A former Cleveland Police Department detective whose credibility was questioned in a 2010 murder trial by District Attorney General Steve Bebb, said he “feels somewhat vindicated” after reading a document written by an assistant DA that he feels contradicts Bebb’s previous assessment.
Duff Brumley was a member of the investigation team in the 1999 Valentine’s Day triple homicides of O.J. Blair, Cayci Higgins and Dawn Rogers.
To date, only one defendant — Maurice Johnson — has been convicted in the murders. The case against co-defendant Michael Younger ended in a mistrial in December 2010, when Bebb took Brumley’s credibility to task while also claiming that witnesses were intimidated or coerced by the police department detective.
Even as Brumley and his attorney, Gerald Tidwell of Chattanooga, still have a “whistleblower” lawsuit pending against the Cleveland Police Department, the question of credibility resurfaced recently when Johnson’s new attorney — Public Defender Richard Hughes — filed a motion for a new trial.
In a response opposing Johnson’s request for retrial, Assistant District Attorney General Richard Fisher — who was the lead prosecutor in the original trial — apparently used some of the same arguments to keep Johnson jailed that Bebb used three years ago to free Younger, according to Brumley.
In the Younger case, Bebb cited “... Brumley’s lack of credibility” as being a factor in prompting his office to file a motion to dismiss the case, according to published reports.
However, in Fisher’s recent document opposing Johnson’s retrial, the ADA claimed Brumley was not a “critical witness” in the prosecution’s case against Johnson.
In Fisher’s account, “There is no showing that Brumley’s testimony was critical to the case or that officers could not produce the same evidence to the photograph lineup. There is no reference to any aspect of trial testimony that Brumley or any other investigator threatened or coerced any witness to fabricate testimony even though defense counsel explored such possibility through cross examination of witnesses.”
Fisher’s response goes on to claim Johnson “speculated” that Brumley intimidated witnesses to lie on the stand and that he thought Brumley was a critical witness.
“Brumley was not a ‘fact witness’ and any error in admitting his testimony would have been harmless,” Fisher wrote.
Comparing Bebb’s negative assessment of Brumley’s credibility in the Younger case three years ago, and Fisher’s apparent opposite view expressed in the recent response against Johnson’s request for a new trial, prompted Brumley to step forward.
In a statement this week to the Cleveland Daily Banner, Brumley said, “General Bebb’s motion to discuss the homicide case against Michael Younger [in 2010] is nothing more than a fraud that has hurt the victims’ families, my family and myself. He has not behaved as the fair and impartial administrator of justice as he is supposed to do.”
Brumley added, “I have read General [ADA Richard] Fisher’s response to the motion by Maurice Johnson for a new trial and feel somewhat vindicated. Although, it will not cause the pain to subside that the victims’ families feel as a result of Steve Bebb’s behavior.”
Brumley’s public comments this week aren’t the first to be aired in response to Bebb’s attack on his credibility during the Younger trial. Shortly after his dismissal from the police department in August 2010 (following allegations of policy violations unrelated to the Valentine’s Day case), Brumley issued a lengthy statement defending his credibility.
Brumley’s responses to Bebb’s accusations were published verbatim in the Oct. 22, 2010, edition of the Cleveland Daily Banner.