The Firm won a major victory in a state post-conviction proceeding early this year. The client, who we will call CM, was convicted of murder about 10 years ago, and sentenced to life with all but 50 years suspended. The facts were cloudy at best, and CM maintained his innocence. Because it is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to get paroled with a life sentence, there was a very real possibility that CM would have died in prison.
We filed a post-conviction petition on CM’s behalf that included a very interesting issue. We learned that the police detective leading the investigation was having an affair with a witness who was very close to the killing. Not only did the witness live in the building where the murder took place, but she had seen the victim the same day he died, when he was hanging out in her apartment. Why was the victim in the witness’ apartment? Because the witness’s live-in boyfriend, a suspect in the case, was a friend of the victim.
Through investigation, we learned that the detective met the witness while working the case and soon began an affair with her. The affair lasted for years. The detective even attended the funeral of the witness’ mother.
We argued that this relationship poisoned the case and prevented CM from getting a fair trial. First, who knows how the relationship affected the investigation. Did the detective let the live-in boyfriend off the hook because they had a mutual friend (the witness)? Was it more convenient to pin the murder on CM? Second, it was troubling that the detective never told the prosecutor about the relationship. If he had, the prosecutor would have been required to turn the information over to defense counsel, as impeachment evidence. And, needless to say, the detective would have gotten skewered on the witness stand. It’s hard to imagine the Jury would have trusted the detective if it was known how he conducted his business.
When the detective took the stand in the post-conviction hearing, a bad situation got worse. The detective was caught in repeated inconsistent statements. Although he admitted to the affair, he denied that it started before CM’s first trial – despite documentary evidence to the contrary. His story was all over the place. It was obvious that he was hiding the truth. Even the prosecutor appeared to be cringing during the testimony.
Ultimately the state agreed to do the right thing and reduce CM’s sentence. He should be coming home soon.