Former Hillsborough County Sheriff’s detective Brian Boswell, a Republican candidate for Sheriff, has a record of disciplinary action that ultimately led to a demotion, pay cut, loss of rank and, eventually, his departure from the agency.
Those actions, as Florida Politics reported earlier this month, also led to Boswell landing on the so-called Brady List, a disclosure to state attorneys deeming law enforcement officers discreditable for purposes of court testimony.
The revelation brought up a little known process in the criminal justice systems that protects the accused from testimony from investigators whose judgement or practices might be considered unfair.
With that in mind, Florida Politics spoke with Hillsborough County State Attorney Chief Assistant Kimberly Hindman to find out exactly how someone lands on the list and what it means for prosecution.
The disclosures stem from the U.S. Supreme Court Case Brady v. Maryland, legal precedent that requires prosecutors to disclose all evidence that might exonerate a defendant.
That, Hindman explained on background, includes anything that can be used to weigh a witness’ credibility.
The disclosures, as they relate to law enforcement officers who often provide testimony on their investigations during court proceedings, typically comes from the law enforcement agency itself.
Agencies notify attorneys when an officer is part of an internal investigation or has been charged with a crime.
The information doesn’t always discredit an officer’s testimony. Certain disclosures can be brought up in closed-door discussions, but not in front of a jury.
In Boswell’s case, his presence on the Brady List was a discrediting factor because of the sustained complaints against him, which he is challenging in federal court as untrue and malicious, involved interviewing tactics that may have coerced a confession.
Boswell himself said the internal investigations against him led to an alleged child abuser accused of violently shaking a five-week old infant and leaving the boy in a coma with life threatening injuries walking free.
Boswell’s credibility to testify was called into question because his sustained allegations related directly to a case he worked.
Those situations can be brought to a jury’s attention as can crimes or sustained allegations that speak to an officer or investigator’s truthfulness.
When the state attorney’s office is notified of an investigation or criminal charges involving a law enforcement officer, they pass that information along to all relevant attorneys who then share the information, as required under Brady v. Maryland, with defense teams.
Whether the information is provided to a jury is determined based on the details and circumstances related to the allegations or charges.
The issue, Hindmand noted, is complicated and fluid. Attorneys in the office receive training regularly. The goal she said, is to air on the side of caution with disclosures.
Wrongfully convicting a suspect, she reminded, means the actual criminal remains on the streets.
Boswell is running in the Republican primary for Hillsborough County Sheriff against incumbent Chad Chronister. His federal lawsuit challenging allegations against him names Chronister, among several others including former Sheriff David Gee.