The D.C. Court of Appeals has overturned a man's murder conviction because the defense was limited in the extent to which it could confront a D.C. police detective about his alleged misconduct in another case.
Michael Longus had been convicted of second-degree murder and possession of a firearm during a crime of violence in connection with a 2003 drive-by shooting in Northeast D.C. In a decision issued Thursday, his convictions were reversed, and his case was remanded for a new trial.
During Longus' 2005 trial, prosecutors called two eyewitnesses who said Longus was driving a truck when shots were fired through an open window of the vehicle and the 18-year-old victim was fatally struck. However, one of these eyewitnesses gave a statement to Detective Erick Brown shortly after the shooting stating that a person with the nickname "L" walked up to the victim and shot him.
When Brown testified, he confirmed that the eyewitness had identified "L" as the shooter but said that she said the shooter drove up to the victim, rather than walked up. Faced with this testimony, the defense wanted to raise doubts about Brown's credibility.
At the time of the trial, the U.S. Attorney's Office was investigating Brown over allegations that he coached witnesses to change their stories about a 2005 homicide at Club U in Northwest D.C. The judge in Longus' case allowed the defense to ask Brown about the investigation into his actions but did not allow the defense to ask the detective or introduce evidence about the underlying facts of the allegations.
The appeals court ruled that the restrictions on questioning and evidence relating to Brown's alleged witness coaching violated Longus' Sixth Amendment right to confront witnesses against him.
Additional questioning and evidence would have allowed the jury to infer that Brown had a reason to curry favor with prosecutors and was not a trustworthy witness, the decision stated.
Brown and another detective were indicted in connection with the investigation into the Club U homicide, but they were acquitted after a trial, according to court records.
Police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump said this week that Brown remains a detective with the department.