In April, 2000, former Dallas police officers Quentis Roper and Daniel Maples were convicted of extorting more than $125,000 from drug dealers and illegal immigrants and falsifying evidence against those who refused to pay. Senior Cpl. Mark Delapaz and officer Eddie Herrera were placed on administrative leave after additional false arrest allegations surfaced.
Enrique Alonso, an informant, pleaded guilty on September 6, 2002, to conspiring to plant fake drugs on innocent people after it was discovered that the "narcotics" from numerous drug busts was crushed pool chalk or gypsum. He faces 41 to 51 months in federal prison. Two other informants connected to the scandal had already pleaded guilty.
Thomas Wayne Williams, a falsely accused drug defendant who had been sentenced to life in prison, received a commutation of his sentence from the Texas governor. At least two other falsely convicted prisoners with lengthy sentences received similar commutations.
The Dallas District Attorney's Office has dismissed more than 80 pending cases involving fake drugs. Many were dismissed because the defendants' testimony was needed to convict Roper and Maples. However, the DA's office did not seek out all of those who had been convicted, citing a lack of staff. An additional reason for not publicizing the false convictions is the DA's alleged fear that prisoners would begin to make false accusations that they were victims of police extortion.
According to Dallas County First Assistant DA Mike Carnes, District Attorney Bill Hill's policy is "not to seek out possible wrongful convictions even when cases from the same questionable origins have been thrown out." The policy requires the prisoner to pursue the case and prove that the conviction was false.
Law Professors Bruce Green and Stephen Gillers, experts on legal ethics, find fault with such a policy. They describe it as a failure to carry out the prosecutor's obligation to convict only the guilty.
Two years ago, the DA's office had the 30-year sentence of Anthony Lynn Curlin and 15-year sentence of John Harp, two other convicted prisoners, thrown out so that they could testify against Roper and Maples. They then closed the book on the falsely convicted. Williams would still be languishing in prison had he not used newspaper clippings about the trial to persuade a skeptical appellate attorney to take up his cause. He was lucky: most of the victims were illegal immigrants with little or no ability to read or write English. Thus, they would never have read the newspaper accounts. No one knows how many more innocent prisoners fetter away their lives in Texas prisons for refusing to bow to police extortion. Apparently, the Dallas DA doesn't care.
Sources: Dallas Morning News, Fort Worth Star-Telegram
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