas, who has published extensive research on Brady lists, said it’s a problem that Moriarty is still getting called out.

“I’m confident that she’s working on it. I have no reason to doubt that,” she said. “But at this point, no, they’re not yet meeting the promise.”

Moran acknowledged it would take some time since the previous county attorney “didn’t have appropriate policies in place.”

“We don’t have a Brady list”

The old process under previous County Attorney Mike Freeman was described last year as a “systemic failure” by investigators with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights. 

In an interview last year, Dan Mabley, the prosecutor previously in charge of the Brady Committee, told 5 INVESTIGATES that the county’s system flagged individual officers based on disciplinary records – and nothing else.

“We don’t have a Brady list,” Mabley confirmed.

As 5 INVESTIGATES revealed, that database failed to flag a former MPD officer who was allowed to testify in another case even after a prosecutor accused him of engaging in a cover-up.

Last August, Moriarty responded to that case and the flaws in the system.

“It’s problematic, and it shouldn’t happen,” she said in an interview before the election. “That’s part of not having a Brady list.”

But one year later, Moriarty’s stance appears to be shifting.

“I don’t know what you mean by a Brady list,” she said in a new interview.

Reminded of her previous statements, Moriarty clarified that by Brady list, she meant a computer database similar to what was used in the previous administration.

The difference, she says, is they are committed to expanding the system to catch more than just disciplinary records.

Moriarty also said her office hired a new attorney to handle Brady-related issues and will be more proactive in seeking out potentially damning information from police agencies across the county.

“That is our obligation as prosecutors. We are actually legally obligated to know what police chiefs have, even if we don’t know it,” she said. “So sitting in our office waiting for police chiefs to send us final discipline is not compliant with what the court expects of us.”