Investigation into LMPD officer raises questions about his criminal cases
LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- A Louisville Metro Police officer involved with dozens of pending criminal cases is himself under investigation for allegedly falsifying his time sheet, claiming overtime he may not have worked, according to court records filed this week.
The investigation of Officer Chris Thurman has put on hold many of his criminal cases and is prompting prosecutors to notify defense attorneys about the officer's situation, because it could affect his credibility at trial.
Some defense attorneys have complained, however, that they have not been told about the issues involving Thurman, who has been on paid administrative duty since Oct. 11.
The Jefferson County Attorney's office filed information about Thurman in a DUI case this week in response to a request last month by defense attorney Rob Eggert, who believed Thurman had already been disciplined.
Some defense attorneys say they have been notified by prosecutors about Thurman while others said they hadn't been told.
"I didn't know anything" about Thurman, said defense attorney Jennifer Ward, who is handling a murder case in which Thurman is the lead investigator. "They (prosecutors) would have to turn it over when they became aware of it. When did they become aware of it?"
Commonwealth's Attorney Thomas Wine said police have asked to speak with him about Thurman but his office has not been officially notified about the details of the investigation.
And, regardless, Wine said case law requires prosecutors to disclose the information in a timely manner "prior to trial" so it can be used at trial, but not as soon as they hear there may be an internal investigation.
Local defense attorney Brian Butler said Wine is technically correct, but "as a practical matter, they should disclose it when they know," he said. The information could affect how the defendant reviews potential plea bargains and assesses how strong the case is and whether to take it to trial, according to Butler.
But Wine said rules of law and Supreme Court opinions clearly do not require such information be turned over before plea agreements, pointing out that someone who pleads guilty acknowledges they give up their right to confront the witness.
"It's a risk that they take," he said.
Dan Goyette, head of the Louisville public defender's office, said prosecutors have an ethical duty to disclose information about the officer in a case "when it becomes known to them.
"... Any suggestion that there is no time limit for disclosure as long as it is produced prior to trial is incorrect."
Thurman, a drug recognition expert and DUI instructor, has dozens of pending cases in which he is the lead officer, including at least three cases involving charges of manslaughter or murder, including the second-degree manslaughter case of Christopher Purcell, a Jefferson County Public Schools teacher charged in an August 2012 wreck in which Tracey Blevins, a passenger on a motorcycle, was killed.
Butler said he recently settled a case in which Thurman was the lead officer and that the county attorney's office told him about the police investigation.
Bill Patteson, a spokesperson for the county attorney's office, said none of the cases Thurman is involved with have gone to trial since he has been under investigation.
Patteson said the county attorney's office was told by police on Oct. 25 about Thurman and prosecutors have been notifying defense attorneys.
Patteson said the issues with Thurman could affect "a fair" amount of cases, adding that the officer had about 100 pending cases.
"We suspect there are going to be some cases where it's going to be problematic," he said.
But he added that prosecutors may be able to work around Thurman, using other evidence such as breathalyzer tests results or video in DUI cases.
Defense attorney Paul Gold, who has several DUI cases with Thurman pending, said citizens who are pulled over by the officer should be told about his situation before they agree to plead guilty in a traffic case or anything else.
"Nobody in their right mind would plead guilty to anything if they knew the officer may not be coming back," he said.
Alicia Smiley, a spokeswoman for police, said Thurman is on administrative duties during the investigation. Thurman did not return a message left through Smiley for comment.
Wine noted that the Commonwealth's Attorney's Office has far fewer cases involving Thurman and, unlike the quicker moving district court cases, the felony cases are a long way from trial. For example, the murder case Ward is handling isn't set for trial until later next year.
"I know we have followed the law on all of these cases," Wine said.
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