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Lawyers see DUI report, grand jury differences

Lawyers see DUI report, grand jury differences

By Kim Smith
Arizona Daily Star
Tucson, Arizona | Published: 09.29.2006

Two local defense attorneys believe hundreds of felony drunken-driving cases could be dismissed because of the way they were presented to Pima County grand jurors.

Prosecutors disagreed with the estimates on affected cases.

Law partners James Nesci and Joe St. Louis recently discovered a handful of Tucson Police Department cases where the evidence presented to the grand jury did not match police reports. In each case, a detective told the grand jurors the suspect failed field sobriety tests and exhibited other signs of intoxication when, in fact, they had not.

When St. Louis questioned the detective, he learned she had based her presentation on a summary sheet provided by prosecutors and, in many instances, she hadn't read the police report to verify the information.

David Berkman, the chief criminal deputy with the Pima County Attorney's Office, said these "were fairly isolated cases" and the problem has been addressed.

Deputy County Attorney Paul Lauritzen, who supervises grand jury operations, said he expects some defense attorneys to file motions to dismiss DUI cases against their clients, but he doesn't believe a significant number of them will be granted.

"The idea that this is going to affect hundreds of cases, at best, is an extreme exaggeration," Lauritzen said. "It's not true."

According to a transcript of St. Louis' interview with the detective, she was assigned by the Tucson Police Department to present many of the department's DUI cases to the grand jury as part of her regular duties. She herself hasn't made a DUI arrest since her promotion to detective 10 years ago.

Superior Court Judge Frank Dawley recently dismissed a case against one of Nesci's clients as a result of the faulty information, St. Louis said.

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