by Douglas Ankney
Apparently, cops in Virginia Beach are not troubled by a lack of DNA evidence when investigating crimes. Their remedy is to simply create fake certificates of analysis (“COA”) purported to be from the Virginia Department of Forensic Science (“DFS”). In an investigation begun by outgoing Democratic Attorney General Mark Herring, in at least five interrogations between 2016 and 2020, cops presented suspects with COAs that included a seal and letterhead of the DFS. In at least two of the instances, the forgeries included the signature of a fictitious employee of the DFS.
Unbelievably, in at least one instance, the fake report was presented as evidence to a court. The corrupt practice came to light last year after a prosecutor, apparently deceived by police into believing a bogus COA was authentic, asked DFS to provide a certified copy.
“This was an extremely troubling and potentially unconstitutional tactic that abused the name of the Commonwealth to try to coerce confessions,” Herring said.
The Virginia Beach Police Department has since issued an order mandating that all sworn personnel stop using fake COAs from the DFS. And the Office of Civil Rights will notify the people who were interrogated with the fake documents.
A statement released from the city of Virginia Beach said its police department “took immediate proactive steps to address this very limited interrogation technique which they felt, though legal, was not in the spirit of what the community expects.” In an attempt at damage control, city officials claimed an investigation reviewed 9,600 criminal cases and “found a total of five instances over a five-year period ... where inauthentic replica certificates were used.”
But being aware of how cops routinely violate Brady by destroying evidence of their wrongdoing, the city’s statement provides little assurance, especially in light of the fact that false or misleading forensic evidence contributed to 24% of innocent persons being wrongfully convicted. (See: CLN, April 2021, p.1.)
Republican Jason Miyares was elected to replace Herring. Given the past reluctance of the Republican Party to hold police accountable, a future relationship of trust between cops and the community doesn’t look very promising. When being interrogated, perhaps the best course of action to every statement by a detective is to reply, “I don’t believe you.”
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