A Dallas county judge on Friday threw out two felony drug indictments against a man arrested by a Garland narcotics detective whose credibility has been called into question by fellow officers.
In his ruling, Judge Pat McDowell suppressed drug evidence seized from the car of Patrick Woodard, a convicted felon arrested in April 2009 by then-Garland police narcotics Detective Dennis Morrow.
Morrow's work has become the subject of a wide-ranging review by prosecutors.
I just don't find the evidence meets the state's burden to show that the contraband was in plain view, McDowell said. Without drug evidence being plainly visible, there wouldn't have been any other reasonable basis or probable cause for the search that led to Woodard's arrest.
The pretrial hearing, which began in March and spanned several days across several months, was unusual in that it turned on testimony from two co-workers and a supervisor who told the judge that they doubted Morrow's credibility.
Those co-workers, Garland police officers Daniel Colasanto and Cliff Wise, also testified that Morrow inaccurately wrote in a July 2009 police report that another man accused of drug crimes, Tramane Hooks, had reached for $150 worth of crack cocaine stored in a hotel room refrigerator, resulting in his arrest on drug delivery charges. The officers testified that the inaccuracies were part of a pattern by Morrow.
Morrow has denied any wrongdoing in the Hooks arrest, and a Garland police internal investigation cleared him.
Morrow, Wise and Colasanto were among a group of Garland officers transferred out of the narcotics unit last year after Hooks' arrest.
Tim Gallagher, the prosecutor on the Woodard case, declined to comment or to say what, if any, further action might be taken in the Morrow situation, based on the testimony of the other officers.
The attorney representing Woodard called the situation unprecedented and amazing.
That at least three officers – two co-workers and one supervisor – came in and testified in open court that there were concerns about Morrow's credibility never happens at the courthouse, said Bill Wirskye, who was also the attorney for Hooks.
The Hooks case was never sent to prosecutors.
The arrests of Woodard and Hooks took place on different days at the Deluxe Inn on Leon Road, a location where Morrow made many drug busts.
Morrow's report gives the following account of the circumstances surrounding the arrest of Woodard on April 13, 2009:
Morrow talked to Woodard, who he said agreed to sell him $500 worth of heroin and cocaine and to meet him at the motel. Officers arrested Woodard after finding drugs in his car.
On Friday, Woodard testified that he never spoke with Morrow and that the drugs did not belong to him.
Morrow had previously testified that he called Woodard's cellphone number after it was given to him by one of his informants. However, a review of the call logs on Woodard's phone showed that there were no phone calls between Woodard and Morrow's city-issued cellphone prior to Woodard's arrest.
Morrow also testified – and wrote in his report – that he did not know the source of text messages on Woodard's phone, but in fact those text messages were between Morrow's informant and Woodard, Wirskye said.
Morrow's original arrest report never mentioned the involvement of a confidential informant.
I've been living this nightmare for one year, two months and five days, said Woodard, who is married and working for a moving company. I'm just glad to be out of the situation.
By TANYA EISERER
Saturday, June 19, 2010
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Judge throws out drug indictments against man as Garland officer's practices question