New York State Police Troop C scandal

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The New York State Police Troop C scandal involved the fabrication of evidence used to convict suspects in New York by the New York State Police.

John Spencer[edit]

In April 1993, Craig D. Harvey, a New York State Police trooper was charged with fabricating evidence. Harvey admitted he and another trooper lifted fingerprints from items the suspect, John Spencer, touched while in Troop C headquarters during booking. He attached the fingerprints to evidence cards and later claimed that he had pulled the fingerprints from the scene of the murder. The forged evidence was presented during John Spencer's trial and his subsequent conviction resulted in a term, of 50 years to life in prison, at his sentencing.[1]

Shirley Kinge[edit]

One fabrication involved the 1989 murders of the Harris family of Dryden, New York. In their home, Warren and Dolores Harris, their daughter, Shelby, 15, and their son, Marc, 11, were bound and blindfolded, Shelby was raped and sodomized, all four were shot in the head and the house was doused with gasoline and set on fire. State police investigators say that evidence led them to Michael Kinge, and that officers killed him when he pointed a shotgun at them during the arrest. His mother, Shirley Kinge, admitted to using a credit card stolen from the Harris home, which led investigators to consider her a potential accomplice. New York State Police had also previously obtained a sworn statement from a resident on the same road of the Harris home (approximately four miles west from the Harris home and one mile east of the parking lot where the Harris van had been found following the murders). In the sworn statement, the witness stated that "on December 23, 1989, at approximately 6:50 a.m., he was exiting his driveway when he saw a slow-moving van approaching his driveway from the east."[2] The witness "identified the driver of this van as a light-skinned black male wearing a stocking cap, and further stated that he was accompanied by a female passenger, also light-skinned but darker than the driver, who appeared older than the driver. He indicated that his description of the occupants of the van matched the composite sketches of the suspects which had been publicized by the news media."[2] The witness later withdrew his statement.[2] Officers David L. Harding and Robert M. Lishansky, of Troop C, also claimed that they found a fingerprint on a gasoline can found at the Harris home that was apparently used to burn the bodies of the murder victims. Kinge was convicted of burglary and arson and received a sentence of 17 to 44 years in prison. She served two and a half years before Harding and Lishansky admitted that the fingerprint evidence had been fabricated. Her conviction was later overturned.[3]

After being released, Kinge brought suit against the State of New York, claiming damages of over $500 million.[4] The Court of Claims eventually ruled in favor of Kinge on the claims of (1) malicious prosecution and (2) negligent supervision and awarded her $250,000, noting as follows:

″In sum, the actions of Senior Investigator McElligott, or in this case, an unjustified and complete lack of supervision and control, allowed Investigator Harding the time and opportunity to fabricate fingerprint evidence which ultimately became the only significant evidence placing claimant at the Harris home. There can be no dispute that such fabricated evidence played a key role in her conviction for these crimes. Without such evidence, this court finds that probable cause did not exist to prosecute claimant for any of the crimes which occurred at the Harris family home. Claimant has established her malicious prosecution cause of action. In retrospect, and based on these findings, this claim should have been a relatively easy one on which to determine the issue of liability. Claimant, however, obviously did not appear before this court with "clean hands," and she has not engendered any great sympathy from this court. Claimant's own admitted criminal conduct in possessing, utilizing, and forging the signature of Dolores Harris on a credit card brought the focus of the investigation upon her. Despite her testimony to the contrary at this trial, the court finds that claimant was a willing participant with her son in this scheme to use credit cards belonging to the Harris family. Even if the court accepts her testimony that she was completely unaware of what transpired at the Harris home, her willingness to participate has been established by her actions in forging a signature to a credit card, and then using that card, which was indisputably obtained from the Harris home, to purchase personal items for her own benefit within hours of the burglary, murders, and arson.″[2]

CIA interview[edit]

The scandal became known when Trooper David L. Harding was interviewed for a job at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). He was asked if he was willing to break the law for his country. He answered "yes", then explained how he worked to convict people he felt sure were guilty by fabricating evidence. He assumed the CIA would be pleased with his answer, but instead they notified the United States Department of Justice. There was a 14-month delay between the discovery of the misconduct and any action taken.[3]

Troopers[edit]

  • Craig D. Harvey was a lieutenant who headed the identification unit, and was a 16-year veteran of the force. He pleaded guilty on July 29, 1993 to fabricating evidence in three cases, and agreed to serve 2½ to 7 years in prison.[5]
  • David L. Harding was a 7-year veteran of the force, was sentenced on December 16, 1992, to 4 to 12 years in prison and fined $20,000 for fabricating evidence in four documented cases.
  • Robert M. Lishansky was an 11-year veteran of the force, was sentenced June 10, 1993 to 6 to 18 years in prison for fabricating evidence in 21 cases.
  • David M. Beers was a 15-year veteran, pleaded not guilty on May 5 and on July 29 to fabricating evidence in two cases, was acquitted by a jury on September 28, 1993.
  • Patrick O'Hara was a lieutenant and 16-year veteran of the force, was suspended July 29, 1993 pending an investigation into Mr. Harvey's allegations that Lieutenant O'Hara helped fake evidence.[5] Prosecutors dropped the charge that O'Hara had helped Harvey fake a fingerprint, but O'Hara served one year in prison as part of his plea agreement.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "An Officer's Guilt Casts Shadow on Trials". New York Times. March 4, 1993. Retrieved 2007-06-21. The first evidence-tampering scandal in state police history has cast a shadow over criminal trials in central New York State, making prosecutors' jobs more difficult, lawyers and law-enforcement officials say. The scandal broke last fall, when a state police investigator with Troop C, David L. Harding, admitted fabricating fingerprint ... 
  2. ^ a b c d http://www.courts.state.ny.us/Reporter/3dseries/2007/2007_27561.htm
  3. ^ a b "Supervision of Troopers Faulted In Evidence-Tampering Scandal". New York Times. February 4, 1997. Retrieved 2007-06-21. Concluding a four-year investigation into the worst scandal in state police history, a special prosecutor said today that troopers were able to plant evidence routinely in criminal cases across a broad swath of rural New York because they had no fear of detection by supervisors, who maintained a willful ... 
  4. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/1993/12/06/nyregion/woman-sues-in-rigging-of-evidence-by-troopers.html
  5. ^ a b "Police Investigation Supervisor Admits Faking Fingerprints". New York Times. July 30, 1993. Retrieved 2007-06-21. In a widening scandal that has rocked the New York State Police, a lieutenant who supervised criminal investigations in seven upstate counties admitted yesterday that he had faked fingerprint evidence in three cases. The lieutenant, Craig D. Harvey, also said in court in Delhi, N.Y., that he had been assisted in fabricating evidence by another lieutenant, Patrick O'Hara, who works out of state police headquarters in Albany supervising drug and organized-crime investigations.