Despite a Suffolk judge’s order that the defense in a rape-murder case be notified “forthwith” about evidence collected as part of a search, police waited until Friday to disclose that they not only found some items but had them destroyed.
State Supreme Court Justice John Collins, who is presiding over the trouble-plagued case, appeared stunned to hear about yet another instance of authorities failing to disclose evidence to the defense in violation of both the law and his orders.
Dante Taylor, 20, of Mastic, is accused of raping and stabbing Sarah Goode, 21, of Medford, 42 times on June 7, 2014. He is charged with first-degree murder and faces life in prison without parole if convicted.
As the case heads toward trial, Collins has already sanctioned the prosecution for violating what is known as the Brady rule, which generally requires prosecutors to turn over evidence favorable to the defense. Toward the end of a hearing Friday to determine how those sanctions would be enforced, defense attorney John Lewis Jr. of Farmingdale said he had just found out about other items.
These came from a search of Smith Point Park in Shirley by police on June 11, 2014, before Goode’s body had been found in Medford. The items included men’s boxer briefs, two black socks, and pieces of a blue sweatshirt.
Park police turned the items over to Suffolk police a month later, and on Oct. 27, 2014, the county police destroyed them.
“I’m a little put off that these clothes were destroyed and never disclosed,” Lewis said.
“This is the first I’m hearing of it,” Collins said.
Lewis again said the defense is entitled to know not only what police found at the park, but why they were searching there. Friends and family had been searching there, too, and an earlier suspect in the case, Jason Flores, was seen at the park the morning after Goode disappeared.
Collins asked Assistant District Attorney Janet Albertson to explain.
“We just found out today” from homicide detectives, she said.
Detectives, who were at the scene, hadn’t mentioned it because they believed the clothes weren’t evidence, she said. The clothes were destroyed because they were labeled “property” instead of “evidence,” she said.
Collins then ordered Albertson to have every police officer who had anything to do with the clothes to be in court Monday, ready to testify about it.
Regarding the earlier instances of withheld evidence in violation of the Brady rule, Collins said he would inform a jury about tips suggesting other people had something to do with Goode’s death. He denied a prosecution request to call as witnesses the people who are the subjects of those tips.
“There will be no explanation from these witnesses or from the people for this late turnover” of evidence, Collins said.