Orange-Osceola, Florida State Attorney Aramis Ayala has released a new database that identifies experts that have credibility issues. This database is called the “Brady Alert List.”
Ayala created this database to have a centralized list of witnesses who appear in court on a recurring basis and who have engaged in criminal behavior, misconduct, or dishonesty.
Ayala initially announced her plans to create this database in July 2019. With the database came the creation of a Brady Committee to evaluate witness credibility. The Brady Committee is comprised of the director of conviction integrity, the chief investigator, two felony bureau chiefs, and the chief assistant state attorney.
The Brady Committee is tasked with reviewing information about witnesses and determined whether witnesses should be cleared, placed on a Brady Alert List, or placed on a Brady exclusion, or “Last Resort” list.
If a witness is listed on the Brady alert list, the prosecutors will be notified. It will be up to the prosecutors whether to proceed with caution or obtain permission if they choose to call that person as a witness. If a witness is on the Brady exclusion list, he or she is not permitted to testify as a state witness.
In explaining her reasoning for creating the Brady Alert List, Ayala explained, “My office processes hundreds of thousands of criminal cases every year, and in many instances, prosecutions rely solely on the honest and credible testimony of law enforcement and other personnel who either witness or investigate crimes.”
Ayala gave the example of a recurring state expert witness who was later found to have questionable credentials. A former fingerprint examiner had documented performance issues relating to failing to identify prints of value, questionable findings, and mislabeling of print cards. This issue was not discovered for two years. The 2,500 cases that involved this expert are currently under review.
The Brady Committee has been meeting monthly since June 2019 to determine who should be on the list. The committee initiates a review of a law enforcement officer or expert witness when that person is relieved of duty, under investigation for criminal conduct, or accused of any other misconduct. Once someone is added to the database, their place of employment is notified.
The Fraternal Order of Police has raised concerns about the Brady Committee and its process. The Order has suggested that the committee should have members outside of the state attorney’s office on it, that it publish its criteria, and that due process be provided for the people placed on the list. The organization’s concern may be related to the fact that prosecutors so often rely on law enforcement officers with dubious credentials as expert witnesses.
The newly released list includes 38 law enforcement officers, confidential informants, and forensic experts. This first iteration of the list is only a Brady Alert List. None of the names were listed on a Brady Last Resort List.
Ayala said that she believed that some of the names listed on the initial Brady Alert List should have instead been on a Last Resort list, but that she decided not to immediately publish a Last Resort list when the Orlando Police Department Chief Orlando Rolon told her that anyone that was placed on this list would not be able to function at the agency, but would still have to be paid.