The former prosecutor who now oversees the Metro Nashville Police Department's internal investigations of alleged police was reprimanded in October for withholding evidence in a 2010 murder case, The Tennessean reports.
Here's the gist:
She “inexplicably” did not give the teen’s defense lawyer a police report showing a key witness for the state was arrested with the murder weapon, according to a separate judge’s order.
That Nashville judge last year vacated Terry L. Reed Jr.’s conviction and 19-year prison term because of Morante's misconduct. Reed pleaded guilty again this year to a less severe charge for his role and must serve at least 4.5 years in prison. An accomplice and the state’s witness, who was not charged in the murder until this year, were each sentenced to probation, court records show.
Morante told the daily that she remembers sharing the police report with the defense team but could not provide documentation that she had done so. She won't appeal her reprimand.
"It was not a failure of integrity, or ethical responsibility, and has no impact on my job I'm doing here," she told the paper.
Morante joined the MNPD in 2013 after more than a decade as an assistant district attorney. And the job she is doing now, as director of the department's Office of Professional Accountability, and that of her predecessors has been called into question.
A pending lawsuit, filed by a man who was wrongly detained for a DUI in 2014, has raised issues about how allegations of misconduct against police are handled.
“Beyond the specific issue of false DUI arrests,” the suit says, “as a general matter, MNPD officers have little reason to fear sanctions for falsely arresting a civilian because MNPD supervisory staff almost always resolve civilian-initiated complaints in the officer’s favor.”
The suit claims that under Metro Police Chief Steve Anderson’s tenure, from 2011 to 2015, citizens initiated 249 complaints against MNPD officers for “obstruction of rights,” but that 244 of those complaints, 98 percent, “resulted in no finding or repercussions against the officer.”
The department says there's nothing to see there.
“Frankly, Metro has a lot to say about this, but will do so to the court,” MNDP spokesman Don Aaron told the Scene at the time. “This police department has absolute and full faith and confidence in Office of Professional Accountability Director Ms. Kathy Morante, a former Tennessee Deputy Attorney General and former Assistant District Attorney General, as well as the investigators who report to her.”
Speaking in her own defense, Morante said the same to The Tennessean:
"The investigations that have occurred here since I came here, every one of them has been complete and has been done fairly," she told the paper. "This is the first and only complaint ever filed, not just upheld, in my 30-some years of practice."