At least four drug cases involving Philadelphia Police Officer Christopher Hulmes, embroiled in a growing controversy after City Paper revealed that he had admitted to lying, were postponed today after defense attorneys requested time to read documents turned over by the District Attorney’s Office.
Last week, City Paper exposed that Officer Hulmes, a narcotics officer, had in December 2011 admitted to lying in court and on a search warrant affidavit in a drug and gun case against Arthur Rowland. At the time, Hulmes claimed he made the misrepresentations to protect the identity of an informant. Yesterday, the District Attorney provided defense attorneys with a long transcript from the Rowland case and related police Internal Affairs reports.
“It’s about as thick as the old yellow book,” says defense attorney Zachary Cryder Shaffer, who is representing James Jennings in drug charges stemming from an arrest involving Hulmes. “But it looks like they’re still prosecuting this case, which is shocking to me given that it’s somebody who’s an admitted liar under oath.”
The decision to turn over documents has left defense lawyers guessing about what is transpiring behind closed doors at the District Attorney’s Office. Last Wednesday, the Police Department took Hulmes off the street and placed him under investigation. But D.A. Seth Williams has so far refused repeated requests to publicly comment on the matter.
Defense attorneys say that prosecutors had a legal obligation to turn over documents since at least January 2012, when Common Pleas Court Judge James McMurray Lynn criticized Hulmes’ lying and granted a defense motion to suppress key evidence in the Rowland case.
Judge Lynn called Officer Hulmes’ admitted lying “reprehensible,” saying, “you cannot lie to the judges and expect the judges to do justice. It cannot be done. It is not the way this country was founded; it is not the way this country works.” He also criticized the District Attorney’s office for putting him on the stand, saying, “you cannot put an officer on the witness stand who is going to say, ‘I lied to an issuing magistrate.’ You cannot do that.”
Defense lawyers say that the Hulmes documents fall under Brady rule, which stems from a 1963 U.S. Supreme Court ruling requiring prosecutors to turn over to the defense exculpatory evidence in its possession. An unknown number of cases involving Hulmes, both open and closed, could now be subject to challenge. Some will likely file civil lawsuits against the city seeking monetary damages.
“I don’t know what their position is. I guess you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, unless there’s some reason not to?” says defense attorney Patrick Link. “After your article, it’s Brady material. But why wasn’t it Brady material for the last couple years?”
It is unclear who in the D.A.’s office was aware of Hulmes’ admitted lying, and when. But defense attorney Guy Sciolla, who represented Rowland, told City Paper last week that Assistant District Attorney A.J. Thomson had confronted his supervisors over Hulmes. Thomson, who has declined an interview request, no longer works at the D.A.’s Office for unknown reasons.
The D.A.’s reliance on controversial police officers has come under renewed scrutiny since six narcotics officers were indicted two weeks ago for allegedly running a conspiracy to rob and abuse suspected drug dealers. The D.A. stopped calling the officers to testify in December 2012, long after federal prosecutors reportedly ceased to use them. The D.A. will not say whether they will continue to call Hulmes to the stand.
Shaffer says that he hopes the D.A. drops charges against his client but that Hulmes will play a role if they don’t — whether prosecutors like it or not.
“I’m gonna’ call him if they’re not going to call ’em,” says Shaffer.
Officer Patrick Banning, who frequently works with Hulmes, is named as the arresting officer in each of the four cases postponed today. The Police Department has not yet taken any action against Banning, though his name appears on the now disputed search warrant affidavit for Rowland’s home and vehicle.
Read the full article at Citypaper
- On August 16, 2014