Motion seeks dismissal in police slayings case

Motion seeks dismissal in police slayings case

Motion seeks dismissal in police slayings case

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by Cleve R. Wootson Jr. / Charlotte Observer

Charlotte Observer

Posted on August 21, 2010 at 4:37 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Days before his capital murder trial is set to begin, attorneys for the man charged with killing two Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers said that an investigator withheld, plagiarized and discarded key notes, and that the case should be dismissed.

The motion filed late Friday calls for an investigation and contends the misconduct justifies barring the state from seeking the death penalty against Demeatrius Montgomery.

Montgomery, whose trial is set to begin Monday, is accused of killing Officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton in east Charlotte in spring 2007. He was apprehended less than an hour after the fatal shootings and has been awaiting trial since.

The motion questions the notes of police detective Arvin Fant, who the attorneys say has been transferred from the homicide unit effective today.

Fant didn't make his field notes available until July 7, the motion says. And when he did, the motion says, "it was apparent that he had plagiarized and copied the notes of another (investigator)."

The motion claims Fant discarded his original notes, which the attorneys argue may contain evidence that would benefit Montgomery.

Partial notes they did receive suggest another person who looked like Montgomery was seen near the crime scene, according to the motion. The motion also alleges that Fant's notes are missing accounts of meetings and discussions he attended with members of the police crime lab, the motion says.

Fant, reached at his home Friday, declined comment. A Charlotte-Mecklenburg police spokesman did not respond to messages Friday seeking comment about Fant's status and alleged actions in the case.

Prosecutors have also declined to discuss the case. Motions on the cusp of a trial are not uncommon, and may or may not lead to action in the case.

Defense attorneys Bruce Lee and Duane Bryant, who filed the motion Friday, couldn't be reached. The motion says the attorneys received a statement last Sunday from Fant, acknowledging that he had used another detective's statement to "recall events." He also said he had discarded his original notes in late June, according to the motion.

"Based upon counsel's investigation into this matter," the motion says, "Det. Fant destroyed portions of his file and has made misrepresentations concerning the same."

Such actions violate the state's rules of discovery, which require both sides of a criminal case to share all evidence.

"Counsel contends that the destruction of evidence, however classified, is a violation of the defendant's due process rights; that defendant cannot receive a fair trial if evidence has been destroyed and to try the defendant for his life, under these conditions, would be unjust," according to the motion.

Mary Ann Tally, a Fayetteville lawyer who assists defense attorneys in murder cases, said the accusations raise questions about the entire investigation.

"One of the concerns that I have," says Tally, "is whether this is one bad actor in the crowd or is it a culture of not doing the right thing."

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