OCEANSIDE — Some convicts could get new trials because an Oceanside police officer withheld some taped interviews in cases dating to 2001, it was reported Tuesday.
Officer Damon Smith, who disclosed that he had some recordings in his locker that were not entered into evidence as part of a domestic violence case in April, apparently failed to turn over some interviews with suspects and witnesses ever since he was hired eight years ago, the North County Times reported.
"We are gathering information so that we may complete a legal analysis of the issues and take appropriate action," Paul Levikow of the District Attorney's Office told the Times.
In criminal proceedings, all evidence must be made available over to both sides.
"These are highly significant tapes to be left out of the criminal justice process – and eight years is mind-boggling," San Diego County Public Defender Steve Carroll said.
Prosecutors are reviewing the tapes and plan to turn them over to their defense attorneys, who could argue for new trials.
The defense attorney in the domestic violence case said that Smith may have kept the tapes as backup in the event that someone filed a complaint against him. The officer, who was a homicide detective for a while, was involved in the investigation of the shooting death of Oceanside police Officer Dan Bessant, but there was no evidence he failed to turn over recordings in that case.
Still, the tapes prompted a delay in sentencing gang member Meki Gaono in Bessant's 2006 slaying. The sentencing, which had been set for this week, was put off until June 4.
Smith was unavailable for comment on Monday. It was unclear what discipline he might face.