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Durham Police Accused of Evidence Tampering

Posted January 17, 2008

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— The defense attorney for a man charged last May with trafficking cocaine says police intentionally withheld and tampered with an audio tape before turning it over as evidence.

Ten minutes of audio from the Interstate 85 traffic stop in which Officer J.J. McDonough found 11 pounds of cocaine in Kenneth Perry's car is missing, his attorney, Bob Brown said. The cruiser's video system recorded the stop, and audio continued to record while Perry sat in the police cruiser after being arrested and McDonough spoke to his wife on his cell phone.

"They said they erased it, because they didn't want us to overhear a conversation that was carried on between the officer and his wife," Brown said in court hearing Thursday on a motion for a senior resident Superior Court judge to assume jurisdiction of the case.

Durham County Assistant District Attorney Jim Dornfried said the original tape was intact, but admitted police handed over a copy as evidence with some audio edited from it.

"The part in question that the defense counsel claims has been altered, the state doesn't believe has been altered," Dornfried said.

Senior Resident Superior Court Judge Orlando Hudson reminded Dornfried it is the court's job to decide what evidence is or is not relevant, comparing the situation with former prosecutor Mike Nifong's withholding evidence in the Duke lacrosse case.

"You can't make a tape come out the way they want it to come out," Hudson said. "That's what's wrong with this situation. I don't see that being any different than people working with the DA's office and deciding certain DNA shouldn't come out."

Durham Police Chief Jose Lopez said department policy is to not alter evidence in any way. He said his office is reviewing the tape and the officer's actions.

"If they're doing it in this case, they're probably doing it in other cases," Brown said.

But police and prosecutors insist there is nothing to hide, calling the decision to hand over the edited tape a bad one on the officer's part.


This story is closed for comments.

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  • Tater Salad Jan 18, 2008

    11 lbs of cocaine doesn't make him a criminal in my eyes, it does to those who get made because they don't have the taxes off of that cocaine. I could care less if he had 111 lbs, I'd chop it up for him and let him snort his brain away.

    It's known as a "victim-less" crime

    But given Durham's recent track record, nothing surprises me coming out of that portion of the state, even corrupt law enforcement

  • mtr Jan 18, 2008

    anitov.. "So most of you are more worried about a portion of audio tape than a criminal having 11 pounds of cocaine?"

    You are missing the point. We are worried about disclosure and tampering of evidence. Remember when DNA evidence was not disclosed three young men almost went to the big house. This for a sexual assault crime that existed only in the minds of one woman, all of the Durham police force, the prosecutor, all the city officials and half the academic staff at Duke University.

    The point is that maybe if evidence needs altering then maybe there was no 11 pounds of cocaine.

  • Pilot Jan 18, 2008

    I may be missing the entire point of this article. Law Enforcement Officers attempted to tamper with evidence in a criminal case. What gives them license to tamper with evidence, regardless of where the cocaine is located? Me thinks that was the Judges question. Video tape in this case, but what if was their sworn statement against YOU? Had enough Noth Calina?

  • thepeopleschamp Jan 18, 2008

    So most of you are more worried about a portion of audio tape than a criminal having 11 pounds of cocaine?

  • parr4246 Jan 18, 2008

    ............ nothing that happens in Durham surprises me........!!

  • White Cross Jan 18, 2008

    Why such a big deal about the tape?Its not a "he said,she said" kind of case.11 POUNDS of cocaine should be enough evidence with or without the tape.
    That much cocaine should be a capital offense.

  • Dr. Dataclerk Jan 18, 2008

    Probably covering themselves or someone of higher caliber is why they was tampering with the evidence. This matter needs to go to court and the judge after finding out "who" should send them to prison for a while. That should teach them. Also they should not be police officers anymore. They cannot be trusted.

  • WHEEL Jan 18, 2008

    Let me venture a guess. An internal investigation will determine that there was "no violation of policy" and everyone will get a letter of commindation.

  • garnertoy Jan 18, 2008

    durham police wonders why no one trust them

  • isabella731 Jan 18, 2008

    Durham police? No surprise at all. I'm just amazed that it hasn't be found before.