In Charlotte, a judge has taken the death penalty off the table in the trial of Demeatrius Montgomery after the lead investigator in the case admitted to destroying notes from some of his interviews and falsifying others. Prosecutors have elected not to appeal the judge’s decision, and the investigator has been removed from duty. Among the notes destroyed may have been an interview indicating that another suspect confessed to the crime.
Judge Forrest Bridges should be applauded for having the courage to do the right thing. The law says that when police cheat, there should be consequences. But it is a scary thing for an elected judge in any case – much less a capital case, and exponentially less in a capital case involving the murder of two police officers – to enforce that law.
This case means a great deal to the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police force. They lost two of their own. They deserve to know what happened to officers Sean Clark and Jeff Shelton. And yet when it was so critically important to get it right, one officer still felt it necessary to cut corners.
An execution should never follow in the wake of misconduct. Montgomery is still facing two counts of first-degree murder and if convicted will spend the rest of his life in prison. That’s not getting off easy, that’s justice.