CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- A judge has ruled that the man accused of killing two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers cannot face the death penalty because a detective on the case discarded notes.
"This has the potential of placing a cloud of suspicion over these proceedings," Judge Forrest Bridges said when he announced his decision Tuesday afternoon. "If we are not honest here at the courthouse, then we are wasting our time."
Demeatrius Montgomery, 28, is accused of killing officers Jeff Shelton and Sean Clark in 2007.
Tuesday morning, defense and prosecuting attorneys questioned CMPD sergeants about the timeline of events surrounding the destruction of Detective Arvin Fant's case notes.
Fant, a CMPD detective, has admitted destroying, altering and copying notes that relate to the officers' killings.
"If there is a case that would warrant the death penalty, it is this case," said CMPD Chief Rodney Monroe, who expressed disappointment in Fant's actions. "You can't teach stupidity. We're all professionals. We are trained and taught to be professionals and that is what the expectation is."
Montgomery's lawyers asked the judge to throw out the case entirely, but Forrest ruled that the trial will continue.
Monroe says Fant is now on administrative leave and he could face criminal charges. Internal Affairs is investigating Fant's handling of case notes.
The families of the slain officers declined to speak after the ruling Tuesday, but Monroe seemed to speak for them.
"The disappointment with the families and other members of this department are great," he said.
Fant, who was transferred out of the homicide unit Saturday, testified Monday that he discarded some notes he took while investigating the shootings. In other notes, he said, he used another officer's writings to refresh his memory about interviews.
In several instances, Fant said he cut and pasted notes from another officer into his own notes. He explained that he was simply trying to rewrite his inadequate notes that were hard to read, then threw the originals away.
"I shouldn't have done it. It was a mistake on my part," Fant said. "But I didn't mean any bad intention."
Defense attorneys contended his actions violate N.C. laws that require sharing all evidence before a trial.
Tuesday morning, Fant told prosecutors he may have additional interview notes with a witness who claims he saw someone other than Montgomery kill the officers.
Prosecutors called Fant's actions inexcusable, but also pointed out that his notes simply documented interviews that were also recorded, so no evidence has actually been lost.
Monroe said Fant has been on the police force for more than 10 years.