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Police officer's lies result in scores of DWI cases being tossed

Here's a truism uttered by one North Carolina defense attorney, comprising words that every resident of the state should unquestionably be entitled to believe and rely upon.

That lawyer simply noted recently that "the courts should be a place where justice prevails."

When such is not the case, things need to be fixed fast and in a material way, especially in a country that takes the notion of fundamental justice as a bedrock principle. When a fissure emerges -- that is, when a crack appears, no matter how small -- that opens up questions regarding the impartiality of criminal proceedings and outcomes, the core integrity of the justice system is immediately imperiled.

Officials within North Carolina's criminal justice system seem to have intimately understood that recently in a matter involving a sheriff deputy's multiple fabrications offered as evidence in DWI/DUI cases.

The result of that conduct: A Wake County district attorney tossed more than 100 cases involving drinking and driving after examination of police and court records found myriad instances where that officer lied regarding important case details. The DA's office also dismissed more than 70 traffic citations handed out by the officer.

Wake County Sheriff Donnie Harrison also weighed in on the matter, firing the deputy the same day that a state court judge disqualified him as a witness in a drunk driving case.

"[W]e've got our credibility to look after," Harrison noted.

The sheriff's comment underscores just how important the perception of integrity -- or its lack thereof -- is in the public's mind.

The Wake County attorney says that her office has no plans to investigate the officer's involvement in cases that occurred prior to the issuance of the judge's order, given that defendants and their attorneys had a chance to raise any credibility issues at hearings regarding those matters.

The court order "is sort of a line in the sand," she noted last week.

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