These Cops Lied In Court. But Since The D.A. Isn’t Keeping A Brady List, They Could Testify Again
The case illustrates the importance of keeping lists of police officers with histories of misconduct or dishonesty, the defense lawyer in the case says.
The next time a case is built on the credibility of Brockton Police Officer Derek Scully and Detective Ryan Quirk, the accused may be unaware the officers have been caught lying in the past.
That’s because the Plymouth County district attorney’s office in Brockton, Massachusetts, does not keep a Brady or Do Not Call list, which notes officers with histories of misconduct or dishonesty. In a case that comes down to the word of the accused versus the word of the officer, a Brady list can mean the difference between freedom and decades behind bars.
This was the situation for Emmanuel Casseus. In April 2019, Scully and Quirk pulled him over for a traffic violation.
Claiming they feared for their safety, they ordered Casseus and his passenger, who are both Black, out of the car and frisked them. Scully said he then entered the car on the driver’s side and shone his flashlight into the gap of the closed center console. When he pressed onto the flaps, he said, he saw a firearm, then lifted the flaps and retrieved the gun.
But this was not what happened, Superior Court Judge Debra Squires-Lee ruled. And though the judge did not explicitly say the officers had lied, she clearly found that the officers’ testimony included multiple statements that were not truthful. The judge found that, contrary to the officers’ testimony, they exhibited no fear for their safety. The console was closed and locked, making it impossible to see or gain access to its contents as Scully described, according to the judge’s ruling.
Squires-Lee based her ruling, in large part, on a recording of the incident taken by Casseus’s friend, Frandy Garcon. At the time of the stop, Casseus had been on FaceTime with Garcon, who began recording after the police approached the car. The officers cannot be seen in the video, but it captures what they said during the stop.
“I was really afraid for my friend’s life,” Garcon told The Appeal. “White officer, my friend is African American. It’s nighttime. Anything can happen.”
Last month, Squires-Lee ruled that ordering Casseus out, frisking him, and searching his car violated his constitutional rights.
“Everyone’s going to take the police side if there’s no tape,” said Garcon. “They’re more credible. Well, what makes them more credible? Because of the badge?”
Casseus was charged with firearms and traffic violations. He faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 15 years. On Dec. 4, the prosecutor’s office notified the court that, based on the judge’s ruling, they were unable to prosecute the case.
“Knowing that I’m facing time as I’m dealing with everything in my everyday life, it’s like my mind’s not on this, but I can’t forget it,” said Casseus. “It’s in the back of my mind that I’m facing the amount of years that they’re trying to throw at me.”
On April 14, 2019, at about 10 p.m., Casseus went the wrong way down a one-way street, then made a U-turn to correct himself, and continued to drive. Moments later, Scully and Quirk pulled him over. They’d already run his plates, according to the police report and their testimony at the suppression hearing. There were no warrants associated with the car or its owner, Casseus. The car was properly registered, insured, and inspected, and Casseus’s license was active.
Scully testified that when he approached the car, Casseus and the passenger took their hands from the center console area. Casseus put his hands in his lap, and the passenger put his hands between his legs, according to Scully. Their movements, he said, were “very abrupt.”
“What concerns did that raise in your mind?” the prosecutor asked Scully.
“Officer safety right away,” he replied. “I wasn’t presented with a license or registration. They were empty-handed essentially. So it makes me believe that they were either retrieving or concealing a weapon that could hurt me.”
They ordered Casseus and his passenger out of the car based on “furtive movements,” Scully and Quirk testified, and frisked them. (In an affidavit submitted to the court, Casseus stated that he had presented his license and registration.) Scully said he then went into the car.
“I went to the center console and I had illuminated the gap in between where the center console meets, folds together, and I pressed onto it and at that point in time with [sic] illuminating my flashlight through the gap inside, I recognized a firearm inside the center console,” Scully testified, reiterating the account in Quirk’s police report. Scully said he lifted the flaps of the console and saw the gun.
But the statements the officers can be heard making in Garcon’s recording repudiate the officers’ version of events, as do the mechanics of the center console. The defense entered the recording into evidence during the suppression hearing.
Almost immediately after approaching the car, Quirk ordered the passenger out and frisked him. On the recording, Quirk can be heard saying, “It is what it is.” At the hearing, Quirk could not remember why he said this, but the judge wrote in her ruling that she presumed his statement was in response to the passenger asking why he was being searched.
Scully then told Casseus to put his hands over his head and exit the car. He, too, was frisked.
On the recording, Scully can be heard saying, “Yo, Quirk, he got the key?” Quirk replied, “He got it?”
“Yeah, he should,” Scully said. “I think it’s in his pocket.” One of the officers can be heard asking Casseus if he had the key.
About a minute later, Scully said, “You know you stole something.” One of the officers then asked, “You don’t have [inaudible] the keys to the console?”
About four and a half minutes after Casseus was ordered out of his car, Scully asked Casseus for his license to carry a firearm. “Woo,” Quirk immediately said.
“I conclude that the glove box was locked and that it took Scully nearly four minutes to gain access,” Squires-Lee wrote in her ruling. The timing, she wrote, “is consistent with wanting to gain access to a locked glove box, and then somehow forcing the box open.”
“Neither Scully nor Quirk acted or spoke as if they had any concern for their safety,” she continued. Quirk’s exclamation of “Woo,” she wrote, “conveys excitement and not concern.”
It was impossible to see inside the console when it was closed, with or without a flashlight, according to her ruling. The console could not be accessed when locked and, when unlocked, it could only be opened by pressing a button on the console, the judge wrote. (Scully testified he did not press this button.)
The defense had submitted video recordings, according to the transcript, of attempts to gain access to the console and view its contents when it was closed.
“We were pressing on it, banging on it pretty hard and there was no give whatsoever. We were not able to see in,” testified former police officer and former private investigator Michael Giordano. “It had to be unlocked and the button had to be pressed for it to open. We tried every other way to open it and it would not open.”
Brockton Police Department spokesperson Darren Duarte emailed The Appeal: “Although taking an illegal gun off our streets may have saved lives and prevented a future tragedy, it must be done within the bounds of the law and respecting our citizens’ rights.” Neither officer has been disciplined or investigated for their conduct in this case and both officers are still working with the police department, Duarte wrote in response to The Appeal’s questions. The Plymouth County DA’s office did not respond to requests for comment.
In recent years, police accountability activists have demanded that prosecutors create Brady lists, which have become a touchstone of reform-minded prosecutor’s offices. Acts of dishonesty, such as lying on the stand or in police reports, can land an officer on a Brady list.
The lists are named for the 1963 U.S. Supreme Court case, Brady v. Maryland, which mandates that prosecutors disclose exculpatory evidence to the defense. Exculpatory evidence includes information that the defense can use to impeach a witness’s credibility, such as, in Casseus’s case, dishonest statements made by police officers.
“The fact pattern here shows the importance of maintaining and having Brady lists because it’s important for people in the future to know where investigators or officers involved in cases may have reported untruthful information or engaged in actions that ran afoul of a person’s constitutional rights,” said Casseus’s attorney, Jason Green.
In October, the DA’s spokesperson told The Enterprise: “All of our prosecutors are aware of their obligations and requirements as members of the Massachusetts Bar to disclose potentially exculpatory evidence.” The story was about Brady lists generally and was unrelated to Casseus’s case.
Because of systemic racism, people of color are disproportionately represented at every stage of the criminal legal system, making the lists a matter of racial justice. Police are more likely to stop and search Black drivers, according to several studies. About 57 percent of Black people who were exonerated since 1989 were the victims of official misconduct by police, prosecutors, or other government officials, according to the National Registry of Exonerations.
The type of injustice Casseus experienced happens all the time, said Garcon, who is Black.
“A police car gets behind me, I’m scared for my life,” said Garcon. “I see my friend being respectful to officers and [the officer is] still aggressive like that. That’s traumatizing. That’s traumatizing.”