A sitting D.C. Superior Court judge will be the government’s first witness on Wednesday in its case against two detectives charged with obstructing justice in a murder investigation.
The trial, which is scheduled to run through next week in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, is expected to lay bare a disagreement between the Metropolitan Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia over the handling of the still-unsolved Club U case.
Judge Jennifer Anderson was still deputy chief of the homicide division in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in February 2005, when detectives Erick Brown and Milagros Morales asked her to sign off on a warrant for the arrest of a man they believed had fatally stabbed Terrance Brown during a fight on the club's dance floor.
Anderson, who had already been nominated to the bench by then (though she wasn’t sworn in until September of 2006), refused, telling the detectives that the autopsy report and the language used in the warrant didn’t wash. Terrance Brown, who was assaulted by at least two men in the early morning hours on February 13, 2005, died from 3.5-inch stab wound to the heart, but the warrant stated that Brown’s attacker had used a box cutter. Anderson asked to interview the witnesses herself. About three days later, both detectives were thrown from the case.
The indictment alleges that Brown and Morales coached two witnesses to tell Anderson that they saw a knife-like weapon in the hand of Jerome Jones -- the man named in the arrest warrant -- during a fight on the dance floor. (Jones is serving an eight-year prison sentence for simple assault, obstruction of justice and possession of a prohibited weapon. The identity of the other man who witnesses saw attacking Brown is still unknown.)
In their opening statements, the detectives’ attorneys said Brown and Morales had approached the witnesses before their interviews with Anderson for clarification.
According to Morales' attorney David Schertler, when the detectives asked the witnesses whether they could say with certainty that the object in Jones’ hand was a box cutter, the witnesses said they couldn’t.
“What the detectives did was try to make sure these witnesses were being truthful and accurate,” said Schertler.