Dolores A. Carr District Attorney
NEWS RELEASE FROM: Dolores Carr, District Attorney CONTACT PERSON: David Tomkins, Assistant District Attorney (408) 792-2792 For release on December 22, 2008 CRIMINAL GRAND JURY DECLINES TO INDICT OFFICERS INVOLVED IN WOODALL CASE District Attorney Dolores Carr announced today that the criminal grand jury has examined the conduct of San Jose Police Sergeant Will Manion and Officer Patrick D’Arrigo surrounding the accident involving Sandra Woodall, and declined to indict the officers. The grand jury’s decision not to bring criminal charges ends her Office’s inquiry into the matter. Sandra Woodall, an investigator with the District Attorney’s Office, was involved in an injury accident on March 25, 2008. San Jose police officers responded to the scene. Allegations were made that the two officers deliberately ignored evidence that Woodall had been drinking before the accident, and intentionally failed to collect a blood sample which might have proved that she was driving under the influence. San Jose Police Department initially investigated the driving under the influence case against Woodall, and referred her case to the D.A.’s Office. The District Attorney requested the Office of the Attorney General to handle Woodall’s case due to the conflict of interest created by her employment status. After further investigation by the Attorney General’s Office, a felony charge of driving under the influence of alcohol and causing injury was filed against Woodall. This case was resolved last week when the Attorney General reduced the charge to a misdemeanor and Woodall pleaded no contest. The District Attorney reviewed the investigative reports concerning the conduct of Sergeant Will Manion and Officer Patrick D’Arrigo, and elected to present the matter to the criminal grand jury to decide whether criminal charges should be filed. The District Attorney’s Office has a close working relationship with law enforcement, which at times can complicate the task of investigating and prosecuting wrongdoing by police officers. It is important that the public have confidence that a decision concerning the filing of criminal charges against a police officer by the District Attorney is made objectively, based solely on the evidence and the law. In any case alleging police misconduct, the District Attorney must decide whether public confidence is best served by calling upon an independent third party, the criminal grand jury, to decide whether a police officer should be charged with a crime. For example, the District Attorney presents all intentional use of deadly force cases involving law enforcement officers to the criminal grand jury. The seriousness of these matters warrants special scrutiny by an independent body composed of citizens chosen at random, in order to maintain public confidence that a just decision is made.
Dolores A. Carr District Attorney
The decision whether to refer other allegations of criminal activity against officers to the criminal grand jury requires careful evaluation of the facts and the law of the particular case. Some cases are so clear-cut that no referral is necessary—the publicly available evidence makes clear whether the officer should be charged. In other cases, the ability of the prosecutor to compel witnesses who might otherwise be unavailable to appear before the criminal grand jury and testify under oath, including police officers who might be reluctant to testify publicly in cases involving their colleagues, is key to obtaining additional evidence which bears on a suspect’s guilt or innocence. The grand jury’s proceedings are closed by law, except in extraordinary cases. Police reports are made public only if a grand jury returns an indictment, just as police reports remain confidential unless the District Attorney’s Office files charges. This confidentiality protects a suspect’s right to privacy where there is no structured forum, such as a courtroom, in which he can defend himself against allegations which have not been adjudged sufficient to justify criminal charges. The community owes those who routinely put themselves in harm’s way on the public’s behalf an obligation not to violate their privacy unless necessary to vindicate justice. Not all allegations are well-founded. Even those allegations which, on first examination, may appear well-founded, may not survive the test of our criminal justice system, with its requirements that certain elements be met with evidence admissible in court. Allegations must not only be made under oath, but must be supported by evidence sufficient to convince a jury of one’s peers that the officer is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The criminal grand jury is uniquely suited to decide whether witnesses, testifying under oath, and in light of all available evidence, make a sufficiently persuasive case that an officer is guilty of a crime. The prosecution presents evidence and witnesses to the criminal grand jury. The suspect is allowed to submit evidence of innocence to the prosecution for presentation, as well. Indeed, the prosecution is required to present evidence favorable to the suspect. If the criminal grand jury returns an indictment, the officer must then withstand public scrutiny and answer the charges at trial. This case was appropriate for referral to the grand jury. Sandra Woodall, one of the witnesses in this case, is employed by the District Attorney, as is her father-in-law; Woodall’s husband is a sergeant in the San Jose Police Department. Several of the police officers involved in the investigation of the accident knew them. The allegations made were serious, and called into question the integrity of law enforcement. The best solution under these circumstances was to convene the criminal grand jury and let it decide, carefully and out of the glare of publicity, whether the evidence was sufficient to make anyone face criminal charges. The grand jury has made its decision, and the District Attorney will abide by it. ###