LMPD :: Louisville Metro Police Department

Attorney defends former Detective Crystal Marlowe's case work


Former Detective Crystal Marlowe may have charged some juveniles for crimes they could not have committed in part because the Louisville Metro Youth Detention Center did not tell her the teens were already in custody, Marlowe's attorney argued at a Police Merit Board hearing Wednesday.

On the second day of Marlowe's appeal of her January termination for what Chief Robert White called a "blatant disregard" for rules that led to people being charged with crimes they didn't commit, her attorney, Mary Sharp, sought to shift the blame or mitigate Marlowe's alleged mistakes, pointing out flaws in the justice system.

In her cross-examination of Sgt. Bridgett Thomerson, who conducted the department's administrative internal investigation of Marlowe, Sharp had Thomerson verify that a police officer who calls the Youth Detention Center would not be told a juvenile is in custody unless they specifically asked.

And Thomerson acknowledged that the youth center would not have information about juveniles who were in custody in other counties, as was the case with two teens Marlowe wrongly charged.

Part of the department's case against Marlowe is that four juveniles were in custody on separate charges when Marlowe alleged they committed other crimes. Two of them were charged by Marlowe on two separate occasions for different alleged crimes they could not have committed.

Sharp also pointed out that interviews Thomerson had with youth center officials showed that while police officers routinely call for information about juveniles for their cases, such as an address or date of birth, they do not typically ask if the juvenile was in custody when a crime was committed.

Thomerson, who testified all day for a second straight day, has said she believed Marlowe's investigations were not thorough, her records were sloppy and incomplete and that she relied too heavily - and sometimes solely - on a victim's identification of a suspect in a photo pack.

In one instance, for example, Marlowe went to a crime scene, showed a victim an old photo pack of potential suspects she had in her vehicle and immediately went to make an arrest after getting a positive identification, Thomerson testified.

"That proves there was no investigation," she said.

Thomerson told the board Tuesday she found that Marlowe violated police department procedures dozens of times, mostly involving misuse of photos intended to help witnesses identify suspects.

Sharp, however, insinuated during her questioning of Thomerson that many of Marlowe's violations involving photo packs stemmed from poor poor-quality black and white photos obtained from the Louisville Metro Youth Detention Center.

Thomerson acknowledged that an Assistant County Attorney told her that the photo pack quality was "horrible" for years.

Clarence Williams, director of the Department for Youth Detention Services, which includes the youth center, said in an interview with The Courier-Journal in September 2010 that police have never complained to him about the quality of suspects' photographs since a new system of producing them was installed three years ago.

Thomerson said Wednesday that youth center officials told her they didn't understand why Marlowe felt the photo packs were not of good quality and that center officials have the ability to e-mail officers color photo packs if requested.

And Thomerson said a photo pack identification should be used as corroborating evidence - "not the end all be all" - arguing that an officer also has to take into account many factors involved in a positive identification, including the credibility of the witness and the amount of time passed since the crime.

Sharp asked Thomerson about an interview she had with Marlowe's supervisor, Maj. Steve Green, who said he never received any complaints from co-workers, citizens or anyone else about Marlowe's work, other than one call from a judge that Marlowe had failed to provide evidence purporting to identify a suspect in a robbery case.

In the interview, Green told Thomerson that in that particular case, when he learned that Marlowe had not provided the necessary evidence to former Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney Jason Butler, he ensured that she turned it over immediately.

Green also said in the interview with Thomerson that Butler may have "overstepped his bounds," though it was unclear in what way.

Green told Thomerson that if Butler had problems reaching Marlowe and getting evidence from her, he should have called officials with the police department, not just complained in court.

At Butler's request, the case against Robert Mitchem, who was accused of robbing two people at gunpoint, was dismissed on May 11, 2009, after he told the judge that the evidence had never been produced.

Marlowe had said two witnesses identified Mitchem as the man who robbed them at gunpoint.

But Mitchem's picture wasn't among those Marlowe showed to the victims in the photo packs turned over to prosecutors.

In investigating the case, Thomerson said Marlowe couldn't locate her original case file, believing it may have been destroyed by water damage while in the trunk of her vehicle.

And Marlowe told Thomerson the copy of the photo pack that was to be given to the prosecutor may have been destroyed after getting jammed in a copy machine.

But Marlowe said in an interview with Thomerson that after the she was told by Green that the photo pack in the Mitchem case was needed by prosecutors, she immediately took a copy over and dropped it off at the Jefferson Commonwealth's Attorney's Office and "left it at the front desk."

Because of a conflict, the board will not resume the hearing until May 24.