Aurora city attorneys review, notify impacted defendants of lacking ‘Brady letters’

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AURORA | City of Aurora prosecutors say they have reviewed more than 900 cases that involved a discredited cop the office failed to notify defense counsel about over the last two years.

Fewer than 200 of those defendants will receive letters informing them of the lapse in constitutionally-mandated documentation. 

Of the 917 cases reviewed, the city attorney’s office claims 685 cases entered a plea, conviction or default judgment before the date the city attorney’s office received a notification from the police department about the officer, typically referred to as a “Brady letter.” The attorney’s office said it ran a search of all cases where an officer with such a letter was involved in to review.

In the remaining 232 cases reviewed, 164 defendants failed to appear for a court date, which the city attorney’s office argued would not require providing the information for lack of a discovery order. Twelve cases are currently set for a court date, according to Julie Heckman, a deputy city attorney and head of the office’s criminal justice division.

“We have reviewed all of the cases that we identified any officer that we received (Brady letter) orders on had been involved in,” Heckman said Monday during a hearing update. “So the letters have been given to the defendant or defense attorney in each case.”

Last month, Presiding Judge Shawn Day ordered the city attorney’s office — which is required by law to supply that information to the defendant and his or her lawyers — to review every case since the beginning of 2020 that involves an officer with a so-called “Brady letter” and notify the defendant and their counsel the information wasn’t properly supplied.

Chief Public Defender Doug Wilson said his office had not received a Brady letter since at least the beginning of 2020. On Monday, he confirmed city attorneys have now supplied the public defender’s office with 54 letters involving 14 Aurora Police Department officers who have a Brady letter. His office now has eight relevant cases set for trial that have been impacted by the letter omission.

Wilson requested the hearing after realizing his office wasn’t notified of an officer with a Brady letter. The officer, Josiah Coe, had been fired and arrested for distributing meth in May 2021. Since that letter was issued, Coe has been tied to several cases the defender’s office is involved in, Wilson said.

Coe was recently found not guilty of the allegations.

Impacted defendants can file a motion to have their case re-opened, though it’s so far unclear how many new trials would be a result of that course of action. University of Denver Law Professor Ian Farrell previously told The Sentinel it’s really the only remedy in this kind of situation.

“(The Brady process) is commonly criticized by academics and the defense bar because there are no sanctions against the individuals for Brady violations,” Farrell said. “If you’re a DA who regularly violates Brady, the conviction (may) get overturned, but it’s not like you get disbarred or an ethical sanction. You face no consequences at all. If you’re willing to simply re-try the case all the time, you can just do that. Especially if there is a likelihood that you will not be fined. You can see how the incentive rolls out.”

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Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

A good reporter would have told the reader what a “Brady letter” is.

And then they’ll blame this on the former Chief of Police.

Dale G Nichols
Dale G Nichols
3 months ago
Reply to  Kara Mason

Now I’m almost as confused as Joe. You wrote that the letters come from the police department and involved 14 APD officers. So how does it have nothing to do with the department?

Justacitizen
Justacitizen
3 months ago
Reply to  Dale G Nichols

Because the police have the letters to the city attorney as required. The city attorney willfully failed to hand them over (a typical ethical violation for a seriously mismanaged office).

Avoiding Racist Harassment
Avoiding Racist Harassment
3 months ago

It’s not a mistake. They withheld the Brady letters out of laziness and a desire to get a plea.

Joe Felice
Joe Felice
3 months ago

What is a “Brady letter?”

Jeff Ryan
Jeff Ryan
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

It comes from Brady v. Maryland, a 1963 Supreme Court case that held that the prosecution is required to turn over any exculpatory material to the defense. Police misconduct may be exculpatory evidence that a jury might consider in assessing the officer’s testimony. A “Brady letter” informs the defense that such evidence exists.

Dale G Nichols
Dale G Nichols
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe Felice

“…a notification from the police department about the (discredited) officer.”

Publius
Publius
3 months ago

Like Ceasar’s wife, Prosecutors should be above reproach. They are imbued with great power and discretion. They are the people’s advocate in the justice system. I want my advocate to have abiding, unwavering respect for due process and the constitutional rights of all involved in the system, including and especially the accused who is presumed innocent until found otherwise after a fair trial. Failure to disclose these Brady letters denied these defendants the right to confront their accusers in a meaningful manner. It was a fraud upon the process, and so upon the Court.

Shame! (bell rings)
Shame! (bell rings)
Shame! (bell rings)

Jeff Brown
Jeff Brown
3 months ago

How is this any less damaging than the records debacle that resulted in the Chief getting fired? Should the city attorney be held to the same standard?

Justacitizen
Justacitizen
3 months ago
Reply to  Jeff Brown

They should but the city attorney (the boss of the criminal department head Heckman mantioned in the article) does not care and council does not care. So who is going to hold them to any standard? The judge is good friends with Heckman from their days together as prosecutors in the city attorneys office. Did that have anything to do with no punishment for the city attorneys office?