Pubdate: Wed, 11 May 2005
Source: Dallas Morning News (TX)
the Scandal: Report calls for changes in culture, policy
Copyright: 2005 The Dallas Morning News
Note: Strict 200 word count limit
Bookmark: (Corruption - United States)


After four years, the facts have grown as uncomfortably familiar as that 
hard, old shoe that never fit, always pinching around the instep and 
rubbing blisters:

Mounds of "drugs," some from unusually massive busts, turned out to be 
little more than billiards chalk. Corrupt police informants made a handsome 
living off the scam. Three Dallas officers face indictment for their roles; 
one, Mark Delapaz, was convicted in state court after a federal acquittal.

Worse, dozens of innocent Mexican immigrants went to jail. Did Dallas 
County District Attorney Bill Hill and his prosecutors intentionally cause 
that? The answer is no, according to a report reviewing their role released 
this week by deputy special prosecutor Jack Zimmerman. Here are some 
conclusions we draw from this case and report:

What Mr. Hill did wrong Allowed "inexcusable neglect" to develop among 
overworked prosecutors. Venita Budhrani White filed a lab report without 
reading it; if she had, she would have seen that the "drugs" seized were 
not drugs.

Was lax in disciplining key players. Ms. White was later promoted. The top 
two drug court supervisors, George West and Gregg Long, did not "connect 
the dots" of the emerging scandal in late 2001, according to the Zimmerman 
report. Mr. Hill transferred them to other positions, but didn't say why.

Questioned, on national TV as the scandal was unfolding, the innocence of 
some of the arrested immigrants, fueling anger and deepening wounds. He 
later expressed regret, but damage was done.

What Mr. Hill did right In January 2002, instituted a mandatory rotation 
policy for drug prosecutors to guard against a too cozy culture between the 
lawyers and the cops.

Changed his office's policy to require lab tests on all seized drugs before 

To prevent another scandal from festering in isolation, assigned a central 
prosecutor and an assistant to review lab reports and track trends.

After Mr. Delapaz's acquittal in December 2003, appointed special 
prosecutor Dan Hagood, who hired Mr. Zimmerman, a Houston lawyer. Critics 
have questioned their "independence," but Mr. Hill's office did not escape 
unscathed in this report.

Lessons going forward Prosecutors - including the district attorney - must 
take seriously all allegations of error or wrongdoing and act swiftly and 
prudently to determine what went wrong. Disciplinary action should be 

Acknowledgement of error and the plans to remedy it must be communicated 
clearly, immediately and openly.

If nothing else, the Zimmerman report shows how everyday prosecutions can 
go terribly wrong if the right people aren't asking the right 
questions.Read the entire report and view an interactive timeline of the 
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